Field Trip Friday: Turtle Bay Exploration Park

October 24, 2014

Some places resonate with me—they feel like old friends, even the first time I visit them. One such place for me is Turtle Bay Exploration Park (TBEP) in Redding, California. When I visit my family, it’s one of the places I always want to go back to—what better place to share with you as a Field Trip Friday?

TBEP is 300-acre “gathering place” divided into north and south “campuses,” separated by the Sacramento River and connected by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava’s Sundial Bridge. In addition to the bridge, there is a museum, a forestry and wildlife center, and an arboretum and botanical gardens. The complex houses approximately 800 plant species/cultivars and 225 animals. Here’s a brief description of each of the major components:

McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens
The 20 acres of water-wise gardens here represent the world’s five Mediterranean climate zones: Southwest Australia, South Africa, California, Chile and the Mediterranean Basin. The plants share survival adaptations that enable them to thrive in climate conditions with warm/hot dry summers and rainy winters, and all require moderate to low water usage. The gardens are divided into several areas, including a Children’s Garden, Perennial Companions Display Garden, Butterfly Garden, Medicinal Garden and the Pacific Rim Garden. Mosaic features and fountains are scattered throughout the gardens. This is my favorite area of the TBEP—lots of places to sketch, take pictures, or simply sit and enjoy the gardens. I didn’t sketch while I was there, but did take some pictures:

Sounds of Water by Betsy Damon 

Mosaic fountain, part of Mosaic Oasis, by Colleen Barry

Earthstone, by Colleen Barry
Detail from Earthstone

Museum and Forest Camp
Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp is a popular destination for children. It includes a playground; the Parrot Playhouse, a year-round lorikeet aviary; Wildlife Woods; a seasonal Butterfly House and an amphitheater where daily educational shows take place. There are lots of hands-on activities for kids, and this is where you’ll find the animals. Though we never found the newest addition, a young bobcat (she was being used in a presentation that we missed), we did see a porcupine, a couple of raptors and a beautiful red fox.

The museum houses several permanent and interactive exhibits focusing on local and regional history, as well as traveling exhibits. When we were there, so was Toytopia, an exploration of the past century of toy making. We saw the world’s largest Etch-A-Sketch (more than eight feet tall—and I didn’t take a picture!), a retro arcade with games like Tron and Donkey Kong, building areas for kids with Lego and Lincoln Logs, and toys from the early 1900s onward.

Sundial Bridge
This beautiful bridge is indeed a sundial, though the shadow of its 217-foot-tall pylon is only completely accurate once a year, on the summer solstice. Opened July 4, 2004, the Sundial Bridge is also a downtown entrance for Redding’s Sacramento River Trail system, a 35-mile long trail that extends along both sides of the river, connecting the bridge to the Shasta Dam. Made of steel, glass and granite, it’s 700 feet long and 23 feet wide. No vehicles are allowed on the bridge, and it’s an easy stroll across the river. When we were there, we saw men fly fishing on one side of the river, and Canada Geese bobbing and floating on the other side.

Sacramento River--see the teeny fishermen?

If you’re ever in the Redding area, the Turtle Bay Exploration Park is well worth the visit. There is no admission charge to walk over the Sundial Bridge and down the Sacramento River Trail, but you do have to pay to enter the botanical gardens, museum and forestry camp. If I lived in this area, I’d like to think I’d often be found here, though you know how that is. We don’t always use and appreciate the simple pleasures and everyday adventures we have available to us. (When was the last time I was at the USF Botanical Gardens, for instance?)

Where have your wanderings taken you lately?

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  1. Dear Kathy - This looks like a beautiful spot. One I would certainly want to visit if I was vacationing there.
    You are so right about not taking advantage of the sights close to home. I live less than 30 miles from the Canton Football Hall of Fame and I have never been there. Of course football is not something I follow but hubby might enjoy it. Well have a wonderful week end.

  2. You would love it, Debbie. It's actually where I picked up the acorns I mentioned in my comment on your last blog post.

    Have a great weekend.

  3. I haven't heard of this before, but I haven't spent much time in Redding (we did go to Whiskeytown Lake though).

    I loved your photos and details of the park.

    Kathy M.

  4. Thanks, Kathy. I've never been to Whiskeytown Lake, but my mom has. I think she's even camped there, if that's possible.

  5. Thank you for the field trip! Isn't it wonderful to have those places where our soul feels at home. For me, the region to which I moved, from a bigger city to a smaller town near mountains, lakes & a beautiful bay dotted with spruce tree & granite islands is definitely "coming home."

  6. You're welcome! I love finding places like this that feed the soul. Usually they involve nature in some way, just like your mountains, lakes, trees and islands.

  7. Looks like a great place to spend the day. I love arboretums. We spend a few days at a state park in Arkansas last week. We met friends who now live in Little
    Rock, and we've been doing that every fall since they moved, about 4 years ago. It's a lovely place to get away too.

  8. Cheryl--It was a wonderful place to spend the day. I like places where you can go at your own pace. How nice that you could share the state park with your friends.

  9. I wish to go to this place with you. :) It looks lovely!

  10. You would love it, Kerri. Next time I plan a trip out there, we will have to see how we can manage it.