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Shasta County: An inland outdoor recreation empire

Shasta County, Shasta Lake

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By Gary Heffley and Frank Galusha
Shasta County is famous for its man-made wonders: Shasta Dam, Shasta Lake, Whiskeytown Lake, Lake Britton, the Sundial Bridge and several monuments to man’s ability to construct mighty highway bridges but the county is also blessed with scores of natural marvels.

Shasta County,
There are so many wonderful outdoor destinations in Shasta County most visitors and even some locals never get the opportunity to see and enjoy them all.

Three often snow-capped mountain ranges: The Trinities, the Cascades and the northeastern Sierras surround Shasta County. Many peaks, including Shasta Bally to the west, Mt. Shasta to the north and Mt. Lassen to the east, can be seen from many points across this paradise for those who love all things outdoors. Within this natural-resource rich area are miles of the Sacramento River, the northwest portion of Lassen Park, Shasta Caverns, Castle Crags State Park, the McCloud and Pit Rivers, many major creeks and streams, the Coleman National Fish Hatchery and the region’s cultural center, the city of Redding. The eastern portion of the county is also famous for incredible trout fishing and natural wonders including Hat Creek. Baum Lake and McArthur Burney Falls State Park. For more information see Intermountain Area.

The Sacramento River, now spanned by two newly rebuilt phenomenal bridges runs through the County. Just seeing this mighty river excites those who love to fish. Those who give it try from drift boats or from the shore soon discover it is indeed a world class trout and steelhead fly-fishing destination.

Sacramento River, Redding, Shasta County,

Guides and unattached anglers use drift boats to fish the Sacramento through the center of Redding where it is not uncommon to catch and release 20 to 30 rainbow trout ranging in size from 15 to 24 inches.

The Sacramento River is equally popular with stream anglers who find access points between Dunsmuir to the north to the river’s junction with Shasta Lake near Lakehead. The lower stretch from below Battle Creek to the Tehama County line is popular from spring through fall when various runs of Chinook salmon make their way up from the sea and San Francisco Bay to find spawning habitat in their birth streams in Shasta County.

Shasta Lake is formed by Shasta Dam, which holds back the waters of the Sacramento, McCloud and Pit Rivers, Squaw Creek and hundreds of small tributaries. The lake is often filled to near capacity as a result of runoff from this vast watershed.

Shasta Lake, Shasta County,

Even in years of little rainfall there is always plenty of water to enjoy this enormous lake. Even at 50% capacity this lake boasts around 200 miles of shoreline.

Fishing is one of the major attractions. Bass, trout and salmon are the primary targets. Bass tournaments are held here nearly every week. More Shasta Lake Fishing

Shasta Lake is also extremely popular with vacationers for house-boating, water-skiing and personal water craft. When the lake is full it holds 4.5 million acre feet of water and has about 357 miles of shoreline to explore. More Shasta Lake

Shasta Caverns is another highlight. This unique tour on the McCloud Arm takes you on a brief pontoon ride across the lake, a bus trip up a limestone mountain where deer and bear are frequently seen and finally to the caverns themselves.

Shasta Caverns, Shasta Lake, Shasta County,

A guide takes you into the caverns where you see beautiful displays of stalagmites. stalactites and other limestone rock formations.

The guide will give you a look into the history rich lore of the local indigenous people who called the area home. The Discovery Room, one of eight known rooms in the cavern system, contains all types of limestone rock formations. Lake Shasta Caverns attract thousands of visitors every year. Currently, the only transportation to the caverns from the visitor center is a short ride on a catamaran across Shasta Lake, followed by a scenic bus ride up a steep mountain grade. The bus ride terminates at the cavern entrance. There is quite a bit of stair climbing (up and down) involved so those with physical limitations should be aware before booking this excursion.

Whiskeytown Lake is one of the most picturesque lakes in all of northern California. The view from Hwy. 299E when going to and from Weaverville makes the day for most drivers, local and visitors alike.

Whiskeytown Lake, Shasta County,

Whiskeytown Lake is part of the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area which offers boating, fishing, hunting, swimming, hiking, kayaking and gold panning amongst the many activities available.

