Sycamore Pool on the 4th of July


Swimming in Sycamore Pool is a popular summertime activity. The dam that creates the pool is generally in place by Memorial Day and removed shortly after Labor Day. When the dam is in place, lifeguards are on duty from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., but, of course, you are responsible for ensuring the safety of your own children. From June-August, the creek is tested weekly for fecal coliform bacteria upstream and downstream from the pool, but is not chlorinated or otherwise treated. The rest of the year, it is tested once a month. Occasionally the coliform bacteria count rises due to animals or people using the creek as a bathroom, so try to not drink the water. If your child isn’t toilet trained yet, you’re creating a health risk for others if you let her or him use the pool. Dogs are not allowed in the Sycamore Pool area.

During the summer, the pool is drained and cleaned every Thursday morning starting at about 7 a.m. Kids who like construction equipment may enjoy watching the loader/scraper remove the silt and mud from the bottom of the pool.

There are numerous other shallow swimming areas in Lower Park. You could try a new spot every week and not run out of places over the summer. The water can be icy cold and fast moving in the early summer. Even if you’ve swum in a particular location one year, don’t assume the area will be exactly the same the next summer. Rocks and tree branches get moved around in the winter storms.

In Upper Park, there’s swimming at Five Mile Recreation Area, at the swimming holes and various other spots along the Yahi Trail. Some have shallow water areas and sandy beaches. The upstream swimming areas tend to be most popular for older teens and young adults. Isolated swimming areas are more likely to have nude swimmers so if nudity bothers you or your kids, stick to the downstream spots. Every year, people are injured when they dive into the creek. A pool of water may look deep, but there are hidden rocks in many areas.

Swimming is not allowed in Horseshoe Lake.

Play Equipment

For younger kids, there is playground equipment at One Mile Recreation Area, Hooker Oak and a new major play area nearby at Wildwood Park. Caper Acres at One Mile is a fantasy play area specifically for children. Adults are allowed in only if accompanied by a child. Dogs aren’t allowed. Caper Acres is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., except on Mondays, when maintenance is done.

Organized Activities

Chico Area Recreation Area  (CARD) offers numerous classes for children (and adults) throughout the city. Some of their activities at Hooker Oak Recreation Area include Camp Chi-Da-Ca, a summer day camp, and the annual Community Campout, an overnight camping experience for families. You can pick up a catalog at the CARD Community Center, on Vallombrosa Ave. near One Mile.

Chico Creek Nature Center, located in Bidwell Park, has spring and summer camps, nature walks and field trips. If you’re looking for something different for your child’s birthday, they offer several nature theme parties at their facility. They also have a unique museum, focusing on wildlife that’s found in the park, and have Chico’s best selection of information about the local natural world. In the winter, they offer classes and field trips through the school system.

Kids and Creeks is an environmental education program offered through the school system for K-12. It teaches kids about creek ecology, riparian habitat restoration and anadromous fish through classroom presentations and creekside projects. Many of their riparian restoration projects are in Bidwell Park. Ask your child’s teacher about this program.

Unstructured Activities

Bidwell Park is a perfect place to bicycle with your kids. The paved roads in Lower Park are good for beginning bikers, especially when they’re closed to cars (before 11 a.m. on Petersen Dr., before 9 a.m. on South Park Dr.). For more advanced riders, Upper Park Rd is open year-round to cyclists. On the gravel section, Sunday and Monday are the best days to ride since vehicle traffic is prohibited on those days.

The disc golf course on Hwy 32 can be fun for all ages. Try to go in the morning, when it’s less crowded, cooler, and there’s less beer being consumed. Be sure to take extra discs as it’s easy to lose them in the bushes or off the cliffs. Bring your own water too.

Horseshoe Lake and its new handicapped-accessible fishing pier are another family spot. Because of the recent toxics report for this area, the fish should not be consumed. Even if you’re not fishing, it’s fun to watch the geese. In the winter, migratory waterfowl also visit the lake.

Looking at Nature

Bidwell Park offers a variety of ways to look at and experience nature. In Lower Park, there’s the World of Trees Independence Trail. Nearby is the Deer Pen, where deer who are unable to live in the wild have found a home. You can walk along the Yahi Trail in Upper Park, where trail signs identify native plants, geological features and wildlife. Sit beside the creek for a while and you’re sure to see fish, dragonflies and tadpoles. At dawn and dusk, you may see deer in Upper Park or coyotes on the north slopes. South side visitors often see wild turkeys in the upper reaches of the park. Visit the observatory and view our night sky. Take a walk on the north rim trail when the moon is full. In the spring, look at the wildflowers and vernal pools at Bidwell Ranch and near Easter Cross. Look for the caves and acorn grinding holes of the Maidu, who formerly lived in the area. Follow the path of the flume from Diversion Dam to Horseshoe Lake.