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Stories from the valley

Fall and Winter Things to do in Our Valley

Contributed by Steve Beckley

One of the prime signs of late fall in the Sacramento Valley is the completion of the harvest of rice, walnut and other crops.   Hopefully the much-needed rain and moisture will make its appearance in the watersheds that feed our rivers and in the valley.  Don’t let the change in weather keep you in the house – get out and explore this great area. Here’s a list of some of my favorite things to do during this season. 

Look at the Birds

Thanks to our location in the Pacific Flyway and management of habitat by rice and other growers.  Winter bird watching is fantastic in the Valley.  Millions of waterfowl drop in for the winter to take advantage of flooded harvested rice fields.  Hawks sit atop trees and power poles watching for opportunities for a meal. You might even spot a Bald Eagle.  We are lucky to have both federal and state wildlife refuges in our area.  Take the auto loops at Grey Lodge Wildlife Area in the Gridley area, Colusa National Wildlife Refuge or the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge in Willows

tree lined road with fall foliage

Check out the Fall Foliage

The trees in valley towns such as Colusa and Chico put on a great show as their leaves change colors.  This display of color usually makes it appearance in late October and lasts for a month, when the rains hopefully arrive.  Take a drive down the Esplanade in Chico, walk on the Chico State Campus, visit Bidwell Mansion and drive the residential street of Colusa to experience this colorful display.  Also other valley towns have beautiful trees showing their colors. 

large brewing vats

Raise a Glass with a Local Beverage

The craft brew business is booming in the Valley.  Some of the breweries you may want to visit are:  Farmers Brewing in Princeton, owned and operated by real rice farmers, Bill and Kristin Weller,; Sutter Buttes Brewing, Yuba City and what I consider the mother ship of craft brew, Sierra Nevada Brewing in Chico   Check Yelp and other websites for the names and locations of other breweries in the valley.  

Take a Ride

Get off the freeways and cruise the back roads of the valley.  One of my favorite drives in State Route 45 from Knights Landing to Hamilton City.  Maybe because it goes through my home town of Grimes has something to do with that, be sure you stop in Colusa and check out the sights.   And of course a drive around the Sutter Buttes is mandatory for me.  I have been traveling these roads for many years and always see something different.. Please stay on paved roads and be carefully where you park.  

Buy Local Food

The Chico Farmers Market is open Saturdays yearround.  There are so many businesses that sell local produced foods and gift baskets.  A couple of them are Stephens Farm House in Yuba City, Made in Chico, Chico’s Maisie James, and Glenn Made , Don’t forget California Rice, which is available at local grocery stores.

winding road in the foothills

Go up to the Hills

It is hard to hide the fact that it does get foggy in the Sacramento Valley and hopefully this year will have lots of rain which can lead to fog.  To see the sunshine on those foggy days just head to the hills and visit some of the great little town in the foothills such as Placerville, Auburn, Grass Valley, Nevada City and Paradise.  Another great hill trip is up to Western Colusa and Glenn Counties, just head to Stonyford from Maxwell and then follow the road that parallels Stony Creek to Elk Creek, Chrome, and drop back in the Valley to Orland, Also stop at Black Butte Dam outside of Orland and you may be privileged to see Ospreys fishing in the after bay. 

I am always looking for new suggestions for things to do, so I welcome your list of favorites. Enjoy the season!