Tuesday, November 16, 2010


First in a series.

TRAVELING STATE ROUTE 70 from the valley to the Sierra, one can be captivated by the richness of one of the world’s most productive river valleys, the ruggedness of one of California’s most scenic river canyons and the sublime nature of the forested transition between the Sierra and the Cascade. Once in the mountains, the US Forest Service provides ample campground, picnic areas and rest stops for the traveler who is enjoying nature when nature calls. But in the agricultural flatlands, choices are limited to the occasional convenience store where you may not want to buy a bag of Doritos, or the occasional fast food joint where you may not want to buy a kiddie meal.

OROVILLE, CALIFORNIA is the seat of Butte County. Highway 70 skirts the town’s western edge. Configured as a freeway along this section, it is easy to whiz by town and forget that, somebody may have to go.

After many journeys through the area, I stumbled into River Bend Park. Located at the west end of Montgomery Street and built through a joint community effort involving local funds and service club labor, River Bend offers clean restrooms with stainless steel facilities. Nosing around the park, one will find that it is an outstanding place to take a fatigue break. River Bend has individual and group picnic facilities with heavy steel charcoal grills and solid concrete tables. Sites are spaced throughout acre upon acre of groomed grass. Certainly a nice place for a mid-afternoon snooze, if warranted.

(c) Paradise Post
Provided at River Bend is an Outdoor Fitness Course, a project of the local Rotary Club. It is considered state-of-the art and is designed for low impact cardio-vascular health and fitness for all levels and is located on this site. It consists of four stations, each with directions for the various activities. After hours in the saddle, it provides an excellent means by which the rider and limber up those unused muscles, bones and fibers.

River Bend Park is located at, well, a bend in the Feather River, perhaps five or six miles below Oroville Dam. The park is situated on the inside or depositional side of the turn, the opposite side of the river is a bluff that constantly erodes as seasonal changes in water flow eat into its soft composite. The river’s deposition affords a smooth gravel beach which is designated a swim area.

A recent November visit found me concerned about a rotten smell the closer I got to the river. I was ready to be disappointed because the entire facility looked so clean, trim and well maintained. Approaching the river, the submerged chunk that appeared to be waterlogged was actually the remains of a Chinook salmon who had previously spawned just a little bit up stream. Further investigation found several of them. Terrific news that the salmon are back and an interesting lesson that mother nature’s natural beauty and rhythm isn’t always the most sensorially pleasant.

OROVILLE IS AWASH WITH HISTORY from the discovery of gold to the discovery of Ishi (purported to be the last stone-age human living in North America) to the construction of the world’s largest earth-fill dam. But if one doesn’t choose to explore this rich and interesting area, know that one of the better potty stops in all of northern California is just off the highway.


NOTE: The “Church of the Open Road” hopes to add more area photographs of this and other “Great Potty Stops of the Open Road” as the series continues.

Readers are invited to suggest their favorite “Great Potty Stops” in the comment section of this post. The “Church” will investigate.


Butte County’s "101 Things to Do": http://101thingstodo.net/oroville/14.shtml

Kroeber, Theodora. Ishi in Two Worlds. University of California Press. 1961. The classic biography contrasting the Last Yahi’s life before and after his contact with modern man.

Nadeau, Remi. Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of California. 5th edition. 1999.  "A delightful, humorous and historical look at the towns and mining camps of California to be enjoyed by both the casual reader and the serious history buff." - Placerville Mountain Democrat

Talbitzer, William. Lost Beneath the Feather. Bill Talbitzer, 1963. Compiled and written by a long-time Chico Enterprise Record reporter, Talbitzer shares stories of the section of the Feather River inundated once the pool behind Oroville Dam filled. Available at the Lake Oroville Visitor Center.


  1. JR: Ahh. A "loo" with a view.

  2. That'd be on Cascade Pass in Washington. An outhouse without the house. Stunning view over Image Lake. Details forthcoming...