Take It Outside, California!

26222329370_0573293b7a_oThis weekend, April 30 and May 1, is Take It Outside, California! It’s an annual event, organized by our partner California Council of Land Trusts, encouraging Californians to get outside and enjoy our parks and open spaces.

Organizations all over California are planning outdoor events for you to enjoy, including ours! We invite Californians to enjoy healthy activities, celebrate our public lands, and Take It Outside, California! next weekend with our special Park Champions work days.

We have planned 5 special, family-friendly volunteer workdays in state parks in partnership with Take It Outside. All tools and training provided. Projects over 3 hours also include lunch.

Will Rogers, Baldwin Hills and Rio de Los Angeles are still looking for volunteers. Register on our website to participate. 

If these parks aren’t in your area, visit Take It Outside California! to discover new parks near you, and sign the pledge to take it outside. Free public activities include a guided dog walk, family festival, kite flying, creek exploration, outdoor Zumba, and a cardio hike with yoga (yiking!).

See you out there.


State Park Events this Weekend to Escape the Super Bowl

It’s Super Bowl weekend. Are you just not that into football? Or would you like to get some exercise before you settle in for the big game? Either way, try out a state park this weekend! We’ve got five great ideas to get you started:



Fri. 2/5, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park – East of San Diego

Join the Anza-Borrego Foundation on the roof deck of the visitor center to check out the night sky. Bring warm clothing, a chair or blanket to sit on, and binoculars if you have them. Photo by Thomas Haraikawa




Sat. and Sun. 2/6 and 2/7, 11:00 a.m.
MacKerricher State Park – North of Mendocino

Meet at the visitor center to learn from docents about the annual gray whale migration, then walk along the Laguna Point boardwalk to look for whales. Binoculars provided. Wear layers! Leashed pets OK. Photo by Gary Philbin




Sat. 2/6, 1:00 p.m.
Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park – Downtown Santa Cruz

Explore different cooking styles of the people who lived and worked at the Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park for over 200 years, including hot rock cooking, tortilla frying on a Comal and baking in a Horno. Taste samples and make your own tortillas! Photo by Richard Zimmerman




Sat. and Sun. 2/6 and 2/7, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Salton Sea State Recreation Area – Southwest of Palm Desert

Sign up for a two-day project to help with ramada construction and grounds cleanup, and camp at the park for free Friday and Saturday nights. Plus, free kayaking on Saturday afternoon! Potable water, restrooms and showers available; no electricity. Photo by Thomas Haraikawa




Sat. and Sun. 2/6 and 2/7, 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Tour of Ranch House 1:00 p.m.
Wilder Ranch State Park – West of Santa Cruz

Visit a dairy ranch from the 1800s and learn about California’s ranching history! The one-hour tour includes early California ranching buildings and restored workshops run by water power, as well as volunteers in period clothing. Photo by Diane Main







‘Tis the Season for Winter Camping

There are many wonderful choices for where to camp in California state parks, and now is one of the best times of year to do it, especially in Southern California where summer temperatures can be a little high for many campers. With the weather cooling off though, it’s important to learn a few tips in advance so that you stay warm at night when the temperature drops.

Stay Warm

To make sure you aren’t cold at night, invest in a down or DownTek sleeping bag; it keeps you warm and isn’t too heavy to travel with. Also, make sure you have warm, dry clothing to sleep in, as well as a hat and gloves for the chilly mornings. Wearing wool or moisture-wicking fibers will help keep you dry throughout your camping trip, reducing the need to bring too much extra clothing.


Cook Good Food

Cold weather camping recipes lend themselves more to hearty stews and chili than summer foods like hot dogs and hamburgers. For a gourmet meal by the fire, bring along your Dutch oven or plan to cook meals in a foil packet over the fire.

For a quick and easy campfire recipe, do some of the prep work at home: slice vegetables and package them in a plastic bag, and create your spice mix for each meal at home, so you don’t need to bring multiple containers. For chili, mix chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and a few bay leaves together and package it in a small plastic baggie. For a chicken stew spice mix, combine sage, basil, thyme, salt, garlic powder, and parsley.

Check out the chart below for tips on what method to use to cook each type of meal.


For more information on fall camping, read Amy Whitley’s article on Fix.com.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse Celebrated!

