"Redding--Its new Sundial Bridge points the way to a land of outdoor beauty

by The Editor

It is a land of rivers, lakes, mountains and forest. A place for limitless outdoor recreation and adventure. These are the eight northern most counties of California. Bounded by Siskiyou and Modoc counties which touch Oregon to the north and Nevada to the east they stretch south of the upper reaches of the Sacramento valley.

By geography and its own many attractions Redding is the ideal hub for visiting this idyllic region of California. It is the retail center for this huge part of California and with its many hotels, restaurants and retail businesses offers a most attractive headquarters when exploring the region.

Presently two new attractions head a very large list of things to do and places to go in Redding.

First is the absolutely unique Sundial Bridge. Spanning the Sacramento river at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park its breathtaking unusual design is by world famous architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava.

The Sundial Bridge, for people traffic only, is a technical marvel and the first free standing bridge in the United States. Its 217 foot pylon, which conceived the Sundial name, supports 200 tons of glass and granite with 4,300 feet of cable.

The adjoining Turtle Bay Park offers many attractions for the visitor.

There is a museum depicting the human history of the region from the Native Americans who lived there for 1,200 years. Then to the first explorers and settlers who followed seeking the riches of its timber and gold.

One exhibit depicts on how the Sundial Bridge was first envisioned by Designer Santigo Calatrava with original sketches and with illustrations and 'hands on' actual items used in the construction.

The Park also has an exhibit of live birds and a unique summer butterfly house where one can view the complete life cycle of 12 species of butterflies native to the area. It is open from June through September. Tracie Wierman, Turtle Bay Director of Education, and Docent Beth Lake escorted us through both the museum and the outdoor exhibits

The McConnell Arboretum has 500 species of trees and plants. Children love Paul Bunyan's Forest Camp which takes the viewer back to when logging was one of the major activities of the region.

There is the underground aquarium where one sees the native fish of the Sacramento River including salmon, trout and catfish.

Exploration Park is also a Sacramento River Trailhead offering hikers and bike riders miles of scenic terrain. It crosses the River with three different bridges, including the new Sundial, and recently received National Recreation Trail designation.

We viewed and crossed the Sundial Bridge shortly before its official opening with Bob Warren of the Redding Visitors Bureau providing us with knowledgeable facts and figures in its construction. The bridge is 700 feet long and 23 feet wide and the showplace pylon is 217 feet high. The pylon supports the cable stays that allow the bridge to span the river with no supports in the water. The $23 million bridge was funded primarily by the private McConnell Foundation.

Later we had Rebeca Franco of the Turtle Bay staff give us a guided tour of a short part of the trail system explaining local flora and fauna on the way.

Exploration Park is located at 844 Auditorium Drive, Redding and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is an admission fee. On the web at www.turtlebay.org.

Another new attraction is the Redding Big League Dreams Sports Park. Here there are three softball fields constructed to replicate the big league stadiums of Boston's Fenway Park, and yes it has the 'green monster', the infamous left field wall. Also Yankee Stadium and Chicago's Wrigley Field.

The new sports complex is managed by Big league Dreams, a Southern California company with several other such sports parks. The one in Redding is a first for Northern California.

At this writing the complex is nearing completion and will include a Sports Bar and patio overlooking the ball fields.

Redding is the perfect headquarters for a whole series of interesting one day excursions to such scenic wonders as Shasta Dam and Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park and Whiskeytown Lake National Recreation Area. And this is the way this Writer viewed the region.

Another one-day excursion from Redding, which unfortunately we did not have time to visit, is McArthur-Burney Falls State Park with 129 foot Burney Falls. There is also an excellent campground in the Park. This is located on Highway 299 east of Redding.

To the west on Highway 299 is the Joss House at Weaverville. This is a 1870s Chinese Taoist Temple left over from the gold rush days. State Park Rangers offer tours of the Temple daily. It is 48 miles west of Redding.

Redding has 85,000 people but as the retail center for a huge area it offers a much larger retail industry than belies its population. There are more than 2,500 hotel rooms and almost 200 restaurants.

It is situated on Interstate 5, the main highway from Canada to Mexico traveling through Washington, Oregon and California. It is on the route of Amtrak and its airport is serviced by both United and Horizon airlines.

There are so many places to go and things to see in the eight county region that many deserve their own story.

In future issues of Vittles we will take our readers to Lake Shasta and Whiskeytown Lake.

House boats dot Lake Shasta in large numbers and we will describe our experience on one of them.

We must also tell of beautiful Whiskeytown Lake and Shasta State Historic Park which displays how the largest of the gold mining towns in the region looked in the 1850s.

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Last Update:9/10/04

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