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Winter marsh hike in the Bay Area.

"Winter is the best time for birding in the San Francisco Bay marshes," says Mike Bitsko of the San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Migrating waterfowl and shorebirds abound this month, and seasonally high tides are likely to flush into view some selfom-seen marsh denizens such as the clapper rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse (both endangered).

Shake those post-holiday blahs with a hike, jog, or bike ride along a marsh.

When to go. You'll see the most birds on the mud flats at low tide, during feeding time. Lowest tides occur midafternoon the weekends of January 14 and 28. Highest tides are early morning those days. (In the event storms and tides cause unusually high water, some trails may be closed.)

Where to go. We suggest 12 marsh areas and list them north to south, with a cluster at the southern end of San Francisco Bay. Unless otherwise noted, they're open daily dawn to dusk. All telephone numbers are area code 415.

Martinez Regional Shoreline, end of Ferry Street, Martinez; 671-0678. Marsh trails, picnicking, fishing, bike and jogging paths.

Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, end of Atlas Road, Richmond; 237-6896. Marsh trails, meadows, picnicking, fishing, bike and jogging paths, horseshoes. Parking costs $1.50 on weekends.

China Camp State Park, N. San Pedro Road, San Rafael; 456-0766. Marsh trails, meadows, picnicking, fishing, beaches.

Elsie B. Roemer Bird Sanctuary (within Robert Crown Memorial State Beach), end of Shoreline Drive and Broadway, Alameda; 521-7090. Marsh trails.

San Leandro Bay Regional Shoreline, access at San Leandro Channel off Hegenberger Road and off Doolittle Drive, Oakland; 531-9300. Marsh trails, picnicking, fishing, boating, beaches.

Hayward Regional Shoreline, end of W. Winton Avenue, Hayward; 783-1066. Quiet marsh trails, bike path, fishing.

Coyote Hills Regional Park, Patterson Ranch Road off Newark Boulevard, Fremont; 471-4967. Marsh trails, meadows, picnicking, paved bike trails and jogging paths, day camping, visitor center. Has trails access to the wildlife refuge (below). Weekend programs by reservation.

San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, near Dumbarton Bridge, Fremont; 792-3178 (recorded information). Marsh trails, bike paths, visitor center. High-tide walks this month (limit: 11 people).

Palo Alto Baylands Nature Preserve, end of Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto; 329-2506. Marsh trails, bike paths, interpretive center. Guided walks January 22 and 28 at 9:30. Center is open Wednesdays through Fridays from 2 to 5, weekends 1 to 5.

Charleston Slough, end of San Antonio Road (park on Terminal Boulevard), Mountain View; no telephone. Marsh trail connects Mountain View Shoreline Park with Palo Alto Baylands.

Mountain View Shoreline Park, end of Stierlin Road, Mountain View; 969-2041. Marsh trails, bike and jogging paths, picnicking, golf course.

Alviso Slough Trail, Alviso Marina, Alviso; no telephone. Nine-mile loop trail through marshes and salt ponds, with shorter alternative routes available.
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Date:Jan 1, 1984
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