Physical Address:
625 Esplanade
(near  Bidwell Mansion)
Chico CA

Mailing Address:
College of Natural Sci.
CSU, Chico
Chico, CA 95929-0545


Ongoing Exhibits

Our Building is LEED Gold Certified.

To learn more about LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design), click here.


Modern Farming

This interactive exhibit of north state agriculture highlights regional production and practices, agricultural science and the agricultural community. The exhibit is on display in the Newberry Gallery. This exhibit produced by the Gateway Science Museum in collaboration with Gyroscope, Inc. and Group Delphi. Content development has been enhanced through consultation with local agricultural experts from the California State University, Chico College of Agriculture, Butte County agricultural boards, and numerous local farmers and ranchers. This exhibit is made possible through generous gifts provided by our founding members and donors.

Explore Our Region's Water

HOOKER OAK LEGACY: Gateway donation box

hooker oak tree

Photo of Hooker Oak

The donation box created from Hooker Oak wood has been at Gateway since February 2012.  At one time, Chico’s Hooker Oak tree was considered to be the largest valley oak in the world, standing more than 100 feet tall. The circumference of the outside branches was nearly 500 feet. 

California is a global hotspot for oak diversity, with more than 25 native oak species, natural hybrids, and oak varieties. Known for their long lives, oaks are dominant influences on the larger ecology, creating drought-tolerant, shady habitat for many other plants and animals.

In 1887, Annie K. Bidwell named the tree in honor of British botanist Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker. A friend of the city founders John and Annie Bidwell, Hooker was director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Hooker Oak fell during a windstorm May 1, 1977. Once the tree fell, it was determined that Hooker Oak was actually two trees that had grown together, forming the appearance of a single tree.  The site of the tree is registered as California Historical Landmark #313.

The Hooker Oak is one of Chico’s great legacies, conserved and protected by the city and private citizens like the Hall family. The family milled and helped store the Hooker Oak wood, stamped with the Hooker Oak brand, from 1980 until 2005 when they returned much of the wood to the city.

In 2011, the Hall family passed along some of the Hooker Oak wood to Gateway Science Museum, and Jim Ellisor used it to create the donation box. The box was designed to maintain the rustic appearance of the legendary wood, and all of the saw marks from the original tree cutting and board preparation are still present.

Outdoor Ecoregions


There are five distinct eco-regions surround the museum.

Paleo Flora Area: Welcome to Paleo Plaza – where you get 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 you see here – notably cycad, fern, agave, restios, palm, gingko and magnolia – are representatives of plants we only know to have been ancient residents of the North State by way of fossil evidence: ancient fossilized plants are known as paleo-flora.

The terms “paleo flora” refer to the plant species that evolved in the earlier phases of plant history. The large, compound leaves and rotund trunks of cycad plants are located in this area, as well as two beautiful gingko trees that border the museum’s parking lot. Also included in the paleo flora area are palms, ferns, aloes, cannas, and restios.

Riparian Zone: Located behind the amphitheater is a collection of trees, shrubs, flowering plants, and grasses similar to those found along the rivers of Northern California. Many of the plants found in this area were once used by Native Americans in the region. For example, the red bud trees were used to make baskets and the orange pigment from the white alder trees were used to paint their bodies and faces for the Native Americans’ salmon ceremonies.

Buffer Zone: The plantings found in the buffer zone illustrate the passing of scientific knowledge throughout history. The plant species represented in this zone were once introduced by the settlers of the region—from the Native Americans to the Bidwells—and exist to this day.

Delta Region: Resisting the sweet, edible berries found in the Delta Region may be difficult for people and pollinators alike. The same sycamore trees that were once used by Native Americans to make a medicinal tea thought to be good for asthma exist in this area that depicts the Bay Area of Northern California.

Northern Lower Mountain Region: The lower elevation forests of Northern California and the headwaters of the Sacramento River are depicted in this ecoregion. 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.

Ice Age Skeletons

Short-faced Bear Short-faced bear: The giant short-faced bear, Arctodus simus, was one of the largest land carnivores in North America during the last two million years, according to the National Speleological Society.

The common name for the bear originated from its lack of a well-defined forehead, as well as a short, broad muzzle.

Named by American paleontologist Edward Cope in the 1890s, the giant short-faced bear was nearly five-feet tall when walking and more than 11-feet tall when standing on its hind legs. The bear’s autumn weight has been estimated to be about 1,700 pounds, which includes its collection of fat for the winter. (See How Big Was the Giant Short-faced Bear for another story).

Don't let its size fool you. The giant short-faced bear is known to have run about 40 mph despite its enormous size!

Additional to Cope’s initial findings were the remains of eight female short-faced bears, which have been found in Potter Creek Cave, located in Shasta County, Calif.

Saboor Tooth Cat Saber-tooth cat: The saber-tooth cat, Smildon fatalis, entered North America more than 1 million years ago and was especially common in California. Weighing in at 840 pounds with up to 8-inch canines, this animal was certainly no domestic cat!

Using its enormous canines, the saber-tooth cat preyed on and consumed larger animals for food. Sloths, deer, bison, small mammoths and mastodons, peccaries, horses, and camels were all thought to have fallen prey to the saber-tooth cat.

Both the saber-tooth cat and the short-faced bear lived in a time period called the Pleistocene, which is also known as the ice age because vast areas of land were covered in massive ice sheets. It was during this time that megafauna (massive animals) roamed the Americas.