What to know about California’s new state park, a scenic green space where two rivers meet

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On June 12, California will open its first new state park in nearly a decade, setting aside 1,600 acres near the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in the San Joaquin Valley.

The park will give visitors a glimpse of what the valley’s waterways were like before the arrival of agriculture, but it will be a while before the site offers many activities. Or has a name.

The site is known as Dos Rios, but state officials have yet to officially name it. It sits eight miles west of Modesto, amid dairy farms and almond orchards, and is considered the largest public-private floodplain restoration project in the state.

State parks officials said that beginning June 12, visitors will be able to take escorted hikes on some areas of the property and use about a dozen newly placed picnic tables and shade structures.

But many activities will need to wait. Officials are still seeking public input and making plans for other possible activities, including biking, swimming, fishing and nonmotorized boating.

A grove of oak trees.

The new state park on the former Dos Rios Ranch outside Modesto, opening June 12, includes a grove of oak trees.

(Brian Bear / California State Parks)

“We’re still growing,” park manager Paige Haller said. Haller said the park would open with three full-time interpretive employees and be open 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Visitors will be able to reserve guided visits, Haller said, on a soon-to-be-unveiled park website.

Temporary restroom facilities are in place. A prefab “welcome center,” about the size of a trailer, is due to open by year’s end, to be followed eventually by a larger visitor center.

Once a dock is in place at the park’s main pond, Haller said, “We’re planning on having nonmotorized boating” and fishing, perhaps by the end of 2025.

There will be no entrance fee at the beginning, Haller said, adding, “We expect that to happen in the next couple of years.”

The property, formerly known as the Dos Rios Ranch, includes eight miles of river; a long, oxbow-shaped pond; a barn; several farm buildings that will be adapted to new uses; and about 20 miles of ranch roads, many of which likely will become trails.

The property was run as a dairy and cattle ranch for decades, with a series of berms separating the rivers from the rest of the land, before it was acquired in 2012 by the California conservation nonprofit River Partners. River Partners planted vegetation, removed the berms in 2018 and began a transfer of the property to the state in 2023.

A River Partners analysis of the property found species including riparian woodrat, Swainson’s hawk, least Bell’s vireo, yellow warbler, sandhill crane and “an entire suite of neotropical migratory songbirds.” In waters near the restoration site, River Partners has documented spawning Chinook salmon, steelhead trout and white sturgeon. The park is neighbored by the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge.

Before this, the last new state park unit to be unveiled was Eastern Kern County Onyx Ranch State Vehicular Recreation Area, opened in November 2014. The Dos Rios park will be the 281st unit in a system that covers nearly 1.4 million acres and includes almost 15,000 campsites and 3,000 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails.

The Dos Rios park’s name is to be determined and approved in coming meetings of the California State Park and Recreation Commission. Its next meetings are June 11 and Sept. 11. Gov. Gavin Newsom spoke at the Dos Rios site on Monday as part of an Earth Day celebration.

The Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers both carry snowmelt from the Sierra into agricultural areas of the Central Valley. The 366-mile San Joaquin River, longest in the valley, eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean by way of Suisun Bay and San Francisco Bay.

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