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Colusa-Sacramento River State Recreation Area

Nature, Levee Trails
1 mile loop nature trail, plus 1.5 to 3 miles along levee

Campers, boaters, fishermen and hikers who enjoy this delightful park on the west side of the Sacramento River rarely can guess the previous use of the land now included in a state recreation area. It was—literally—a dump. The dump was filled, graded, and improved and in 1964 the area was opened as a park.

The area’s climate, generous rains and fertile soil attracted scores of farmers, particularly after the Gold Rush when thousands of settlers homesteaded along the banks of the Sacramento River. One 19th-century writer, Charles Howard Shinn, enthused: “At Colusa, raisin plantations and stone fruit orchards appear like islands in an ocean of wheat.” Today the Colusa area’s foremost crop is rice.

The Sacramento, lined by cottonwoods and willows, wild grapes and figs, may look placid as a lake, but in winter the river often becomes a raging torrent. Great quantities of silt, which helps create some of the richest farmland in the nation, is left behind after flood season. Sometimes the park’s boat ramp and picnic ground end up covered with mud. The park is a nice place for fishing off the riverbank or as a base for fishing expeditions up and downriver.

For hikers, Colusa is a walk in the park, an easy saunter down to the river and a sandy beach. During the summer, you can swim, if you don’t mind cold water.

The trail is the old campground road; in 1980, the campground was moved to its present location to avoid the Sacramento River’s annual flooding—and the subsequent rebuilding costs associated with the floods.

From the park’s southern boundary, a levee extends up-river and down. Head down-river (south, then east) on the levee and you’ll pass through a city park and get great views of Colusa, with its Victorian homes and historic buildings, as well as the ag-country beyond.

Directions to trailhead: From Interstate 5 in Williams, some 60 miles north of Sacramento, exit on Highway 20 and drive east 9 miles to the quaint town of Colusa. As Highway 20 bends sharply south, you’ll continue straight onto 10th Street and soon arrive at the state recreation area. The trail begins near a gate at the far side of the park.

The hike:
Take the right or left fork; the two paths link one-half mile later, just before the river. Make your way among the tall cottonwoods to the sandy beach on the river’s edge. Loop back and join the levee, which passes through Colusa Levee City Park and offers views of Colusa’s old buildings. Towering above the river to the east are the 2,000-foot Sutter Buttes; to the west are the more than a mile-high peaks of the Coast Range.

A good turnaround point (0.75 mile from the park) is a bridge over the Sacramento and aptly named Bridge Street; however, you can continue walking the levee for several more miles past farms and fields.

© 2012 The Trailmaster, Inc.
From John McKinney’s
Day Hiker’s Guide to California’s State Parks
Trail descriptions and maps have been reproduced with the permission of the author.  To learn more about The Trailmaster and other related publications please visit their website at