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36. Lost Lake Recreation Area, Fresno, California

Look for more than 100 resident species and shorebirds, waterfowl, sparrows, and woodpeckers north of Fresno.

Lost Lake Recreation Area offers some of the best birding in the Fresno area. The park is a long, narrow strip divided into daytime picnic and overnight camping areas. The San Joaquin River forms the park’s western boundary and is a good spot for waterfowl and wading birds. Many times I’ve enjoyed watching Bufflehead and Common Merganser fly upriver, and I’ve spotted Common Moorhens eating their way through duckweed on the far bank. The willows and trees along the river provide shelter for unusual birds like Eastern Phoebe, Swamp Sparrow, and Townsend’s Warbler, all recently found on Christmas Bird Counts.

Waterfowl can be seen at the 38-acre Lost Lake at the park’s southern end, along with American Bittern, Least Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs. Overhead, Bald and Golden Eagles occasionally appear. And don’t be surprised if you see more than just birds. One of my most memorable sightings was of a young bobcat and its mother walking along the shore of the river on an early spring morning. It all adds up to a wonderful place that I never tire of, no matter how many times I go. — Larry Parmeter

Larry Parmeter is a high school English teacher and a member of Fresno Audubon Society.

36. Lost Lake Recreation Area, Fresno, California


Lost Lake Recreation Area is a little jewel of a spot situated along the San Joaquin River, about 19 miles north of Fresno. From downtown Fresno, drive 8 miles north on Fwy. 41 and exit right at Friant Rd. Drive 10 miles north on Friant. The marked park entrance will be on your left.

At a Glance

Click on the coordinates below to view location:
36°58’30.04N 119°43’26.46W

Lost Lake Recreation Area
Friant Rd.
Fresno, California 93721
(559) 488-3004


Oak-conifer woods, riparian vegetation, open fields, marshy lake, and small ponds.


Mostly flat, a few small hills and elevated areas.


More than 100 resident species: Great and Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Common Moorhen, Wood Duck, Spotted Sandpiper, bitterns, Song, Lincoln’s, Lark, and Vesper Sparrows, Nuttall’s and Acorn Woodpeckers, Red-breasted Sapsucker, Bewick’s Wren, Western Bluebird, Phainopepla, Spotted Towhee, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Orange-crowned Warbler, and Brown Creeper. Also Red-shouldered, Cooper’s, and Sharp-shinned Hawks, Great Horned and Barn Owls. Winter: waterfowl and shorebirds, Bald Eagle, Horned Lark, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Varied Thrush, Cedar Waxwing, Red Crossbill, and Pine Siskin. Rarities: Long-eared Owl, Common Goldeneye, Red-naped Sapsucker, Swamp Sparrow, and White-throated Sparrow.

When to go

Good year-round but best in fall and winter.


Restrooms and covered picnic areas with barbeque and fire pits. A brochure for a self-guided walk is available for the Fresno Audubon Society nature trail.


Regional park. Open 7-10 April through September, and 7-7 October through March. Admission $5/vehicle.


The park is a popular picnic and fishing area, especially on weekends. Arrive before the crowds. Bring binoculars. A spotting scope is helpful but not necessary.

For more info

Fresno Audubon Society, (559) 222-2473
San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust, (559) 248-8480
Central Valley Bird News

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