Have you ever been to the San Joaquin River Parkway and Trust River Center? Long name – really amazing place!
I have to be honest – I’m not the greatest outdoorsy person and I tend to hide from places that aren’t air conditioned for about a third of the year, but… after my first trip to the River Center, I had to admit, it was an awesome place that made me want to be outdoors more.
The River Center is located on Old Friant Road (11605 Old Friant Road, Fresno, CA 93730) and serves as a hub for activity on the San Joaquin River. On the property is a beautiful, historic ranch home that has been turned into the River Center’s historical museum. There are neat things to see inside including baskets and rugs woven by Native Americans who used to live along the river and mounted fish and pictures of crazy-looking fish that had once been caught in the river. (Really cool!)
Outside the house is a lovely lawn area which surrounds a lily pad filled pond that is home to frogs and dragonflies, fish and turtles. It’s a lot of fun to sit near the pond and watch (and listen to) the animals. On my last visit to the River Center, there was a very large frog sitting on a lily pad that I thought for sure was a lawn statue of some sort. It was SO big, and so perfect looking. Then, eventually it jumped into the water and surprised me. The area around the pond is a great place for a picnic and also home to Respite by the River – an event hosted by the River Parkway and trust featuring readings, artists and musicians. (For a calendar of River Center events like Respite by the River, click here)
The River Center joins up with the Eaton trail, which comes through Woodward Park and continues on Friant, and the River Center’s ample parking, clean restrooms and drinking fountains make it a great rendezvous point for hikers or cyclists. The Hidden Homes Trail is also accessible from the River Center and consists of a 1/2 mile trail with life size animal home exhibits where children can experience what it might be like to be an eagle in a nest or live in a mouse house. This trail is an easy walk, even for young children and many river dwelling animals can also be observed in this protected environment.
I encourage you to take your family to the River Center and enjoy a fun and educational day enjoying the river and its creatures. There is no entrance fee for the River Center (though donations for this non-profit are greatly appreciated) and hours are 9am – 5pm daily. (Hidden Homes Trail and the Historic Ranch House are open 10am – 3pm on weekends).