California’s New State Park Opens This Week

California’s New State Park Opens This Week


It’s Monday. California has a new state park. Plus, Stanford joins other elite schools in once again requiring standardized test scores from applicants.

California officials will formally open the state’s 281st state park on Wednesday, and it’s an unusual one. Dos Rios is a riverfront oasis in the San Joaquin Valley that offers a window into what the region was like before it was transformed into an agricultural powerhouse.

The 1,600-acre property, eight miles west of Modesto at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers, for decades housed dairy farms and almond orchards. It has now been restored to a broad natural floodplain, where visitors will be able to hike, watch birds and other wildlife, and have a picnic along the riverbanks. Officials hope to eventually add trails for bicycling and more river access for swimming, angling and boating.

“It’s a great addition to the state parks system in a part of the state that’s somewhat park-poor,” Rachel Norton, executive director of the California State Parks Foundation, told me. “If you look at a map of California, you see tons of parks going up the coast. You see tons of parks in the Sierra Nevada and in the desert. There’s a lot along the edges. But in the center of the state, there’s just not a lot.”

Dos Rios is a rare stretch of riverside forest, an ecosystem that was common in the Central Valley before the mid-19th century but that has largely been supplanted by farms. The park provides habitat for several endangered and threatened species, including the riparian brush rabbit, riparian wood rat, Chinook salmon, Swainson’s hawk and others.

Dos RiosCredit…California State Parks

The park also offers many benefits for people, including a respite from extreme heat in a fast-growing region without much green space, as well as opportunities for families who wouldn’t otherwise have a place nearby to picnic, camp or go trail running. And because it functions as a floodplain, giving the rivers room to spread harmlessly if they overtop their banks, the park will help prevent or mitigate destructive flooding in the San Joaquin Valley.

“I think of this literally as a park of the future,” Armando Quintero, director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation, told Bay Nature magazine, referring to the multifaceted benefits of Dos Rios.

When Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in April that California’s first new state park in several years would open this week, he made a similar point.

“The benefits don’t just stop at recreation,” he said in a statement. “This park is a key asset to fighting the climate crisis, home to the state’s largest floodplain restoration project. We’re not just protecting these spaces, we’re restoring them for future generations.”

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Briana Scalia contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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