Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a diverse 300-acre cultural complex and environmental education center. Its indoor and outdoor spaces contain entertaining and inspiring educational exhibits and activities that interpret the human-nature connection with specific reference to the cultural, historical and natural resources of the Sacramento River region. Straddling the beautiful Sacramento River as it meanders through Redding, the Park is crowned by the Sundial Bridge, the capstone of the experience that the park strives for in all its programming. Turtle Bay is the visionary result of efforts that began in the 1980s to merge Redding’s small local museums into the Alliance of Redding Museums. In the mid-1990s, the vision began to become a reality on 20 acres of Sacramento River riparian property provided by the City of Redding. The McConnell Foundation began with a pledge of $10 million that eventually grew to $23 million. Turtle Bay opened its Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp in 1997, its Visitor Center in 2000, and its Museum (the heart of the campus) in 2002.


The story of the Sundial Bridge began with a citizens’ committee given the charge of selecting an engineer to design a bridge to span the north and south sides of the Sacramento River, linking the Turtle Bay campus with the Arboretum site. The committee, on which McConnell Foundation Executive John Mancasola served, interviewed four bridge designers, but ended without consensus. Impressed with the designs he saw in a book of Santiago Calatrava’s work, John phoned the architect’s office in Zurich, Switzerland. To his surprise, Calatrava himself answered the phone. This phone call resulted in a visit to Redding by Calatrava, who loved the terrain, commenting that it reminded him of his native city – Valencia, Spain. Calatrava is identified worldwide with the design of bridges. The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay was his first free-standing bridge in North America, as well as his first steel, inclined-pylon, cable-stayed bridge in the United States. Funding for construction of the bridge was provided largely by the Foundation. Additional funders were the City of Redding, state and federal government, and Turtle Bay. Upon completion, the bridge was gifted to the City of Redding. The McConnell Foundation funded a 27-minute documentary, Angle of Inspiration, which premiered on July 3, 2004 at the newly restored Cascade Theatre in downtown Redding. The bridge had its grand opening the next day, July 4. Angle of Inspiration documented the process of envisioning and building the bridge without shying away from the controversy it generated in the community. The film has been shown on public television stations and has been warmly received at film festivals across the nation.

McConnell Arboretum & Gardens

In May of 2005, The McConnell Arboretum and Gardens opened, the newest addition to Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The new gardens comprise 20 acres of Mediterranean climate display gardens, a children’s garden, a medicinal garden, and two beautiful and unique water features. The new gardens are a showcase within the 200-acre Arboretum, which links to the Sacramento River Trail. The Arboretum is accessible by a system of footpaths and bike paths just north of the Gardens and the Sundial Bridge.

Domke Plaza

Photos ©2015 Ramsay Photography


Sheraton Hotel Coming Soon! Groundbreaking on Tuesday, September 27, 2015


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