Most associate the generic term "California parks" with the state operated parks system that contains an inventory of over 270 parks and places maintained by State of California Parks Division (parks.ca.gov)
National parks in California are operated by the National Parks Service and in addition to the 8 national parks, there are 6 national monuments, 4 national historic trails, and a handful of national memorials, seashores and national recreation areas. (nps.gov)
Then the 58 counties in California manage land holdings in their county regions usually known as County Parks.
21 of the best wildlife viewing areas in the state, are completely or partly on BLM-administered land.
Samoa Dunes Recreation Area A 300-acre coastal area, along a sandy strip between ocean and bays just west of Eureka. Many birds can be seen amid varied dune habitats and in the nearby ocean and bay, with good birdwatching year-round. About half of the recreation area is heavily used by off-highway vehicles.
Mattole Recreation Site Here the Mattole River meets the Pacific Ocean, providing varied habitat and glimpses of migrating birds and shorebirds, seals and sea lions - even passing California gray whales. The site includes 20 acres at the north end of the King Range National Conservation Area, that extends 35 miles along the coast and up to six miles inland.
Shelter Cove/Lost Coast Wilderness The remote region known as California's Lost Coast includes 35 miles of coastline within the King Range National Recreation Area, with shelter Cove near the south end. This is good place to view marine life including seals and sea lions, tidepool life, California gray whales and many types of birds.
Beaver Creek Beaver Creek meanders through a rocky canyon, in an area with relatively flat terrain. This is a major wintering area for mule deer and pronghorn - a major wildlife-viewing attraction of Beaver Creek. Various types of birds can also be seen.
Kelly Reservoir Kelly Reservoir fills with water for only part of the year, starting with winter precipitation and drying out by spring or early summer (April to as late as July), depending on the amount of rainfall. But even seasonal water amid the sagebrush grasslands and volcanic ridges attracts large numbers of wildlife, especially birds.
Paynes Creek Bands of vegetation line the banks of the Sacramento River where it meets Paynes Creek, offering perches for birds and cover for small mammals. The 3,700-acre Paynes Creek management area includes that intersection and other streams, wetlands and ponds, plus grassland and oak woodland - all attracting a variety of wildlife.
Eagle Lake is California's second largest natural lake, and one of the more unique. It sits in a "closed drainage basin" - it has no outlet and only limited surface water flows into it. That can lead to buildup of contaminants that greatly reduce wildlife. However, Eagle Lake's unique water quality balance hosts a great variety of wildlife including trophy trout and birds attracted by the fish, all amid attractive scenery.
Bizz Johnson Trail/Susan River The Bizz Johnson Trail winds 25 miles along the route of an historic rail line and a dozen miles along the Susan River. The trail passes through three bioregions: the Cascade Range, the Sierra Nevada and the Great Basin. The varied habitat attracts a variety of wildlife, from beavers and belted kingfishers at the river to great horned owls and porcupines in the surrounding areas.
Biscar Wildlife Area Two small reservoirs within Snowstorm Creek Canyon collect water that attracts water birds, as well as mule deer, pronghorn antelope and other wildlife.
Cache Creek Management Area This secluded, hilly expanse of oak woodlands, grasslands and chaparal is cut by about 35 miles of Cache Creek, providing excellent wildlife habitat. Cache Creek offers visitors spectacular views of the endangered bald eagle, free-roaming tule elk herds, wild turkey, black bear, blacktail deer and other upland species. Numerous bird species have been seen here.
Cosumnes River Preserve The Cosumnes River is the California Central Valley's last undammed river; seasonal flooding creates rich wildlife habitat. Only minutes from the state capitol, this is a critical stop on the Pacific flyway for migrating and wintering waterfowl. The preserve's ponds, sloughs, and seasonally flooded marshes also support many resident birds, plus other wildlife.
Fish Slough Fish Slough is a lush oasis amid an otherwise arid landscape - with less than six inches of rain, and summer temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The unusual surface water supply provides for varied plant and animal life, from unique and sensitive species such as Owens pupfish and Owens tui chub, to resident and migrating birds, and small mammals.
Haiwee Deer Winter Range This area on the edge of the Owens Valley in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains was designated as a Watchable Wildlife site because it offers outstanding opportunities to view a portion of the East Monache mule deer herd. As winter moves in, deer move down from the mountains to the valley bottom, at about 4,000 feet above sea level. Here they can forage on diverse grasses and forbs and find water in hidden springs.
Carrizo Plain National Monument Covering nearly 250,000 acres (204,107 acres federally-managed), the Carrizo Plain National Monument is managed for the benefit of its rare and endangered plants and animals, and for restoration of native ecosystems to health. The many birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles that find a home here fill a long list.
Desert Tortoise Natural Area For three million years, the desert tortoise survived and adapted to changing climates in what is now the California Desert. But in recent years, their numbers have been greatly reduced. This public land in the northwestern Mojave Desert in northeastern Kern County, is managed to protect a unique habitat in its natural state.
Harper Lake Most of Harper Lake is a dry lake bed that lies under the flight area of Edwards Air Force Base. But in its southwest corner, water runoff from nearby farms has created what is probably the largest marsh in the Mojave Desert. This oasis attracts resident wildlife and thousands of migratory waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds, making this a prime birdwatching spot.
Afton Canyon One of the only places where the Mojave River flows above ground all year round. This unusually reliable Mojave Desert water source provides bounty for many animals. More than 180 species of birds have been spotted, and bighorn sheep can now find water here, thanks to habitat restoration efforts. The area also hosts various turtles and lizards, and desert tortoises.
Palms to Pines Scenic Byway. This 67-mile scenic driving tour climbs from desert through mountains and back again, passing through various wildlife and scenic preserves. Drivers can pull off the winding and often steep road at a number of pulloffs or lookout points, with varied habitat ranging from forested mountainsides, to reservoir, to arid brush- and cactus-covered stretches -- not to mention some sweeping views of mountains and valleys.
Big Morongo Canyon Preserve Big Morongo Creek rises to the surface for just three miles between the Mojave and Colorado deserts, before it disappears underground again. The resulting canyon oasis has gained a national reputation among birdwatchers as "a usual spot to see the unusual." At least 235 species of birds have been observed here - including several rare species - along with desert bighorn sheep, mule deer and smaller mammals, lizards and more.
Coachella Valley Preserve For thousands of years, particles of sand washed into the Coachella Valley, forming a system of dunes. Today, these dunes are part of a 20,000-acre sanctuary that is home to several species of increasingly rare wildlife - including the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, that "swims" through the sand. The Preserve also includes several palm oases, including the spectacular Thousand Palms Oasis.
Dos Palmas Preserve This oasis with its hundreds of swaying fan palms offers sanctuary in the midst of the dry Colorado Desert. Pools fed by artesian springs and seepage from the nearby Coachella Canal form a lush wetland area. The exceptional habitat shelters a variety of both threatened or endangered and more common animal species.