Welcome to the Chico Creek Nature Center, the gateway and official information center for Bidwell Park.

CCNC History

The Chico Creek Nature Center's commitment to Bidwell Park education began in the mid-seventies by a coalition of environmental and recreation groups that offered nature programs and wildlife rehabilitation services. Wildlife rehabilitation is no longer offered by the Nature Center but we work closely with the Bidwell Wildlife Rehabilitation organization who heal and release hundreds of injured wild animals each year.

In 1888 a State Board of Forestry Experimental Station was established where the Chico Creek Nature Center currently exists from land donated by John Bidwell (founder of the City of Chico). The purpose of the Forestry Station was to find trees for various uses that were suited to the area. Today, thirty-seven acres of conifer and hardwood trees from many parts of the world still exist here, including a cork forest (see the World of Trees Trail brochure). A barn that was part of this station, built around 1900, burned in June 2006.

From1921 until 1975 the site was then used as the Park Headquarters. The 1975 Bidwell Park Master Plan stated that "when the facility is removed (Park Headquarters)....it should be abandoned or developed into a nature center."

From 1954-1958 a small zoo operated on the property, with monkeys, a raccoon, a mountain lion, an opossum and others, but was eventually closed due to complaints of noise and smell, and allegations of improper housing and feeding. Fluffy the bear’s enclosure still exists, thus the name “Bear’s Lair.” The deer pen was there before that, managed by the CA State Department of Fish and Game to house injured and confiscated deer until the last one died in 2005. Wild deer still get in through the open gate.

In 1991, our former Director Janeece Webb completed construction of the facility that houses our non-releasable living animal museum. Volunteers from the building community and many other in-kind donations were responsible for completion of this community-wide project. Once the site of a zoo in the 1950s and later a City of Chico public works refuse area, the Nature Center grounds were cleaned up and beautified with a native plant garden and benches in what now is Bear's Lair. The impressive makeover was accomplished through the volunteer efforts of Soroptomist International of Chico, the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society and a local boy scout troop. Bear's Lair is now a popular site for wedding ceremonies.

Howard S. Tucker Hall opened in Spring of 2010, and was designed to serve as a micro-version of Bidwell Park, highlighting in a single room the topography, geology, cultural history, flora, and fauna of Bidwell Park. The same building houses Kristie’s Nature Lab, a classroom for school programs and open lab days for the public.

In partnership with the City of Chico's Park Division of the General Services Department, the Center serves as the official information and education center for the public at large and regional school children.

The Center also offers many volunteer opportunities for CSUC and Butte College students on career educations paths. The Center's entrance by donation policy allows it to be used by the entire community, including local agencies serving the developmentally disabled. CCNC also offers nature camp scholarships to the economically disadvantaged.