Summer is the perfect time of year for family travel. The kids are out of school, the days are long, and adventure awaits. Summer is also when outdoor temperatures reach their peak and everyone longs to get in the water to cool off. Luckily, if you are traveling in Butte County, there are many wonderful kid-friendly water spots to help you beat the heat.
Bidwell Park: Big Chico Creek
Chico is home to a unique and popular swimming hole right in the heart of town: One Mile Recreation Area. This large, cemented swimming area is known as Sycamore Pool. It is not only located in Lower Bidwell Park, but is actually part of Big Chico Creek. That’s right! As you swim in a pool-like atmosphere (lifeguards included during the summer), you are also enjoying the creek as well. The water levels range from ankle-deep, with a sloping entrance, to over 6 feet deep. It is perfect for all age levels to enjoy.
Plus, there is ample grass for running around in, plenty of shade trees, picnic areas, and more. It is a great way to cool off and is so close to Downtown Chico that grabbing food or dessert is a quick walk or drive away.
If you are looking for something a little more private, but still easy to get to, look no further than Lower Bidwell Park. Big Chico Creek runs through the entire length of the park and many of the picnic areas along the drivable path are close to excellent swimming holes. Finding an open spot can be difficult on the weekend in summer, so make sure to either scout out ahead of time or be flexible and willing to spend time searching for a spot. It is worth the effort.
There is parking available at each picnic area, trails to explore, some rocky beaches, plenty of shade trees. and many kid-friendly, shallow, places to dip into the water,
The final and more remote options for enjoying Big Chico Creek are found in Upper Bidwell Park. There are four unique swimming holes, but not all are great for younger kids. If you have really young kids, try out Alligator Hole. There is a beach, shallow water areas, and getting there is easy. If your children are strong swimmers and enjoy doing cannonballs, check out Bear Hole. The rocky edges and deep water make this a great place for jumping and swimming as a family.
Most of the swimming holes in Upper Park have parking and bathrooms, but not all are easily accessible on foot and require some hiking to get to.
Lake Oroville State Recreation Area
Looking for a little lake fun? Lake Oroville State Recreation Area is a really wonderful way to spend the day or an entire family vacation. There is a designated swimming area perfect for kids at Loafer Creek, campgrounds to extend your stay and fun, and opportunities for boating and fishing. Plus, there is a visitor center, the Oroville Dam, picnic areas, hiking trails, and much more.
A family-friendly local favorite, the Thermalito Forebay is the perfect place to cool off on a hot day. Not only are there several different locations to spend the day around the Forebay, but there are a variety of activities your family can enjoy as well. There are sandy beaches, picnic tables, some shade trees, and Forebay Aquatic Center offers boat rentals. Plus, it isn’t far from town, so grabbing some food after a day of water play is only a short drive away.
Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park
If you are looking to explore a state park or the Sacramento River, Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park is a great option! Not only are there four day use areas to choose from, but the family adventure options are perfect for the whole family. There are sandy beaches that are great for swimming with young kids, as well as hiking trails, boating and tubing launch points, fishing spots, picnic areas, and even the possibility of seeing wildlife (like river otters, various waterbirds, and more).
If you are looking for something a little (or a lot) more remote, Whiskey Flat is perfect for you! After a long gravel road, you are rewarded with a picturesque mountain setting along the Feather River. The rocky beaches are perfect for skipping rocks, or just throwing them as kids love to do, and the many spots with calm water are perfect for the whole family to sink their toes into.
No matter what you are looking for, Butte County has the perfect kid-friendly water spot for your family.