For nearly 20 years, Turtle Bay Exploration Park has been inspiring. The cultural heartbeat of Redding, Turtle Bay formed in 2002 from the merger of the Redding Museum of Art and History, Carter House Natural Science Museum, Redding Arboretum by the River and the Forest Museum.
Since then, it’s provided thousands with an up-close-and-personal opportunity to explore and appreciate the world around us.
Turtle Bay’s formation – five years after Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp opened – resulted in a 300-acre campus that became home to more than 35,000 historical objects and a vision to raise the artistic and cultural opportunities in Redding.
“Turtle Bay’s goal is to serve Redding as a vibrant gathering place where our community is strengthened through education and cultural engagement,” says Turtle Bay Public Relations Manager David Maung.
Located on the grounds where gravel was shipped to Shasta Dam – the Monolith still stands next to the Sheraton – Turtle Bay Exploration Park was designed with the environment in mind. Its campus is dotted with native oaks, wetlands and is home to local and migratory birds, including bald eagles. Additionally, Turtle Bay is home to 225 non-releasable animals, most of which are native animals acquired from rehabilitation situations, including approximately 10 species of mammals, 13 species of reptiles, six species of amphibians, 26 species of birds, 12 species of fish and approximately 18 species of invertebrates.
Over the past decade, Turtle Bay has hosted 34 national traveling exhibitions and 20 in-house curated exhibits.
“As a nonprofit organization that relies on our donors and memberships, we continually strive to deliver our mission to our community through the programs, exhibitions and experiences that we offer,” Maung says. “We envision Turtle Bay to be a vibrant place where our community is strengthened through education and cultural engagement.”
And vibrant it is, especially with the 2004 construction and dedication of the Sundial Bridge, which connects the museum side with the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens on the north side of the Sacramento River.
Built by world-famous architect Santiago Calatrava, the Sundial Bridge connects more than two sides of the river as the bridge is a community gathering place in addition to a source of civic pride. And in typical Turtle Bay fashion, the bridge was designed without footings in the Sacramento River so as not to disturb the annual spawning of salmon.
In addition to housing new exhibits, Turtle Bay is constantly looking for ways to improve and grow. A few examples include the five-star Sheraton Hotel next to the museum, in addition to the popular Mosaic Restaurant.
And last winter, Turtle Bay brought what is likely to become a new holiday tradition to the North State with The Redding Garden of Lights at the McConnell Arboretum and Botanical Gardens.
Wildly popular, the Garden of Lights brought an immersive festive experience for families as they explored winding paths leading through 10 acres of artfully illuminated displays, exhibiting world-class design and celebrating the natural world with wildlife and plant-themed exhibits unique to our region.
“Redding Garden of Lights is a holiday tradition we plan to continue for years to come, bringing cheer to the community and attracting new visitors to our wonderful city,” Maung says.
Turtle Bay Exploration Park
844 Sundial Bridge Drive, Redding