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Caswell Memorial State Park Our Mission The mission of California State Parks is to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. To enter this ancient forest is to step back in time and glimpse a riparian woodland of long ago. California State Parks supports equal access. Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who need assistance should contact the park at (209) 599-3810. If you need this publication in an alternate format, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS P.O. Box 942896 Sacramento, CA 94296-0001 For information call: (800) 777-0369 (916) 653-6995, outside the U.S. 711, TTY relay service www.parks.ca.gov Discover the many states of California.™ Caswell Memorial State Park 28000 South Austin Road Ripon, CA 95366 (209) 599-3810 © 2006 California State Parks (Rev. 2015) A small, wild refuge in the midst of California’s Great Central Valley, Caswell Memorial State Park is situated on the Stanislaus River near the town of Ripon. This riverside park’s 258 acres protect what is considered one of California’s finest examples of a mature oak riparian forest. While once they were a prominent feature in the landscape of the Central Valley, today these riparian forests are extremely rare. The Stanislaus River winds along the south side of the campground and day-use areas. The park offers activities such as camping, picnicking, swimming, fishing, tubing from the campground to the day-use area, bird watching, and hiking. Fishing is popular, and fishing spots are plentiful along the sandy main channel of the Stanislaus River or the extremely slow-moving oxbows. Largemouth and smallmouth bass, catfish, bullhead, bluegill and other sunfish, crappie, and pikeminnow thrive here year round. Striped bass and Chinook salmon annually migrate through the area. PARK HISTORY For millenia before recorded history, native people lived in the forests along the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and San Joaquin Rivers. Now known as the Northern Valley Yokuts, they made use of the rivers’ Seven hundred acres of riparian forest stable food supply of fish, along the river were purchased by acorns, and large and Thomas Caswell, a farm equipment small game. manufacturer and rancher, in 1915. Spanish colonists In 1950 the Caswell family created began establishing a a legacy for the people of California mission system along the by donating 134 acres of forest to be coast of California in the preserved as a state park, so future Thomas Caswell on his mid-1700s. The influence generations might experience the valley Modesto ranch, ca. 1920 of the missions on the in its original natural state. native people triggered a NATURAL HISTORY rapid change in the Yokuts culture. One of the rarest habitats in California is The area of the Stanislaus River became the riparian woodland. The term “riparian” historically significant in 1829, when refers to vegetation or habitat along rivers Estanislao, a former neophyte from Mission and streams. A vast forest once covered San José, led an uprising against the Mexican much of the Central Valley’s riverbanks and army. After four attempts, the Mexican army floodplains. What you see in the park today is defeated Estanislao and his followers, and the just a remnant of this once much larger forest. river came to be known as “Rio de Estanislao,” Thanks to the forethought of the Caswell in honor of the brave chieftain whose name is family in protecting what was left, the park Spanish for Stanislaus. now includes a large area of mature The Yokuts way of life began its decline riparian forest. during the 1830s. Vast numbers of native A variety of micro-climates can be found people died from disease, the harsh life at the within the riparian zone; as a result, the missions, and war. In 1833 a severe malaria vegetation is a mosaic of different species. outbreak killed one-third to one-half of the Dense willow groves grow along the shore native people. Four years later, a smallpox of the river. Willows also grow in the lower, epidemic swept through the California wetter areas within the park, providing Indian population. excellent feeding, nesting, and shelter for many species of small birds. Just inland from the willows, but still in the wetter and more frequently flooded areas, cottonwoods Great horned owl stand. Being some of the tallest trees, they provide nesting habitat for the threatened Swainson’s hawk and other raptors and owls. Sycamore trees are also found in this area. Higher areas that historically were flooded for shorter periods of time are predominantly vegetated with a valley oak forest. The majestic valley oak is the largest species of oak in the United States. Some of these mature oaks are more than 60 feet tall, with a circumference of up to 17 feet. Valley oaks produce long, slender acorns. Many insects, birds, and mammals depend on these acorns as their main food source for part of the year. A rich understory of wild rose, blackberry, currant, and sedge flourishes. This tangle of undergrowth provides protection and food for a large variety of wildlife, such as rabbits, woodrats, raccoons, weasels, skunks, foxes, and opossums. In the evenings, listen for the great horned owls hooting in the surrounding trees. The valley’s riparian woodland has been devastated by water reclamation and flood control efforts. As the habitat has receded, the riparian brush rabbit and riparian woodrat have become endangered. Many conservation-oriented agencies are working on recovering these species. RECREATIONAL ACTIVITIES Trails — One of the most magnificent aspects of the park is an abundance of extensive nature trails. The short trails offer a glimpse of what the riparian ecosystem of the valley looks like in its natural state. Camping — In a pleasant, wooded area beside the river, 64 family campsites each have a table, camp stove, and food locker. The sites will accommodate trailers up to 21 feet long or motor homes up to 24 feet. Hookups are not available. The group campground will accommodate tent camping for up to 50 people, though it has been known to flood during the spring. ACCESSIBLE FEATURES Four campsites, the Oak Grove Picnic Area and connecting routes, parking, restrooms, and showers are all accessible. The selfguided 0.7 mile nature trail forms a shaded loop from portions of four hiking trails, but assistance may be needed. A fat-tire wheelchair is available for loan. Accessibility is continually improving. For details, visit http://access.parks.ca.gov. NEARBY STATE PARKS George J. Hatfield State Recreation Area 4394 North Kelly Road, Hilmar 95324 (209) 826-1197 McConnell State Recreation Area 8800 McConnell Road, Ballico 95303 (209) 394-7755 Turlock Lake State Recreation Area 22600 Lake Road, La Grange 95329 (209) 874-2056 PLEASE REMEMBER • No lifeguard is on duty. Use caution in the cold river water; water levels change rapidly. All visitors should wear life Jackets while in or near the river at all times. • Dogs must be kept on a six-foot maximum leash and in a tent or enclosed vehicle at night. Except for service animals, dogs are not allowed on trails or beaches. • Wood gathering is prohibited. All natural and cultural resources, including plants and animals, are protected by law and may not be disturbed or removed. • Quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. Operate generators only between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. • Park only in the areas indicated and observe speed limits. Caswell Memorial to Manteca, Ripon State Park Major Road Hand Launch Trail with Mileage Group Picnic Area Accessible Loop Trail Self-Guided Loop Trail (Wheelchair Assistance Recommended) Parking Picnic Area Accessible Feature Ranger Station Campfire Center Restrooms Campground Showers Group Campground Swimming © 2005 California State Parks (Rev. 2015) Map by Eureka Cartography, Berkeley, CA 40' 40' 40' 40'