NorCal Roadtrips

An Explorer's Guide to Northern California

Whiskeytown- Shasta National Recreation Area

For better or worse, dams play an important role in California's fortunes. This area was invented in 1963 when the Whiskeytown Dam was built and the resultant reservoir is part of the Central Valley Water Project. But it has a history; originally it was the site of a gold mine established as a by-product of the gold strike at Sutter's Mill. The name may come from a traditional miner's meal; some of us still keep it on our menu. It's located between Lake Shasta to the north and Redding to the south and is part of a recreational area that also includes Lake Shasta and Trinity Lake.

The main attraction here is Whiskeytown Lake, sitting at an elevation of 1,209 feet with 36 miles of shoreline and 3,250 surface acres. It supports all types of boating with the exception of houseboats and personal watercraft (jet skis) and a popular fishery with brook and rainbow trout, Chinook and kokanee salmon, and warm water species like spotted large and smallmouth bass, bluegill, crappie and catfish. Nearby is much smaller Keswick Reservoir, stocked with rainbow trout. Shasta and Trinity Lakes are not far away. There are about 40,000 surrounding acres of backcountry to explore.

In addition to water sports, the historical part also beckons. The area was settled by gold miners turned entrepreneurs and one of the original homes (circa 1852) still stands and offers tours. You can also hike to the remains of the Mt. Shasta Mine, once a very productive one.


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