Whiskeytown is twenty minutes west of Redding after driving through the State Historic Park of Old Shasta. Lake-based recreation is popular during the drier summer months. Whiskeytown Lake provides 36 miles of shoreline and 3,200 surface acres for recreation. Its placid surface is excellent for swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, rowing and fishing but the afternoon breezes are excellent for sailing. Water skiing and boating are also popular but personal water craft are not permitted.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is another must see. The park is a wonderland of geologic formations, volcanic landscapes and active geothermal areas and until recently has been a relative secret. For decades, this amazing attraction was one of our least-visited National Parks. This is changing. In 2009, Lassen Park was selected as one of the world’s Top-12 destinations by Frommer’s, a producer of bestselling travel guides.

Lassen Peak, Lassen National Volcanic Park, Shasta County,

Lassen Park was first established as Cinder Cone and Lassen Peak Monuments in 1907. The peak began erupting in 1914 and two years later it was made a national park.

All four of the world’s volcano types can be found in the Park’s 106,000 acres. Lassen Peak is the largest plug-dome volcano in the world with an elevation or 10,457 feet (3,187 meters). There are over 150 miles of trails here, including 17 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. The Park has eight campgrounds that range from developed to primitive. More Lassen Park

The Coleman National Fish Hatchery was established in 1942 to mitigate the loss of historic natural spawning areas caused by the construction of Shasta and Keswick dams. Before then, Chinook salmon and steelhead trout migrated to the upper reaches of the Sacramento, Pit, and McCloud rivers to spawn.

Coleman National Fish Hatchery, Salmon Egg Collection, Anderson,  photos by Frank Galusha

The Coleman NFH Complex goal is to produce 12 million Fall Chinook, one milliion Late Fall chinook, 250,000 Winter Chinook and 600,000 steelhead trout annually.

The annual Return of the Salmon Festival has been celebrated at the hatchery since 1991 in an effort to increase outreach and visitor use. During this one day festival the third Saturday in October over 10,000 visitors are attracted to the hatchery. Visitors during the festival are treated to viewing large numbers of fall Chinook salmon returning to Battle Creek and the hatchery, and may observe all aspects of day-to-day hatchery operations such as spawning, egg incubation, and juvenile rearing.

Redding is home to the largest trout stream in California, the Sacramento River. Few think would think class trout fishing is available through the middle of town, but it is.

Redding Sacramento River Fly Fishing,

Redding has been recognized by notable publications such as Field and Stream as the 19th best overall fishing town in America and Forbes online found that Redding is the 9th best Trout fishing town in North America.

Many claim that Redding is in the top 10 tailrace trout fishing areas in the world.  Outdoor Magazine also recognized the “Fly Shop” as one of the Top 5 fly fishing shops in the nation. That puts Redding in a class that few can match. Combine the fishing with sightseeing, hiking, bicycle trails, river floating and numerous other activities and you have a truly outstanding outdoor destination. The unique Sundial Bridge, Turtle Bay and Arboreatum as well as the Distelhorst Bridge and the Sacramento River Trial draw thousands of visitors every year. More Redding

There are many parks throughout Redding that provide walking and bicycling options such as the Clover Creek Preserve and the McConnell Foundation’s Lema Ranch, which offer great access to the public. There are other areas around the Redding area that offer hiking and fishing opportunities. South of town is a vast area of land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management with the Sacramento River Bend Area trails overlooking the river as they wind through the foothills.

Welcome to Shasta County!

Aerial photos by George Bravo (Caltrans); Greg Clark (City of Redding); others by Marcel Siegle (The Fly Shop); Robert Holmes (; Gary Berdeaux (Shasta Caverns); Lassen Volcanic National Park, Dru Mogler, Amber Galusha, Shauna Rule, (Shasta Recreation Company), Laurie Baker (Redding Visitors Bureau) and Frank Galusha

For additional information on Shasta County, visit these websites:

Visit Redding

Shasta County History

If you are interested in advertising on this page contact Frank Galusha at 530-474-3487.


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Website Design Photo Credits: thanks the following individuals for contributing photographs for use on our Home and Section pages: Anders Tomlinson of, Casey Allen of Bayside, CA; Jason Haley of Medford, OR; Steve Breth of Burney, CA; Tracy McCormack of Eureka, CA; Grant Thompson of Grand Junction, CO; Richard Bott of Shingletown, CA; Ron Loftus of Yreka, CA; Scott Caldwell of Montague, CA; Lorissa Soriano of Alturas, CA and the late Dave Menke, formerly with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

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