The Sacramento River Discovery Center – Learning About the River and Its Watershed

Photo by Tom Chandler,

Photo by Tom Chandler,

The Sacramento River is an important ecological and water resource, and a vital water transportation route, a role it has had since the original native inhabitants lived along its banks. The largest river in California, it is one of the state’s major sources of water for both public and agricultural uses. The Sacramento River Discovery Center (SRDC), located within the 488-acre Mendocino National Forest’s Red Bluff Recreation Area, was created to help the public understand its importance, and to help make the citizens of California aware of how they can better serve as stewards for this vital natural resource.

The development of the center was a broad-based community effort conceived by 48 individuals from a variety of agencies and organizations. SRDC includes a visitor’s center with interpretive displays and exhibits depicting the river’s watershed, habitat and local history. Its 2-acre Discovery Garden is designed for low-water use landscaping, and features native, drought-tolerant and deer-resistant plants. For bird watching, the Red Bluff Recreation Area offers over 4 miles of hiking trails with views of the Sacramento River and the Red Bluff Diversion Dam. The recreation area also offers group and family camping with boating access.

As part of the Sacramento River Discovery Center’s mission, the center offers an environmental education program that follows the state’s grade-level science standards for elementary school students. Students learn about varied topics at stations that offer lessons centered on activities, such as art projects, learning about plants in the garden, wading in Ben’s Pond to learn about aquatic insects, bird watching along the trails, or studying the life cycle of salmon and visiting with George (a live king snake) in the center.

During summer, the center offers six weeks of Discovery Day Camp for 6- to 12-year-olds, where students enjoy projects and outdoor adventure activities related to weekly themes, such as “Prehistoric California,” “Native California,” “Natural Resources in Space,” and “Life in the Pacific.”

art-1013-srdc2The instructional programs provide a rich learning environment. “This center has always been kid-oriented,” states Bobie Hughes, director of the center. “The children do hands-on learning the whole time.”

Each year two special events are sponsored at the center. On November 2nd, the center hosts its Discovery Garden Festival and California Native Plant sale from 9 a.m to 1 p.m. The annual May Watershed Celebration is a fun family event with activities for all ages, and includes a 5K/10K walk and run.

The Sacramento River Discovery Center is located two hours north of Sacramento just east of the I-5 Red Bluff exit, at 1000 Sale Lane. The center welcomes the public’s support by offering various levels of membership, and opportunities for those who would like to volunteer.

For more information about these opportunities and the environmental education program, contact Bobie Hughes at (530) 527-1196 or visit the center’s website at The center is open Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m to 4 p.m.

Educating visitors, especially children, about the importance of the river and its environs is an important goal. Hughes states emphatically, “The children are our future!”

Darla Greb Mazariegos
About Darla Mazariegos

Writer Darla Greb Mazariegos is a mother of three and part of the North State Parent staff.

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