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Fishing McCloud Lower Falls

Article and photos by Alex Colvin
08/28/15 -- Driving up to Mt Shasta on August 26, I asked my daughter if she would like to see the Lower Falls of the McCloud River. She said she would, so we turned off of Hwy 89 onto the McCloud River Loop and headed down to the falls, also called Fowler Falls.

Fowler Falls, photo by Alex Colvin
Fowler Falls

Often times when I visit these falls in the summer I see lots of young people diving or jumping off of the rocks into the pool, but on this day I saw no swimmers. Instead, I witnessed four young men fishing from the rocks by the waterfall.

Fishing by the falls, photo by Alex Colvin
Fishing by the falls

The McCloud River is the traditional home territory of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. The Wintu name for the falls is Nurunwitipum, which means "falls where the salmon turn back." During the warm summer season, there was a village here and the Winnemem Wintu fished and hunted around the Lower Falls. The McCloud continued to be rich in salmon, steelhead and native wild trout until the closing of the gates of Shasta Dam in 1943.

History of Lower Falls, photo by Alex Colvin
History of Lower Falls

Since that time, salmon have been unable to migrate into the Upper Sacramento, Pit, McCloud and other tributary streams, eliminating a large portion of the best salmon habitat in the Sacramento basin. Shasta Dam also flooded 90 percent of the traditional territory of the Winnemem Wintu people.

Shasta Dam has provided a lot of electricity, facilitated water management, and provided jobs and recreational opportunities for the people of California, but my heart and tears pour out for the native Wintu people.

Nowadays, the gorgeous area continues to be a popular site for hiking, swimming, camping, and fishing. The river is stocked with rainbow trout for the licensed fishing public. I watched the young boy diligently fishing from above the falls.

Boy fishing by Fowler Falls, photo by Alex Colvin
Boy fishing by Fowler Falls

As time went by, one of the fishermen assumed a more relaxed posture.

A relaxed fishing style, photo by Alex Colvin
A relaxed fishing style

Meanwhile above the falls, visitors were enjoying hiking, walking their dogs, taking pictures, meeting one another and conversing.

Humans and dogs meet above the fall, photo by Alex Colvin
Humans and dogs meet above the fall

As I was taking pictures a local resident came up to watch, wondering whether or not I might toss him a little treat.

squirrel on rock, photo by Alex Colvin
Feed me

For additional information about this area, visit our Intermountain-Hat Creek page.

Alex Colvin is co-owner of The Lace Gallery in Burney, California. He previously wrote for non-profit corporations in the Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan Area. Since returning to Burney, where he has deep family roots, Alex and his wife Linda have dedicated themselves to exploring and photographing the natural beauty of Northern California.


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