DWR Collaborates on the “Park of the Future” Teaming with Nature-based Solutions


Dos Rios Ranch State Park.

Dos Rios Ranch State Park.

California’s newest state park, Dos Rios, officially opened on June 12 in the San Joaquin Valley and the Department of Water Resources (DWR) is honored to be one of many partners that helped bring it to life. Through the use of nature-based solutions, Dos Rios State Park reduces flood risk for the surrounding area, provides a refuge for local residents during worsening heat waves, and restores the natural environment of the Central Valley to benefit local fish and wildlife. Dos Rios has been hailed as “a park of the future” and provides a blueprint for other projects.

DWR’s participation began in 2010 when the organization’s Flood Protection Corridor Program awarded River Partners $3 million in Proposition 84 funds to help acquire the 1,603-acre Dos Rios Ranch. Over the next 14 years, this site would undergo an extensive transformation to become a California State Park.

That transformation was not something that any one entity could do on its own. Along with DWR, a total of 11 partners provided $40 million to acquire and restore the property, which sits about eight miles west of Modesto at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers. It’s the largest public-private floodplain restoration project in California.

“DWR is committed to supporting multiple-benefit projects with nature-based solutions like Dos Rios State Park because they are key to protecting lives and property while expanding access to the outdoors,” said DWR Director Karla Nemeth. “We are proud to provide funds that support the vital work other agencies and organizations are doing as well as advancing our own restoration projects at DWR.”

The restoration work at Dos Rios was completed by River Partners and includes floodplain improvements that allow juvenile salmon to forage, and enhancements to Pacific Flyway habitat for migrating birds to use. According to River Partners, habitat conservation at Dos Rios has helped lead to the de-listing of the Aleutian Cackling Goose, a previously endangered migrating species.

“This ‘park of the future’ advances a thriving potential for the Central Valley in which reconnected and restored floodplains support multi-benefit climate solutions and flood safety for vulnerable California communities—all the while supporting the recovery of wildlife on the brink,” said River Partners President Julie Rentner. “Dos Rios is a testament to the power of diverse partnerships. Without everyone working together—from federal, state, and local agencies to corporations and utilities to passionate community advocates and local leaders to dedicated conservation nonprofits and key voices in between—Dos Rios simply wouldn’t have been possible.”

California’s climate extremes mean that the Central Valley will continue to face the impacts of extreme drought and sudden floods. The restoration work that went into Dos Rios helps limit the risk of flooding for local communities and has transformed areas that were once farmland into the perfect habitat for several protected species.

“While the vision for Dos Rios was a journey to the past that restores its original habitat, this work provides multiple benefits for the California of tomorrow,” said California State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “From biodiversity and climate adaptation to groundwater recharge and public health benefits, Dos Rios will provide ideas for a more sustainable and healthier Central Valley, which is essential for all of California.”

Even though Dos Rios State Park opens to the public on June 12, there will be some ongoing construction at the site funded by DWR. In fall 2024, work will begin to remove over 9,900 cubic yards of debris and restore nearly 3 acres of riverbank on the Tuolumne and San Joaquin Rivers. That work will be done by Reclamation District 2092, which received $6 million in funds from DWR’s Riverine Stewardship Program for the debris removal and contributed to the acquisition of the Mendonca Dairy and two other properties for salmon habitat restoration.

Dos Rios State Park shows the amount of work and collaboration needed to complete large-scale restoration and the long-term management of natural resources that make an impact on the future of the state. For more information about Dos Rios State Park, including ways to visit, go to the California State Parks website.

Below are some of the other funding project partners involved in Dos Rios.

US Department of Agriculture Natural Resource Conservation Service's Wetland Reserve Program

Bureau of Reclamation's Central Valley Project Conservation Program/Central Valley Project Improvement Act Habitat Restoration Program

California Natural Resources Agency's River Parkways Program (Prop 50)

California Wildlife Conservation Board

US Fish and Wildlife Service's North American Wetland Conservation Act

San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

Resources Legacy Fund Foundation

Tuolumne River Trust

River Partners