Every November people from near and far gather at Pigeon Point Light Station State Park to mark the anniversary of the first time—in 1872—its Fresnel Lens was lit to guide mariners. A technological marvel, even by today’s standards, the first order Fresnel Lens stands 16 feet tall, 6 feet in diameter, and weighs 2,000 pounds. Though the lens is now on display in the adjacent Fog Signal Building, the lighthouse remains an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation.

After 143 years of weathering wind, salt water and other harsh elements, the lighthouse is closed for a major rehabilitation project led by CSPF. Phase One, an interim stabilization of the tower by removing the lens and sealing all cracks to prevent water intrusion, has been completed. Drawings for the remaining three phases (upper tower, lower tower, oil house) are pending approval and a series of events to kick off the restoration campaign are in the works.

The lens will not return to the upper tower until repairs are completed, but that didn’t stop the festivities enjoyed by over 1,000 attendees on Saturday. During the day, families took docent-led nature and history walks, children made their own lighthouses while sipping hot chocolate, musicians serenaded the crowds with songs about lighthouses, Beyond the Border food truck served up delicious meals, and everyone stopped by the Fog Signal Building for viewings of the magnificent lens and its prisms of light.

Shortly after sunset, an audience gathered for a slide show of the construction drawings by Architectural Resources Group (ARG) which were projected onto the lighthouse itself. Then a short video entitled “It’s A Long Way to Pigeon Point” (by docents Stuart Nafey and Peter Bohacek) described historic transportation modes used to reach the lighthouse, as well as marine mammals and birds that migrate past the area.

After the two showings, other images were projected onto the spectacular lighthouse screen—including a lava lamp which only audience members of a certain generation could identify. Using the lighthouse as the backdrop for these two viewings was quite a spectacle. The volunteers at Pigeon Point plan to do it again next year, so save the date of November 12, 2016.

Photos by James Zhang

Our Heritage, Our Parks

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month — ¡Celebra!

The California State Parks Foundation would like to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) by recognizing the important role Hispanics have played in our state parks. We will introduce you to several folks here in California who are truly state parks champions! They are just a few of the many others who work hard on behalf of state parks, open spaces and public lands. We salute these champions and their important work to ensure that parks of all types are accessible to everyone in the state. We will be profiling them in the weeks to come.

We would also like to invite you to listen to two fantastic keynote speakers from CSPF’s Hidden Stories Conference: Dr. Estevan Rael-Gálvez, Senior Vice President for Historic Sites, National Trust for Historic Preservation, and CSPF President Elizabeth Goldstein. The conference, which took place in Los Angeles during last year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, was entitled: Folding Back the Layers of California’s Latino/a History. The Stories beneath the Stories.

¡Parques para todos!

Elizabeth Goldstein
President, CSPF

Patricia Pérez
Board Member, CSPF

150th Anniversary of California State Parks

2014 marks 150 years since the California state parks system has existed as an entity. To celebrate, the organization has planned a number of events relating to its history and its presence in preserving the natural environment of California. Oroville Mercury-Register reports that one of the key events celebrating the anniversary will be taking place at Lake Oroville to launch its Summer Speakers series. California State Parks has grown to be one of the largest state park systems in the world, with 280 park units, more than 1,600,000 acres, 14,000 campsites, and visitor attendance of some 70 million visitors per year. Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) Major General Anthony L. Jackson, USMC (Ret.) said, “California State Parks has been a leader in the conservation and preservation of our natural and cultural resources, and our mission is to connect the people of California with their parks.”

Humble beginnings

To coincide with the celebrations, DPR has released a fact sheet with a brief history of California’s state parks. The first step towards dedicated conservation areas in the state was taken by President Abraham Lincoln. In June 1864, he signed a bill declaring that Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees be granted to the state of California ‘upon the express condition that the premises shall be held for public use, resort, and recreation, and shall be inalienable for all time.’ In 1890, the Marshall Monument was identified as the first historical state park, and by 1928, the Division of Parks had been established to manage the 17 parks and 15 employees that were now open. State parks are responsible for almost one-third of California’s scenic coastline, managing the finest coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches, and dune systems. Their workplace consists of nearly 1.4 million acres, with over 280 miles of coastline; 625 miles of lake and river frontage.

