Public Access Program

field of wildflowers under blue sky


Access to nature contributes to our sense of community, connection to wild places, and desire to be stewards of the land. Conservation starts with individuals, families, and communities finding value in natural and wild lands.Fishing pier with Mount Shasta in the background.

The Public Access Program is one of the original Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) programs established in 1947.  Initially the Public Access Program worked with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to support projects focused on the protection and development of public access areas and the promotion of hunting and fishing opportunities. This program funded construction of fishing piers, fishing ponds, boat ramps, wetlands for waterfowl, duck blinds, and development of parking lots and restrooms at CDFW-managed wildlife areas. Over time the public demand for other wildlife-oriented uses grew to include uses such as bird watching, kayaking, and hiking. The WCB's authority expanded to new partners, and broadened its program to accommodate new uses, including ADA trails, kayak "put-in" areas, interpretive signs, and bird observation shelters. Since 1949, WCB has funded nearly 700 public access projects!

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area Fishing Pier

Gray Lodge Fishing PierMillions of birds flock to CDFW’s Gray Lodge Wildlife Area which provides outstanding wildlife viewing, outdoor education, nature trails, fishing, and hunting opportunities. More than 300 species live or pass through the nearly 9,100 acres of grassy fields, wooded riparian areas, and ponds. Gray Lodge is a year-round destination, seeing nearly 86,000 visitors also enjoy Gray Lodge Wildlife Area annually. Anglers enjoy ponds and canals that support bass, sunfish, perch, catfish, and carp. Nature programs and trail walks are available to school groups. Viewing platforms, trails, and a three-mile auto tour are available for wildlife viewing.

The Gray Lodge Fishing Pier project provides additional accessible opportunities to visitors. This project constructed a 580-square-foot long fishing platform accessible to those with mobility impairments. The fishing pier faces north and has views of seasonal wetlands and the nature trail.

Shelter Island

Shelter Island Boat Launch

The Shelter Island Boat Launch facility was completely demolished, and a new, larger, safer boat launch was built for $9.6 million dollars. Shelter Island provides year-round recreational fishing and boating opportunities. Approximately, 48,000 boaters use this free facility annually-- making it one of the busiest boat launches in California. This project constructed a modern 10-lane boat launch with more space for maneuverability, an ADA compliant restroom, parking lot improvements and a walking and viewing platform.

The partnership between the Wildlife Conservation Board, San Diego Unified Port District, the Department of Parks and Recreation, Division of Boating and Waterways, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Sport Fish Restoration Act made this project possible. Anglers and boaters are important partners in this project. Nearly $7 million reimbursement dollars came from anglers and boaters through the Sport Fish Restoration Act funds collected in the form of federal excise taxes on fishing equipment and marine fuels.


Rock Creek Ranch

Rock Creek Ranch is an off-the-grid retreat located on the banks of the scenic Smith River in the Six Rivers National Forest. Owned and operated by the Smith River Alliance, the property hosts camps, conservation programs, and community gatherings in a rustic and wild setting. The surrounding landscape provides opportunities for fishing, rafting, kayaking, swimming, and hiking. Rock Creek Ranch also serves school groups and youth camps from surrounding low-income communities by offering free or reduced-cost outdoor education programming and camping experiences. However, the existing facilities are not easily accessible for visitors with disabilities, and there is no permanent restroom facility. river running through trees

In 2023, WCB awarded a grant to construct visitor improvements at the Ranch, including:

  • An ADA-accessible restroom and associated ADA parking spots
  • A well and additional water storage to provide potable water and additional fire safety
  • Interpretive panels providing information about the cultural and indigenous history of the area, as well as visitor safety signage

Project completion is anticipated in 2025. The new infrastructure will support visitor comfort and safety, allowing Smith River Alliance to welcome a wider diversity of visitors while maintaining the natural and rustic quality of this remote destination.

Wildlife Conservation Board
Physical Address: 715 P Street, 17th Floor, Sacramento, CA 95814
Mailing Address: Wildlife Conservation Board c/o CDFW, P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090
(916) 445-8448 | Contact WCB