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A natural way to enjoy autumn

You don't have to go far to observe wildlife in California's Central Valley. Here are some wildlife-centered activities and events offered in the Sacramento area this season. For information on places and events not listed here:

American River Salmon Festival: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery and Lake Natoma in Rancho Cordova. Activities include cooking demonstrations, educational and recreational displays, live music and American Indian exhibits. Admission is free; parking is $7. A chef cook-off and luncheon is $22. For more information: (916) 358-2893 or

Sandhill Crane Festival: Nov. 5-7 in Lodi. This annual event celebrates the fall migration of birds along the Pacific Flyway to wintering grounds in the Central Valley. Activities include more than 50 field trips and guided tours, music, art exhibits and talks by avian experts. Excursions are offered on land and water, for novices and experts, for families and photographers. Admission is $15 per day general, $10 for seniors, $5 for ages 6-18. Some tours require an additional fee. For more information: Lodi Chamber of Commerce, (209) 367-7840 or

Sandhill crane tours: Sand hill crane tours at the Isenberg Crane Reserve on Woodbridge Road near Lodi are scheduled for all Sundays and the second Thursdays and Saturdays of each month starting today and continuing to Feb. 27 (holidays excluded). Docent-led tours are wheelchair-accessible and last two hours, ending at dusk. Swans, ducks, geese, hawks, herons, owls and other wildlife often are seen.

To register, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope and a note with your name, address, phone number, choice of dates and number of adults in the party. An $8 donation per adult is requested. Children are welcome. Send registration and check to Crane Tours, California Department of Fish and Game, 1701 Nimbus Road, Rancho Cordova, CA 95670. For more information: (916) 358-2869.

Although the Isenberg reserve is closed to the public except for guided tours, but you can get some rewarding views of birds feeding in mowed rice and corn fields from a roadside pullout on Woodbridge Road, 2.5 miles west of Interstate 5. Take the Peltier Road exit off I-5, exit left under the bridge, follow Thornton Road to Woodbridge and turn right. The birds are most numerous and active just before sunset.

Delta Ecotours: Naturalist-led trips aboard the 25-passenger pontoon boat Tule Queen explore the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta out of Hartland Nursery in Walnut Grove. Coming up Saturday: a three-hour Grand Island Loop trip departing at 9 a.m. from the nursery at 13737 Grand Island Road. Participants will learn about the natural and human history of the island. Reservations are required; the cost is $35 general, $30 for children. Another tour open to the public is set for Oct. 23. For more information: (916) 775-4545 or

Delta canoe tours: The Delta Natural History Association is sponsoring a series of fall canoe trips exploring the Delta Meadows River Park area near Walnut Grove. Led by volunteer state park guides, the tours are offered at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Nov. 14. Participants must be at least 8 years old, and those under 17 must have a parent with them to sign a release form. The $15 reservation fee includes use of canoes, paddles and life jackets. Tours last three to four hours. Make reservations through Brannan Island State Recreation Area, (916) 777-7701.

Cosumnes River Preserve: This wildlife-rich area about 10 miles south of Elk Grove on Franklin Road attracts sandhill cranes, waterfowl, stilts, finches and many other birds in fall and winter. Hiking trails and a boardwalk for wildlife viewing allow visitors get close to the action. Interpretive services, maps and brochures are available at the visitors center. Guided hikes and canoe trips are offered regularly. Open daily. For more information: (916) 683-1700 or