Turtle Bay Exploration Park

Venue Details
  • Phone
  • Address
    844 Sundial Bridge Drive Redding, California 96001
  • Web Sites
Working Hours
  • Weekdays
    9:00 - 5:00
  • Saturday
    10:00 - 5:00
  • Sunday
    10:00 - 5:00

Turtle Bay Exploration Park (TBEP) had become the premier cultural and environmental education center for northern California. This great transformation has happened primarily due to the vision, dedication, and efforts of many in this community over several decades. During the early 1990’s, the City of Redding was concerned it did not have the capacity or funding to help the community fully reach this vision for its museum. Mike Dahl, Redding’s Mayor who signed the 1992 land lease to TBEP, summed up the Council’s concern at the time: “In the early 1990’s our community was facing similar economic challenges we face today. There were limited financial resources and an emerging era of constraints. The Council understood that reliance on City subsidies and financial support was not a sustainable business model for our museums. After collaborating with the Alliance of Redding Museums, the Council offered the long-term lease at Turtle Bay for the development of the Museum Park.”

Is is the goal in developing this brief history, to place the TBEP in perspective with the development of the Redding and the Sacramento River Parkway. For many, it is not just a part of our history but also our future.


Turtle Bay Museum is the heart of the Turtle Bay experience. It contains permanent, interactive exhibits and two large special exhibition galleries. The experiences here — underwater fish viewing, walking through historic re-creations, experimenting with scientific equipment, viewing art — are also springboards for the authentic outdoor experiences on the rest of the campus. The exhibits feature a mix of richly layered interpretative material, multimedia exhibits, science experiments, self-guided exploration, and play features.

The Museum’s wood and steel structure and floor-to-ceiling glass walls help the building sit “lightly” on the natural site. The Museum’s columns echo the trees of the riparian habitat outside. Large roof overhangs on the north and west facades provide shade for visitors. Permanent and changing exhibit galleries are housed in solid “boxes” that protrude from the Museum’s glass walls. These galleries use Hardy-Board siding painted blue and gray. A spectacular glass-walled Museum Store & Coffee Bar at the west end of the building provides clear river views and serves Sacramento River Trail users. The west end of the Museum, River Trail entrance, restrooms, drinking fountains, and the spectacular Sundial Bridge creates a dynamic public space on the Sacramento River.

Local and regional history is center stage in permanent exhibits in the Museum and Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp. Step into a Wintu bark house and learn about our local Native American culture. Investigate the historic use of our area’s natural resources and find out what has drawn people to Redding. Visit the timber-themed Forest Camp for a hands-on look at the history of the industry in Northern California.


Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp will soon undergo some exciting updates and changes. Please view the video below to get a picture of what to expect!

Paul Bunyan’s Forest Camp is an educational hub modeled after an old-time forest camp similar to ones all over Shasta County a hundred years ago. North State forests and wildlife are the heart of the Mill Building, and visitors delight in viewing the animals and exploring the hands-on exhibits. In addition to the Mill Building, the Paul Bunyan campus consists of outdoor play equipment, a water feature, an amphitheater that hosts our seasonal animal show, the Parrot Playhouse, our year-round aviary featuring Lorikeets, and our seasonal Butterfly House.


The Botanical Gardens portion of the McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens is the newest addition to Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The Redding Arboretum, one of four organizations that merged to create Turtle Bay Exploration Park, along with its supporters, initially drove the development of a series of gardens. Turtle Bay inherited and embraced the plan to develop the site as seen today. Today the Gardens comprise 20 acres of mediterranean-climate display gardens, a children’s garden, a medicinal garden, and two beautiful and unique water features.

The Arboretum extends over 200 acres with direct links to the award-winning Sacramento River Trail. The Gardens carry Turtle Bay’s sustainability message to another level and express a very positive ethic about a harmonious fit between natural systems and human activity.


An Architectural Wonder

The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay crosses the Sacramento River in the heart of Redding, California. Opened July 4, 2004, the bridge links the north and south campuses of Turtle Bay Exploration Park and serves as a new downtown entrance for Redding’s extensive Sacramento River Trail system.

As the name suggests, the Sundial Bridge is, in fact, a working sundial and is one of the largest in the world. The sundial shadow traces such a large arc that it can record only four hours a day, from 11am – 3pm. It is not accurate in winter because the shadow is too far into the arboretum to be seen. The shadow, when visible, moves about one foot per minute, so you can readily see it move.

The bridge celebrates human creativity and ingenuity, important themes of the 300 acre Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The steel, glass, and granite span evokes a sense of weightlessness and the translucent, non-skid decking provides for spectacular viewing at night. The bridge is also environmentally sensitive to its river setting. The tall pylon and cable stays allow the bridge to avoid the nearby salmon-spawning habitat as there are no supports in the water while encouraging public appreciation for the river. Plazas are situated at both ends of the bridge for public use; the north-side plaza stretches to the water allowing patrons to sit at the river’s edge.

In addition to being a functional work of art, the Sundial Bridge is a technical marvel as well. The cable-stayed structure has an inclined, 217 foot pylon constructed of 580 tons of steel. The deck is made up of 200 tons of glass and granite and is supported by more than 4,300 feet of cable. The structure is stabilized by a steel truss, and rests on a foundation of more than 115 tons of steel and 1,900 cubic yards of concrete. The McConnell Foundation, a private, independent foundation established in Redding in 1964, funded the majority of the bridge’s $24 million cost.

World renowned Spanish architect and engineer Santiago Calatrava conceived the Sundial Bridge’s unusual design, his first free-standing bridge in the United States. Calatrava has built bridges, airports, rail terminals, stadiums, and other structures around the world. His notable designs include the new PATH transportation terminal at the World Trade Center site in New York City and several projects at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, Greece, including the main stadium where opening and closing ceremonies were held.

About the Designer

The design for the Sundial Bridge was conceived by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, the world’s premier bridge designer. Calatrava has built bridges, airports, rail terminals, stadiums, and other structures around the world. Though he recently completed a major expansion of the Milwaukee Art Museum, and has been selected to design the new Oakland Cathedral, this is his first freestanding bridge in the United States.


Turtle Bay Exploration Park hosts work throughout its site by artists who are inspired by the close study and understanding of nature, natural systems, and human impacts on both natural and cultural environments.  Most of these artists have made ecological art and/or cultural sustainability the bedrock of their practice.  Explore these works of contemporary art at any time of year.