The fountains of Chico
Make a cool wish—or just admire fish
Ah, fountains. So wet, so fun, so refreshing. They’re pretty to look at, cool to splash in, and if you throw a coin in you get to make a wish. Who could ask for more?
Chico has a handful of fountains accessible to the public and a few more that are not. (I can see one forbidden fountain from our office windows, in fact.) It would be great if we had a water park, or at least one of those cool water features where it spouts up at intervals through holes in a slab of pretty rock and kids frolic around in their bathing suits. But no, we have fountains. And that’s just fine.
One thing I noted on my tour de Chico fountains: not much going on in the coin department. Are needy locals snagging them, are Chico coin-tossers cheap, or have we given up on wishes altogether?
The below fountains are rated completely subjectively on a scale of 0 to 5 squirts, with 5 being the best.
Dancing Trout fountain
411 Main St.
Six fine fish frolicking over a bed of granite grace this fountain, installed in 2003 at the City Municipal Center across from the Downtown Plaza Park. Designed by artists Patrick Collentine and Susan Larsen, the fountain is surrounded by a bench, and the water arcs beautifully from the fishes’ mouths.
It’s a nice stop to make while strolling downtown, and the bench is inviting enough to suggest staying a while to people-watch.
City staffers tell me that the Building Maintenance Department collects coins thrown into the fountain and puts the money—just a few dollars a month—into the General Fund.
Beauty: 5 squirts. The only thing that could make leaping fish look more regal is casting them in bronze. The varied heights of water add to the sight.
Splashability: 2 squirts. You could probably get away with wading around the fish feature a few times, but the water is shallow.
Coin factor: 2 squirts. There were six puny pennies the day we looked.
2490 Park Ave. and Fair
Outside the popular Mexican restaurant on East Park Avenue sits an orange-y, three-tiered fountain surrounded by benches. It’s a good place to sit and watch the cars go by as you wait for your enchilada.
Beauty: 2 squirts. While the Casa Lupe fountain is a nice addition, it’s no marvel of design or engineering. Also, the flow is a little lopsided.
Spashability: 1 squirt. You may be able to toss some water onto a hapless dining companion, but there’s really no room to get in there and splash around.
Coin factor: 3 squirts. A peek into the fountain found mostly rocks, but also a smattering of coins—almost all of them pennies.
Fountain of Tranquility
Glen Oaks Memorial Park, Hegan Lane and Midway
It’s almost a sin to lump this breathtaking fountain in with the others. The Fountain of Tranquility, said to be the largest fountain in Butte County, is intended to house cremated remains in niches installed around its base. “Ossuary scattering” (ashes) may also take place within the fountain.
It’s a creation of Stone & Earth Landscapes, a local company.
Beauty: 5 squirts. This fountain is simply gorgeous. Peals of water cascade down rugged, jutting rocks, and natural plants surround the water feature.
Spashability: 0 squirts. It would be highly tacky and wrong.
Coin factor: 0 squirts. Ditto on the tacky, wrong factor.
Fountain Medical Plaza
265 Cohasset Road
The designer of the Fountain of Tranquility is responsible for this smaller, yet also impressive, fountain.
Located outside medical offices and the Enloe Cancer Center, the fountain can be seen driving by but is also worth a closer look. The rock formation and accompanying greenery and water feature were designed to be soothing to those seeking medical treatment. Note: The fountain is turned off on weekends.
Beauty: 4 squirts. Only because we’d just seen the one at the cemetery.
Spashability: 0 squirts. It’s just not designed for that.
Coin factor: 0 squirts. You could try, but it would just get lodged in a rock.
Almond Orchard fountain
Almond Orchard Shopping Center, 2201 Pillsbury Road
This fountain looks like what it is: a shopping center fountain. But that’s not a bad thing. Its multi-headed water feature sprays circles of water like a wet Hydra, and it’s probably the closest thing Chico has to a kid-friendly fountain, mainly because there’s no one around to tell you to bug off.
Beauty: 2 squirts. It’s not pretty; it’s not ugly. It is what it is.
Spashability: 3 squirts. If you were going to take a dip in a Chico fountain, this would be it. But don’t expect the time of your life. Maybe a foot-dunking would be more in order.
Coin factor: 2 squirts. There’s no reason this fountain should be overlooked for wishing, but it is. If people are throwing coins in there, it’s not on our watch.