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The ‘Other’ Sacramento River Trail

Shasta County offers plenty of opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors. For easy day hiking, one of the most popular is the Sacramento River Trail which runs from the east side of Redding, around Turtle Bay, through Caldwell Park and residential neighborhoods.

But there’s another “river trail” you may not know about – and its scenic views are finally becoming visible.

The John F. Reginato River Access Trail lies in the south end of Redding. Located on the west side of the Sacramento River off South Bonneyview behind the River Bend Golf Course (now renamed the River Tasalmi Golf Course), the access road is almost camouflaged by a bower of trees. But make your way to the parking lot of what used to be called the South Bonneyview Boat Launch area and one of Redding’s hidden gems awaits.

Renovated in 2011, this riverfront riparian gem was renamed in honor of the late John F. Reginato, the former general manager of the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association from 1949 to 1990. Non-motorized water craft can access the river from the boat ramp at the trail head under the Bonnyview Bridge. A launch for motorized boats is located a short distance away.

The system of trails that winds along the Sacramento River runs along a surprisingly narrow sliver of land.

This was a leftover remnant of land previously owned by Fish and Wildlife, said Randy Smith, a retired Redding physician who spearheads open space restoration and clean up efforts. “It never was part of the golf course land,” he said.

With grant funding from the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways, the trails – which were narrow and primitive, said Smith – were expanded and widened. Much of the land had been majorly overgrown with Himalayan blackberry, Spanish Broom, poison oak and a variety of other invasive species. Choked with underbrush and overgrowth, Smith and his volunteer crew, which has included volunteers from Bethel, have cleared out much of the land, but there’s more to go.

“It was dangerous, and a huge fire hazard,” said Smith.

This land is riparian savanna, Smith says. When that’s overgrown, it’s still just grass. But, Smith said, the trails had been neglected and huge thickets had grown up here. The Himalayan blackberry grows right up the trees.

Trees can turn into ladders of fire – “ladder fuel” Smith calls it. There is incendiary material waiting to be ignited. When that happens, this sets crown fires, creates spotting, blowing fires all around.

“The growth shouldn’t ever been as high as it is now,” he said.

Removing highly invasive blackberry thickets is a huge effort but Smith and his volunteers have made huge strides. In places where once walls of blackberry stood along with numerous thick stands of non-native trees, hikers and fishermen can now enjoy open vistas and wide trails that take you down to the river. There are also several small ponds around the property.

As for homeless camps, an issue with many of our area’s other open spaces, “(this) area is a little more protected now that the (Redding Rancheria) took over the (River Tasalmi) Golf Course,” Smith said. “They do a good job of keeping people out of here,” he said.

Walking the trails with Smith, one can appreciate the beauty of what’s been uncovered here. Except for several barking dogs fenced behind a house near the trail’s end, quietness reigns. Sunlight flickers through the trees and across the gently winding wide green river.

There are several ways to reach the Reginato River Access trails. Take South Bonnyview Road, turn onto Indianwood Drive at the park entrance. From Interstate 5, take exit No. 675 (Bonnyview/Churn Creek) and turn west onto Bonnyview. Go through the lights at Bechelli, then left onto Indianwood. Or take East Bonneyview to Nicolet, then take that to the end and park.

The trail is approximately three-quarters of a mile, with many smaller side trails. Near the main entrance, there is an ADA fishing platform, fishing and viewing access points and picnic tables. Dogs are welcome on the trails but should be leashed.

This is a place to be enjoyed. Peaceful beauty that nature lovers, bicyclists and fishermen can all appreciate. It’s well worth the drive to discover this little-known Redding gem.