Spotlight: Stanislaus River Parks
Kayakers and history buffs alike delight at this California Park.
What You’ll Find
Stanislaus River Parks offers a slice of history, a touch of science education and recreation opportunities for everyone. An historic covered bridge, built in 1863, spans the Stanislaus River and is a walk back in time for those who venture across. Visitors can also visit a museum and a staffed information center. From there, choose from more than 14 recreation areas along this 59-mile stretch of the Stanislaus River. Their names—Button Bush, Orange Blossom, Lovers Leap, Horseshoe Road, Two Mile Bar—are tinged with history and invite you to plan your boating, hiking, camping, fishing or whitewater adventure.
Stanislaus River Parks is approximately 12 miles east of Oakdale, California, in Stanislaus County. Traveling east from Oakdale on State Route 120, look for the US Army Corps of Engineers signs marked Stanislaus River Parks, Knights Ferry. Turn left onto Kennedy Road and then left again onto Sonora Road. After you cross the Stanislaus River, the Knights Ferry Visitor Center is on your right.
If you enjoy multi-day kayaking or canoeing, then stay at one of the Stanislaus’ boat-in campgrounds located at the Horseshoe Road, Valley Oak and McHenry Avenue Recreation Areas. Group tent camping is also available for non-boaters. Both require reservations available by contacting the Stanislaus River Parks office directly at 209-881-3517. Private campgrounds and bed and breakfast hotels are available in Knights Ferry and you’ll find additional hotels in the city of Oakdale.
Make Sure You
Walk across the longest (330 feet) covered bridge west of the Mississippi! Although vehicles can no longer travel across this amazing piece of history, pedestrians can stroll back in time to the California gold rush era when hundreds of miners and other fortune-seekers crossed here by ferry, and a few years later, over the bridge. The bridge came after the discovery of gold along the banks of the Stanislaus River in 1855. Engineering buffs will admire this outstanding example of a timber Howe truss (patented in 1840), one of the most significant American timber truss types. Bring your camera and be sure to take home a photo of yourself next to this perfect example of nineteenth century bridge-building craftsmanship.
The Knight's Ferry Bridge is a contributing structure to the Knight's Ferry Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. On October 16, 2012, Knights Ferry Covered Bridge was officially designated as a National Historic Landmark.
In the winter months, layered clothing is your best bet. In the summer months, the weather is hot and dry–plenty of water is a must. Carry sunscreen at any time of the year. With 59 miles of river to explore, there are just as many activities to experience. Above all else, always remember to wear your life jacket when playing on or near the water.
Start your day in Knight’s Ferry with breakfast at the 50’s era restaurant, or stay for lunch at the oldest continuously operated general store in the state of California! For a cowboy dinner at the river’s edge, take a five-minute walk into the center of Knights Ferry. Many rafting companies offer guided trips on the Stanislaus—get the ride of your life through rapids named Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride or the Matterhorn.
For weekend planning, spend one day exploring the river, the next day in Yosemite National Park, and the third day in the Gold Rush towns of Sonora, Jamestown and Columbia. Your trip will be complete with great food, antique shopping and a ride on the historic Jamestown Railroad.