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625 Esplanade
(near Bidwell Mansion)
Chico, California


OPEN noon to 5pm
Wednesday - Sunday

Calendar of Events

Gateway Gardens

Gateway Gardens will be closed beginning July 9, 2018 during construction of the Foothills Garden

Foothills Exhibit logo

Gateway Science Museum is breaking ground on a dynamic and evocative "Foothills Garden" exhibit showcasing the beauty and ecology of the Northern California foothills. The "Foothills Garden" exhibit is made possible by a generous gift from the estate of Glenn E. and Ruth Gray Cunningham.

The Glenn E. and Ruth Gray Cunningham Memorial Exhibit – The Foothills will highlight major habitats of Northern California’s foothills environments through displays and interactive opportunities for general visitors as well as students engaged in facilitated science activities.

Gateway Gardens logo

The gardens surrounding Gateway Science Museum include the Native Plant Pollinator Garden, the Edibles Garden and plantings that are representative of 4 distinct eco-regions of Northern California. A new garden exhibit focusing on the Northern California foothills ecosystem is currently under construction with a planned opening of late 2018.

Pollinator Garden

Native Plant Pollinator Garden

Gateway’s "Native Plant Pollinator Garden," designed and constructed in 2013 in collaboration with CSU, Chico Associated Students Sustainability interns and the Mt. Lassen Chapter of the California Native Plant Society in Chico, is home to more than 40 plants native to Northern California. These plants were chosen to provide food in the form of pollen, nectar and larval foliage for a wide variety of pollinators – bees, flies, butterflies, moths, beetles & birds. At any one time throughout the year, the garden will have between 3 and 5 different kinds of plants in bloom.  

Throughout each stage of their lives (as eggs, larva, and at maturity) pollinators need the same things as humans: food, water and shelter. Food (in the form of pollen, nectar and sometimes foliage), water (even puddles on rocks or dirt will provide mineral nutrients) and shelter in the form of trees, shrubs and open ground to get away from predators and out of the weather.

With increased loss of wild habitat and increasingly fragmented remaining habitat, native pollinator populations are under a great deal of pressure. In an effort to understand the extent to which urban habitat gardens can be effective for supporting pollinators, Gateway’s "Native Plant Pollinator Garden" is a part of UC Berkeley’s Urban California Native Bee Survey

Gateway’s "Native Plant Pollinator Garden" was designed by Adrienne Edwards and Paula Shapiro. Site design and project construction overseen by John Whittlesey and funding was made possible by CSU, Chico Associated Students Sustainability.

Edibles Garden

Northern California has long been an edible and otherwise-useful food mecca. Native American tribes such as the Mechoopda, who lived throughout the region for centuries, cultivated seeds, bulbs, nuts and berries. Early settlers, including General John Bidwell, realized the agricultural potential of the region’s rich soils, clean rivers and agreeable Mediterranean climate (in which winters tend to be cool and rainy and summers tend to be hot and dry). Today, Northern California is one of the richest agricultural landscapes of the world – anchoring our economy, influencing the look and ecological balance of our native habitats, and producing commodities such as almonds, walnuts and rice. Gateway’s "Edibles Garden" is a tribute to the historic relationship between people and plants. It is also a working demonstration garden for new and emerging techniques and technologies in sustainable home gardening and agriculture. 

Funding for Gateway’s "Edibles Garden" was made possible by CSU, Chico Associated Students Sustainability Fund (SFAC). It was developed in collaboration with CSU, Chico Associated Students as well as other community plant groups from 2011 to 2013. Sustainability interns, nutrition students from the CSU, Chico Center for Nutrition and Activity Promotion and community volunteers helped to develop plantings that would illustrate lessons in gardening, climate and nutrition for museum visitors.

Gateway's Eco-Regions

Paleo Flora Area: Welcome to "Paleo Plaza," located left of the museum entrance, and a peak into the distant past – when water-loving plants were declining as oceans subsided and land plants, including the flowering and seed bearing plants, were rapidly evolving and adapting to more and more dry land, and increasingly diverse insects, birds and mammals. The plants seen here – notably cycad, fern, agave, restios, palm, gingko and magnolia – are representatives of plants only known to have been ancient residents of the north state by way of fossil evidence. Ancient fossilized plants are known as paleo-flora.

Riparian Zone: Running along the eastern arc of the amphitheater wall is Gateway’s "Riparian Zone." It includes such plants as black and live oak, willow, alder, red bud, buckeye, carpenteria, native azalea, snow berry, Santa Barbara sedge and manzanita. This planting of trees, shrubs, flowering perennials and grasses represent the plant communities typically found along the waterways of Northern California. Native Americans in the region have historically used many of these plants for everyday utility. For example, the young shoots of the red bud trees were used to make baskets and the orange pigment from the white alder trees was used as body paint for salmon ceremonies.

Riparian eco-regions are those plant and animal eco-systems that develop along the edges of any water source. In Northern California these water sources include both perennial and seasonal creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, springs and seeps. Riparian zones are characterized by unique sets of physical ecological factors different from the surrounding regional landscapes. These factors include periodic flooding, rich and productive soils, a water table that is within reach of plant roots, and species of plants and wildlife that are adapted to wetland (fluvial) events such as flooding, drought, sediment deposit and removal and channel movement. Due to their abundance of food, shelter and water, riparian zones serve as primary migration routes for wildlife as well as seed/plant dispersal. 

Delta Region: The California Delta is the large fan-shaped plain of estuaries and sediment deposited from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers before these rivers empty into the San Francisco Bay and then the Pacific Ocean beyond. Plants in the "Delta Region" of Gateway’s gardens, located on the southern side of the museum, include wetland-adapted plants that might be found in the rich delta environment. An elegant native Sycamore tree, California hibiscus and red-twigged dogwood shrubs as well as California iris and sedges thrive here.

Northern Lower Mountain Region: The lower elevation forests of Northern California and the headwaters of the Sacramento River are depicted in this eco-region, located along the museum's northwestern boundary. A mixture of trees such as Douglas fir, Sequoia, ponderosa pine, and incense cedars populate this region along with unique ancient shrubs, fragrant foliage, and distinct grasses.

Discovery Stations in the Gateway Gardens

garden discovery station

Discovery Stations in the garden were made possible by funds from The Discovery Shoppe, Chico.

Volunteer opportunities

Volunteer opportunities at Gateway Gardens are now available and include:

  • Gardening – planting, cultivating and general garden care of raised beds and pollinator garden
  • Help with educational programs incorporating edible and pollinator gardens
  • Docent help with school field trips, group tours and open garden days exploring the Gateway Gardens

Students and community members of all ages are welcome to become garden volunteers. For more information contact Gateway.

Gateway Gardens will be closed during construction of the Glenn E. and Ruth Gray Cunningham Memorial Exhibit – The Foothills. After completion in late summer 2018, the gardens will be open during regular Gateway hours.