Experience the Sacramento River in Butte County
The Sacramento River is California’s largest river, and Butte County’s share of it showcases some of the best river recreation in the state! These twists and turns are home to legendary tubing adventures and spectacular boating and fishing opportunities. Nature lovers will appreciate the hundreds of acres of protected riparian habitat that help keep Butte County’s stretch of the Sacramento River naturally stunning.
Irvine Finch River Access
The Irvine Finch River Access area is a classic starting point for river tubing adventures and also has a ramp for motorized boats. There are several gravel bars downstream where you and your friends can relax on smooth river cobble. Those with fishing gear can try and catch salmon, steelhead trout, shad, or sturgeon. Easy to find right on the west side of the Highway 32 bridge, fees are $6 per vehicle and $5 per motorized boat.
Three river miles (and one-to-two floating hours) downstream from Irvine Finch is the Pine Creek area. There is an access and take-out spot for tubes and non-motorized boats right where Pine Creek empties into the Sacramento River. Travel up Pine Creek to find Scotty’s Landing, Butte County’s famous riverside restaurant. About a half of a mile up Pine Creek through a dense riparian woodland is the Pine Creek Boat Launch with access for motorized boats. Parking is available at several points along River Road.
Other Day-Use & Boat Launch Areas
Another three miles downstream on the Sacramento River is the Big Chico Creek day-use area. There, you can wash ashore on “Wash-Out” Beach, with vehicle access the west side of River Road, or launch a non-motorized vessel into Big Chico Creek on the east side. The Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park brochure includes helpful information on how to stay safe while floating or boating the Sacramento River.
For those who want a longer boating excursion, it’s about 15 river miles south to the Ord Bend Park Boat Launch and 19 river miles north to the Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area from Irvine Finch. These remote stretches of the Sacramento River are studded with various units of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge system as well as State wildlife areas. This means gorgeous river habitat, a huge diversity of birds and mammals, and secluded boat-in only access points. Look for visible signs from the river of certain some refuge and wildlife area units.
Hiking, Birding & Fishing Locations
Even without a boat or a float, there are destinations scattered along the Sacramento River that will make your family’s day. The Pine Creek Unit of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge is just half a mile east of the Highway 32 bridge and has two miles of walking paths in a newly restored magnet for migratory birds and local wildlife.
Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park’s Pine Creek, Indian Fishery, and Big Chico Creek day-use areas all have picnic tables, barbecues, and restrooms under a canopy of mature riparian trees. All three areas are accessible from River Road between Highway 32 and Chico River Road. The Indian Fishery has a short nature trail showing off a small oxbow lake as well as good fishing. Further south at the Big Chico Creek day-use area, the one-mile long Mugwort Meadow trail offers another opportunity to surround yourself with towering cottonwood, oak, and sycamore trees wrapped in wild grape and pipevine. Wash-Out Beach is one of the best locations in the area to splash around or cast a line right on the river’s edge.
The Irvine Finch Access Area on Highway 32 is 11 miles west of Interstate 5 (Exit 619 in Orland). Coming from Chico, it’s about 10.5 miles from Highway 99 (Exit 385). The northern end of River Road intersects with Highway 32 a mile and a half east of the Sacramento River bridge.
Traveling south on River Road from Highway 32, you’ll pass by the Pine Creek Boat Launch in a half of a mile, Scotty’s Landing and the Pine Creek day use area in a mile, the Indian Fishery in two miles (at the intersection of River Road and West Sacramento Avenue), and the Big Chico Creek day use area in four miles.
South of the Big Chico Creek Day Use Area, Chico River Road will take you back to Downtown Chico.