Tucked inside an industrial park on the banks of the Petaluma River is Shollenberger Park, a wetland teeming with wildlife and native plants. It is contiguous with Ellis Creek to the south and Alman Marsh to its north, encompassing some 500-acres of Petaluma Wetlands that includes tidal salt marshes and freshwater marshes. The park features a two-mile loop trail with a self-guided tour brochure available at the first interpretive panel. A one-mile extension leads through Alman Marsh to the Petaluma Marina; a three-mile network of trails circles the polishing wetlands at the Ellis Creek Water Recycling Facility. To the west, a portion of the trail system parallels the Petaluma River, and beyond it are hills clustered with native oaks. To the east lies Sonoma Mountain, a long dormant volcano.
see access criteria for definitions
Trailhead: Foot of Cader Lane
Length: 2-4 total miles
Typical Width: 4 ft. & above
Typical Grade: Gentle
During the rainy season, mud may limit passage on the trails.
Obstacles: From January 15th to August 15th the brackish tidal wetland at Ellis Creek is closed to protect the nesting California clapper rail (an endangered species).
The 2.25-mile crushed gravel Shollenberger Loop Trail (a small section at the beginning is paved) encircles the city-owned dredge-spoils ponds, holding silt from recent Petaluma River dredging, and briefly parallels both the Petaluma River and Adobe Creek. With almost 200 varieties of birds, the trail is a mecca for birdwatchers interested in both year round residents and migratory birds who flock to this inviting habitat. Interpretive panels line the trail. Within the first ten minutes of our hike we saw two king snakes, three western pond turtles and five lizards.
You can add Alman Marsh to your journey by crossing the pedestrian bridge over Adobe Creek and taking the one-mile Marina Trail to your left. This quiet path passes behind an office complex, crosses seasonal wetlands via several bridges, and eventually ends at the Petaluma Marina. For a longer trail, connect to Ellis Creek Trail at the northeast corner of Shollenberger trail.
The facilities listed below meet all of our access criteria unless otherwise noted.
Accessible Visitor Center: Yes
Pt. Reyes Bird Observatory Research Center, adjacent to Shollenberger Park, is open to visitors year-round, Mon.-Fri. 9 am-5 pm. It offers useful and important resources for bird and wildlife conservation. Located at 3820 Cypress Drive #11, Petaluma, 707-781-2555.
Accessible Parking: Yes
At foot of park’s entry road. For Alman Marsh use the public parking area within the Sheraton Hotel lot at the foot of Marina Ave; for Ellis Marsh; the end of Cypress Drive.
Accessible Restroom: Yes
Near parking lots for Shollenberger and Ellis Creek. Toilet height at Shollenberger is less than 17 inches.
Other Things of Interest
Docents of the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance offer free public tours at Shollenberger and Ellis Creek. Check the Petaluma Wetlands website for a schedule.
Hours: 6 am-9 pm
Map: See here.
Dogs: On a leash