It’s a bird, not a plane. In fact, it’s millions of birds in winter, traveling the Pacific Flyway, a major north-south migration route that includes a stop at the Cosumnes River Preserve just north of Lodi.
This place is a wetlands haven for over 200 species of winged travelers, including a marquee draw of the sandhill crane. The big, long-legged sandhill is a darling of the bird world, with its elegant gray body, bright red forehead, and sleek black bill.
But there’s a lot more to see, too, including geese, ducks (including the coveted cinnamon teals)—basically, it’s a fabulous feather-fest of waterfowl, shorebirds, and more.
Bonus: Sunrise here is simply amazing, thanks to the great big sky (sorry, Montana!). Stop in at the visitor center and do the easy 1-mile Wetlands Walk to the west side of the preserve (there’s a half-mile boardwalk to a viewing platform).
You can also get a driving-tour brochure of the area, which shows the best spots for crane-viewing by car.
Bonus Wine: Pair your trip with a visit to Jessie’s Grove Winery. Located in a huge oak grove, Jessie’s exemplifies Lodi’s sophisticated yet down-to-earth approach to winemaking, including delicious old-vine Zins.
To reach the Cosumnes River Preserve, exit Twin Cities Rd. off of I-5, just north of Lodi. Head east, then turn right onto Franklin Blvd. Follow Franklin for 1.5 miles to the visitor center. No dogs on trails.