A few weeks ago on an unexpectedly sunny Sunday afternoon, (say that 3 times fast!) we decided to get outside and enjoy the day. We are not used to so many cloudy or rainy days around here. We headed to Riverside to visit the Citrus State Historic Park. Having driven by this place a few times over the years, we really didn’t know much about it or what to expect.
With only about a 30 minute drive we arrived in time for the (free) 12:00 tour. There were about 10 people in our group, consisting of all ages. Some were local and others were visiting from colder climates and enjoying the California sunshine. Bree was our volunteer docent / guide. She is a full time high school biology teacher by day. She was very knowledgeable and made the one hour walking tour very interesting.
After giving us an empty bag and a promise of free samples, Bree gave us a brief history of the Citrus industry in Riverside, California. At one time this was the California Gold. Soon we headed off to the magnificent orange groves for a few citrus lessons up close and personal.
Naturally there was one person there who just wanted to buck the system and seemed to perhaps think that because of her age the rules simply did not apply to her. Shockingly she was probably the oldest person in the group! Perhaps she felt her age entitled her to some special privileges such as picking up dropped fruit from the ground when we were specifically told not to. It is a state park after all, so we must know you are not allowed to take anything out of the park. I felt sympathy for our guide when she had to politely chastise this overzealous visitor.
Anyway, as we walked along a very smooth pathway we stopped at various trees for information about that specific type of tree. There were also many photo opportunities and since it was such a gorgeous day we took advantage of it.
The palm trees were added to distinguish the dirt roads within the grove.
As we stopped at each tree she educated us on the type of fruit, its history, and other citrus related information. She occasionally, but carefully (to not harm either the fruit or the tree), cut a piece of fruit for each of us to take home. We came home with lemons, grapefruit, navel oranges, tangelos, and blood oranges just to name a few. Who knew there was so many varieties? The grove works closely with the University of California at Riverside in the development and education of new and existing varieties of citrus. This would include disease resistance as well as trees specifically for grafting to produce the new varieties. I did not know that a citrus tree does not generally grow from a seed but from a graft. Some trees are specifically grown just for this purpose.
Not just dropped fruit-a tree specifically for grafting.
We had a picturesque and easy walk around the grove.
Notice the smudge-pot in the lower left of the picture. These were heated with oil to keep fruit from freezing years ago. Now, water is used. Much more environmentally friendly.
All too soon we were taken back to the main building and gift shop. On the patio our education continued along with slices of the various fruits.
I grew up in Riverside and spent most of my life driving around orange groves. I really did not think beyond the beauty of the trees and the groves themselves. It was just the way it was. Sometimes we don’t miss something until it is gone.
There are almost 400 acres of citrus trees in the park.
A small Museum, gift shop, and outbuildings which are available for rent to host events make up the remainder of the park. For a mere $5 entrance you are able to spend an enjoyable afternoon and actually have something to take home with you! Perfect for history buffs, the curious, or for a local outing. With the Cara Cara oranges being our absolute favorite, we stopped at a roadside stand and purchased a bag.
Sometimes when you take a moment to look around your own community it is amazing what points of interest you might stumble across. I highly recommend this to Southern California locals or visitors. Although orange groves were very commonplace throughout the areas here, eventually it was decided that the real money was in the real estate and many thousands of acres throughout Southern California were plowed over in the name of progress. Now, homes fill the landscape. I suppose this is something that happens all over as we get away from a more natural environment to a more commercial or industrial environment. I’m so grateful for state and national parks in that preserve uniqueness and beauty.
What are your favorite protected parks?