California Coastline from Pescadero State Beach ©Lance Kuehne

Continuing celebrations

The celebration preparations began back in December 2013 with the grand opening of the California Statewide Museum Collections Center. The Center “serves as the repository for over 1 million historic objects and artifacts from parks throughout the state.” It takes in 130 years taking in “including historic freight wagons and carriages, Native Californian Indian baskets, textiles, natural history specimens, western memorabilia, architectural features, and works of art.” Other events that have taken place have included the Anderson Marsh Interpretive Association’s (AMIA) celebration, coinciding with its own 30th anniversary. AMIA works with Anderson Marsh State Park to promote educational and interpretive activities. Their event included a guided nature walk, “music, refreshments, historical displays and exhibits and guest speakers.” California State Parks offered free admission to veterans, as well as active and reserve military personnel in participating California state parks on Memorial Day.”

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park © Michael Hanrahan

As important national sites, California’s state parks bring in visitors from all over the world. For anybody abroad looking to visit Lake Oroville, Anderson Marsh, or any of California’s other 280 parks, it’s vital that they have the right currency with them in time for their travel. Cards aren’t always accepted at smaller businesses so it’s important to carry an adequate supply of cash to avoid having to miss out on activities or purchases. The Lonely Planet’s web advice regarding California, outlines the costs associated with the state, as well as advising on different options for spending and exchanging money. Visa offers a TravelMoney Card, which is a prepaid card, allowing customers to pay for goods as they would a regular Visa credit card, as well as withdraw money from ATMs in the local currency.

With celebrations commemorating 150 years of state parks set to continue throughout 2014, and an events calendar outlining these available online, it seems like a great year to do some exploring of the Golden State’s natural attractions. The state parks’ anniversary fact sheet notes that their parks contain the largest and most diverse natural and cultural heritage holdings of any state agency in the nation, including “underwater preserves, reserves, and parks; redwood, rhododendron, and wildlife reserves; state beaches, recreation areas, wilderness areas, and reservoirs; state historic parks, historic homes, Spanish era adobe buildings, including museums, visitor centers, cultural reserves, and preserves.” With almost 15,000 campsites and 3,000 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails, California’s state parks really do have something to offer everyone.


Volunteer Profile: Anchor Brewing at China Camp State Park

anchor_volunteersWe are extremely lucky to have amazing volunteers who participate in our Park Champions Program. Park Champions is our ongoing volunteer program for which we coordinate several volunteer projects at state parks all over California each month. Small groups of volunteers work incredibly hard and make substantial and tangible changes in just a few hours.

Check out some of the photo highlights on our Flickr page. You’ll notice that hard work is always rewarded with seriously delicious lunches.

One recent volunteer day at China Camp State Park brought out a group from Anchor Brewing Company, a great partner to CSPF. They wrote about their experience on the Anchor Brewing Blog:

On a brisk, clear day in late November, a group of Anchor employees gathered at one of California’s many beautiful state parks to help build an outdoor education classroom. The volunteer event took place at China Camp State Park, located along the shore of San Francisco Bay in Marin County, just north of the City. The day’s tasks included painting a base coat on a decommissioned water tank (where students will soon be painting a mural), assembling a new fence, and stripping bark off of logs that will be converted into a climbing structure. The collaborative effort of the Anchor volunteers and state park staff helped revitalize this part of the park that students and teachers will soon be able to utilize for a multitude of outdoor educational activities.

The event was the second volunteer day for Anchor employees in collaboration with the California State Parks Foundation (CSPF). Anchor’s partnership with CSPF was launched in February 2013 with the release of Anchor California Lager®. California’s state parks system, Anchor’s history, and California’s first genuine lager were all born in the second half of the 19th century, and as a tribute to our shared history and traditions, a partnership seemed natural to us.

Read more of their post at: anchorbrewing.com/blog/anchor-brewing-volunteer-day-at-china-camp-state-park/

A big thank you to the Anchor folks for their hard work and their ongoing support of CSPF!

If you are the beer drinking kind, remember that Anchor donates a portion of the proceeds from sales of California Lager to CSPF, so be sure to give it a try.

For information about how you can volunteer with our Park Champions Program, visit our website and find an upcoming workday near you.  We would greatly appreciate your help!

Fall Is Here!

