California Citrus State Historic Park
After visiting Glen Ivy RV Park, we continue north on Temescal Canyon Road and merge onto I-5 in search of Sprouts Farmers Market in Corona, another natural and organic grocery store near Trader Joe’s.
(Remember, our new door on the RV is being installed today and we need to kill time before the work is finished and we can pick it up.) It’s amazing all the places you can think of to drive to just because you are curious and have time!
Okay, so now we know… Now where do we go next?
All we know is that we don’t want to take any freeways and that we need to slowly mosey back to Giant RV. So we head to the airport in Ontario. It’s another option for flights besides John Wayne in Orange County. We abandon this exploration when all gps routes lead to the freeway. I can’t even find the airport on our paper map.
As I look at the map, however, I find back roads weaving back to Highway 74 and Lake Elsinore. Then I discover that these roads intersect with the California Citrus State Historic Park. With the help of Google, I learn that this park in Riverside is a working citrus grove preserving California’s agricultural legacy… juicy, sun-kissed oranges. And off we go!
A replica of an old-fashioned fruit stand on the corner of Van Buren Boulevard and Dufferin Avenue leads to the entrance to the citrus park.
Only 2 roads are accessible to cars. The remainder of the park consists of visitor trails and working citrus groves with no public access.
We head to the Visitor Center/Museum. The parking lot is deserted.
And when I approach the Visitor Center door, I discover it is locked even though I see uniformed park volunteers inside.
One of them comes to the door to explain that the center is only open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Today, a school group has scheduled a tour, hence their presence. They are cleaning up and getting ready to lock up and leave. I collect a brochure and a tip to be sure and take the ascending trail behind the Visitor Center to view the groves and snow-capped mountains.
So, up we go…
The parking and entrance fees are on the honor system and we are one of two cars in the lot.
But Jeff and I gladly spend $13 to support the mission of California State Parks:
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 education.
…and we are glad we did.
Sunny, cloudless blue skies are the perfect background for viewing the San Antonio Mountains.
And just as beautiful is the view of the citrus groves with Mt. San Gorgonio in the backdrop.
The trail smells heavenly with whiffs of earthy citrus.
The trails consist of pavement and dirt. Some are lined with palm trees.
Others include antique machinery.
So, while our dogs, Casey and Murph, take a break, let me fill you in with a little history of California’s citrus groves.
The Empire of the Orange
In the late 1800s a kind of second gold rush took place in Southern California as citrus groves spread across Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Los Angeles, and Ventura counties into the Central Valley.
It all began in 1803 when the missionaries of San Gabriel first planted some Mediterranean citrus trees. Kentuckian William Wolfskill planted more seedlings in 1841. By the late 1800s lemon, lime, and orange trees grew in today’s downtown Los Angeles.
In 1873, Eliza Tibetan of Riverside planted 2 orange trees that she obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Called the Washington navel, this Brazilian fruit was sweeter, seedless, and easily peeled. It’s thick skin also protected it during shipping. Today nearly all Washington navel orange trees are descendants from Eliza’s 2 original trees. (California Citrus State Historic Park brochure and plaques at Visitor Center)
After our government took away their ancient tribal lands, many Native Americans worked in the citrus groves until prejudice and discrimination drove them out of work.
In the late 1800s Chinese workers replaced the Native Californians until the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 sent them off too.
Japanese immigrants filled the worker void from 1900 through 1920 until anti-immigrant sentiments eventually squeezed them out.
Around 1919 Hispanic workers and their families started setting up communities near the citrus groves. By the mid-1940s this group made up nearly 2/3rds of the citrus labor force. The women worked in the packing houses while the men tended the groves.
In the early 1930s dust bowl refugees, migrating from the Great Plains and seeking relief from destitution, came looking for work in the citrus groves. (California Citrus State Historic Park brochure and plaques at Visitor Center)
California Citrus State Historic Park opened in 1993 as a living museum. The nearly 200 acres of groves are managed by the Friends of California Citrus Park, a non-profit group using all proceeds to fund facilities, programs, and maintenance. (park brochure)