In an effort to prevent visitation surges and help stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), State Parks has implemented the following safety measures to date:
- Closed some parks, meaning all trails and restrooms within these parks are closed.
- Closed vehicular access at remaining parks, including for off-highway vehicle riding.
- Closed all campgrounds, museums and visitor centers.
- Cancelled all events.
A list of closures is available online at parks.ca.gov/FlattenTheCurve. The list is dynamic and updated on a regular basis.
Visiting Prairie City State Vehicular Recreation Area
Prairie City is situated at the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills, 20 miles east of downtown Sacramento and three miles south of U.S. 50. The area offers off-highway vehicle enthusiasts a variety of interesting terrain and trails for motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and 4-wheel drive vehicles. There are flat, open grasslands, rolling hills with native blue oak trees, and acres of cobbled mine tailings left after gold dredges combed ancient river beds in search of gold during the late 1800s. Beginners, as well as experts, find a variety of terrain both challenging and enjoyable.
Prairie City SVRA takes its name from the gold rush community that was located just northeast of the present-day park. Today, the only reminders of that 1850s community are some old mine tailings and a historical marker, California Historical Landmark #464, which is located at the intersection of Prairie City Road and U.S. 50.
Aerojet General Corporation purchased the southern portion of this property in the early 1960s to build and test rocket engines for the U.S. Government. No actual rocket testing took place after Congress cut program funding. Remnants of the park’s space-age past include a test pit south of the present day-use staging area and a dome-shaped building known as the “moon room” located next to the park office.
In 1972, Roy and Mary McGill leased 435 acres of the present park site from Aerojet General Corporation and created a motorcycle riding and competition facility called McGills Cycle Park. Sacramento County purchased the area in 1975 with the assistance of the State Off-Highway Vehicle Grants Program. An additional 401 acres was purchased in 1976 with State Off-Highway Vehicle Funds, bringing the total acreage to 836. Sacramento County managed the park until July 1988 when the operation was turned over to the Off-Highway Vehicle Division of the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Today, a wide range of birds and other wildlife reside in the area. The open grasslands attract golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, kestrels, and an occasional prairie falcon. Oak trees and brushy areas provide shelter for quail, wild turkeys, and pheasants.