James Kenney Malibu Canyon SP

Malibu Canyon State Park shows its fallish colors. Photo ©James Kennedy

A monumental seasonal event takes place this Sunday—the Autumnal Equinox. Equal day, and equal night. Every day forward will have less light, and more darkness. The front door is officially open to the wonders of fall in California and our parks.

Get used to seeing more of the night sky! Fall and winter constellations are fantastic. About 30 minutes after full sunset on Sunday (and before that waning but still powerful Harvest Moon rises at just after 9 p.m.) look to the southwest and several prominent celestial bodies can be seen. The planet Venus is the brightest, but you can also spot Saturn a bit higher than Venus. Hanging down low just above the horizon is Mercury. Another standout, a star this time, will be the star Spica—the brightest star in the constellation Virgo, and the 15th brightest overall. As fall progresses, some classic and prominent constellations take over the sky, such as the stalwarts of Cassiopeia, and the Little Dipper and the Big Dipper. But Orion, Taurus, and the star Sirius (the brightest in the sky!) in Canis Major. The Swan and The Eagle flying across the sky will help you see the Milky Way (along with Cassiopeia).

Back down on the ground all sorts of things begin to change and move around. Some birds begin to wing their way south. Up to 1.5 million Eared Grebes have been recorded on Mono Lake in the fall. Millions of ducks and geese fill the central valley, and numerous birds of prey make their way south across the state.

And, yes, we do have seasons and fall color here in California! While counting those Grebes at Mono Lake, or while driving back toward the Sierra from Bodie State Historic Park, scan the precipitous eastern slope of the Sierra and marvel at swaths of orange and yellow as entire hillsides of quaking aspens turn. Drive around Lake Tahoe, or through the Gold Country and its numerous state parks, and fall foliage abounds.

See yourself in state parks this fall. Photo ©Jim Duckworth

See yourself in state parks this fall. Photo ©Jim Duckworth

The word on the trail is that two classic indicators (OK, three) are telling us it will be a wetter and cooler winter than normal here in California. The first two have been handed down by California’s native inhabitants—when acorns drop earlier than normal (and they did), and bear’s coats are thick and shiny early (and they are), then winter is coming early and strong. Also, the Farmer’s Almanac calls for the same thing. And nobody dare doubt the Farmer’s Almanac!

So, plan your trips accordingly state park lovers! Whether you are a night gazer, birder, fall color enthusiast, cool weather hiker, or snow fanatic, the fall (and soon the winter) has plenty to offer.

What is your favorite fall activity in a state park?

It’s not too late to camp on the Fourth of July

What better way to celebrate our independence than by camping?

What better way to celebrate Independence Day than by camping?

Camping in your local state park is a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July. It is definitely a popular day for camping, but don’t worry if you don’t have a site booked yet — there are still some parks with camp sites available on Thursday, July 4.

Here is a list of state parks with open campsites currently available.

Just don’t wait too much longer, you must book a campsite is 48 hours in advance, which means by Tuesday, July 2.

If you’d rather try your luck, there are also several parks that reserve campsites for first-come, first-served. It’s a bit of a gamble, but it might pay off big! Be sure to go early Thursday morning if you’d like to camp on the Fourth of July, and have a back-up plan just in case.

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Earth Day

We are feeling a little extra love for our state parks today … today being officially Earth Day.

We say officially because last Saturday, April 13, we had CSPF’s Annual Earth Day Restoration and Cleanup. We hold this event every year in which we coordinate projects in state parks across the state and bring out awesome sponsors and volunteers to work in their local park for the afternoon.

This year we had Earth Day events at 24 state parks. 2,580 volunteers came out to work in those parks, and they did an incredible job! The volunteers planted 116 native trees and 1,740 native plants. They also removed a lot of non-native plants: 402 bags, 902 cubic yards, 3,000 square feet, 975 gallons, 8 truckloads and 10 tarps full. Not to mention 408 bags of trash and 49 bags of recycling.

See them in action:

We are so grateful for our volunteers and sponsors. A big thank you to PG&E, Chevron, Oracle, SoCal Gas, Edison, Virgin America, Chipotle Mexican Grill, KIND Healthy Snacks, Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Starbucks Coffee and The Fruit Guys.

Happy Earth Day all!