Petaluma Wetlands: Shollenberger Park, Alman Marsh, Ellis Creek

  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking
  • Bicycling

Features

  • Accessible Restrooms
  • Picnic
  • Accessible Parking
  • Wildlife viewing
  • Hiking
  • Bicycling

Information

Website:
visit link
Address:
Cader Lane at S. McDowell Blvd.
Region:
San Francisco Bay Area
Phone:
Info: 707 778-4321
Hours:
Dawn to dusk
Dogs:
On leash
The Petaluma wetlands complex encompasses some 500 acres of tidal salt marshes and freshwater marshes, and has more than 7 miles of contiguous public trails that connect Alman Marsh, Shollenberger Park, and Ellis Creek. The wetlands are a birder's paradise; more than 225 species of birds have been identified here. On a clear day you can see Mt. Diablo to the south; to the east lies Sonoma Mountain, a long-dormant volcano.

Shollenberger Park is tucked inside an industrial park on the banks of the Petaluma River. A 2-mile loop trail circles the park; a 1-mile extension to the north leads through Alman Marsh to the Petaluma Marina. At the park’s northeast end you can connect to a 3-mile network of trails circling the polishing ponds at the Ellis Creek water recycling facility. To the west, a portion of the trail system parallels the Petaluma River; beyond it are hills clustered with native oaks.

Trails and Pathways

Trail:
Shollenberger Loop Trail
Trailhead Location:
Parking lot at Cader Ln.
Trail Length:
1-2 total miles
Typical Width:
4 ft. & above
Typical Grade:
Level
Terrain:
Firm
Trail:
Alman Marsh Trail
Trailhead Location:
Foot of Marina Ave. and at Shollenberger Park
Trail Length:
1-2 total miles
Typical Width:
30 in. to 4 ft.
Typical Grade:
Level
Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail:
Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility Ponds (aka Ellis Creek)
Trailhead Location:
Parking lot at the foot of Cypress Dr.
Trail Length:
2-4 total miles
Typical Width:
4 ft. & above
Typical Grade:
Level
Terrain:
Moderately Firm
Trail Overview: The Ellis Creek water recycling facility is a great example of how a sewage processing and water purification plant can provide public and ecological benefits, from wildlife habitat restoration to recreational trails. Three miles of trails circle four elevated, bermed "polishing" wetlands, where heavy metals are removed in the final stage of water treatment. Tidal sloughs, a brackish marsh, mudflats, and riparian corridor occupy this expanse of open space; hills to the east and west provide the backdrop. Interpretive signs along the trails provide information about sewage treatment, wetlands, and the waterfowl and birds found here.

A few hundred feet from the trailhead, the trail splits. To the right, a .3-mile connector trail leads to Shollenberger Park; stay to the left to reach the ponds trails. At this junction, a lone stately oak beckoned for its picture to be taken. After a flat stretch you climb a gentle incline (the only one), and immediately after the trail changes from firm decomposed granite to dirt and gravel for the remainder of the way. Although bumpy, it was not problematic in a power wheelchair, but may be more challenging in a manual wheelchair. For the longest trip, circle each pond, or you can just make one big loop around their outer edges. Each pond seemed to offer a different experience. At the first two, swans cruised around the water while a great blue heron and a night heron stood onshore. At another, mallards cruised in and out of the water. The last is called Butterfly Pond and has an irregular shoreline to provide a beach and roosting areas for birds and waterfowl.

When you're done with your hike, be sure to check out the water conservation garden at the water recycling facility’s administration building, east from where you parked. The native plantings were colorful and attract butterflies, birds, and bees.
More Info: There’s one gentle hill about .25 miles out. The dirt and gravel portions of the trail may be uncomfortable in a manual wheelchair.

Accessibility Features

The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Parking:
Yes – designated accessible parking, van accessible, firm, level or slope no greater than 2%; Shollenberger: Foot of Cader Ln. Ellis Marsh: End of Cypress Dr. Alman Marsh: An accessible space is at the trailhead in the public parking area within the Sheraton Hotel lot at the foot of Marina Ave.

Accessible Restroom:
Yes – At the parking lots for Shollenberger and Ellis Creek

Accessible Picnic Table:
Yes – firm & stable path to tables, firm & stable surface, 27" or greater knee clearance; At Shollenberger, a few picnic tables are at the start of the trail and one is near the river, but all are dilapidated and uninviting.

Other Things of Interest:
Petaluma Wetlands Alliance offers docent-led tours at Shollenberger and the Ellis Creek ponds on various Saturdays each month. Check the calendar for dates and times.

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