Big Chico Creek, Butte County
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Big Chico Creek: Many Destinations in One

By Salvatore Pinelli
Big Chico Creek flows from the Sierra Nevada foothills into Butte County’s Upper Bidwell Park, then through quaint downtown Chico and the Cal-State University campus before it enters the Sacramento River just west of the city. This creek provides an excellent travel route, truly chock full of awesome activities and raw beauty. Fishing, hiking, cliff jumping, floating, sun bathing, bird watching and biking are just a handful of the outdoor adventures awaiting you along this gorgeous stretch of water.

big chico creek
The further north (upstream) you travel the more rural and wild the creek gets. Further to the northeast is the Big Chico Creek Ecological Rerserve, another must visit.

A favorite fishing activity is hiking with fly rod in hand alongside the creek on the well-marked path dubbed the Yahi trail. The trailhead starts about three miles into the park on the right-hand side just after the big wooden sign displaying Upper Park rules. It’s a very easy hike filled with a multitude of creek clearings, which provide some picturesque trout fishing. There are not too many large trout in this smaller creek but they are fun to catch and release. There are strict fishing regulations in place to sustain the population of fish including the use of single-hook barbless artificial lures and a zero limit policy.

Loejoy Basalt Rock Swimming Hole, Big Chico Creek
Another must try for ‘‘aqua-holics” is swimming downstream from the diversion dam through the overhanging Lovejoy Basalt rock the creek has eroded slowly over the generations. Students often visit this part of Upper Bidwell Park, which is called the Bear Hole.

There are many places akin to this all along Chico Creek just waiting for a little human interaction. A few miles downstream lies another popular local swimming hole equipped with a salmon ladder, a jump platform, and plenty of places to hang out with friends and socialize. Visitor are sure to see some interesting characters, graffiti art and a whole lot of wildlife in this truly unique spot, which is considered  a summer hangout where people can go to cool off; however, it is also worth visiting during the fall salmon run to watch the fish scurry past and scoot their way up the ladder.

Big Chico Creek
Young “acrobats” are often seen “airing out a flip” into the cool waters of the Trestles. The end of the fish ladder; albeit, barely visible, is near the top right corner of this photo.

Big Chico Creek weaves its way toward downtown Chico where it passes elegantly through the tree-lined University of California Chico State campus. The raw beauty of Chico State is often the linchpin that prompts college-bound students to decide to attend school here. There are over 200 plant species scattered throughout the 119-acre campus, a real homage to Mr. John Bidwell, for whom the park was named, who was quite keen on bringing a variety of flora to the area. While students may not want to get out of bed and go to class, once on campus all that subsides when they realize how lucky they are to be surrounded by such an aesthetically appealing outdoor campus.

There are nine foot traffic bridges within the confines of the campus alone providing not only a more direct route to class but also an incredible view along the way. The pure beauty of Chico State’s campus is one of many factors contributing to the city of Chico’s popularity.
Big Chico Creek, Foot Bridge
Footbridges are one of the many stunning perspectives one will enjoy during a walk around the Chico State campus.

As if all the natural beauty at Chico State was not enough the school also boasts quite an impressive structural element. You will not find any drab department buildings or typical construction among this exceptional campus so don’t even try. There is also a real lack of concrete giving way to well-worn dirt paths, sprawling common areas of grass, and an attractive rose garden. There are constant renovations being done and new buildings going up every year adding more uniqueness to this already exquisite campus.

Kendall Hall, Chico State University
Kendall Hall, built in 1889 used to be the Chico Normal School and now is the main administration building. The University, commonly called "Chico State," now offers more than 100 undergraduate majors and options.

Above the entrance to Kendall Hall is the school motto, “Today Decides Tomorrow,” which echoes the philosophy that our choices have an everlasting effect on our future.

No matter your outdoor passion, Big Chico Creek will be more than accommodating. Whether you are looking for adventure, relaxation, nature or just an awesome place to go to college be sure to visit Butte County and follow Big Chico Creek wherever it may go.

For those interested in taking a tour of the Chico State campus go online to schedule a tour a week in advance. Individual explorers you can print out a self-guided campus tour and enjoy everything Big Chico Creek, this campus and the city of Chico have to offer.

Photos by Salvatore Pinelli

Other websites to visit:

Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve

Cal-State University, Chico 


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