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‚ÄčExploring Shasta Lake

The Sacramento Arm

The Sacramento Arm of Shasta Lake is the busiest and most developed arm of the lake; it is home to the historic Oregon Trail and the Central Pacific Railroad, which lies submerged below the surface.

Kennett, CA

Founded during the gold rush of the 1850s; the town of Kennett lies directly north of the dam under about 400 feet of water. One of the largest and most prominent mining towns of the 1850’s Kennett was also home to five copper smelters. Sulfur damage from these smelters destroyed nearly all of the surrounding vegetation; in an attempt to restore the natural appearance of the area, millions of trees were planted. A scenic cruise up the Big Backbone Creek yields a beautiful site of these rehabilitations efforts.

Slaughterhouse Island

Named after the Endicott Slaughterhouse and Meat Market; Slaughterhouse Island can be found at the mouth of the Sacramento Arm in what was once known as “Slaughterhouse Gulch;” the Endicott Slaughterhouse and Meat Market was located in the saddle between Slaughterhouse Island and Thunderbolt Island. Slaughterhouse Island is now a popular spot for college students on spring break. At one time there were boat-in camp sites available on the island, but those sites have been removed and no facilities remain on the island.

Traveling north up the Sacramento Arm; past the “Goosenecks,” you will find volcanic looking rocks along the shoreline. Mainly on the west shore, these rocks called Basalt formed from the rapid cooling of lava near the surface of the Earth. Typically Basalt rock is black or grey in color, but due to the high amounts of iron in the ground around the Sacramento Arm, the Basalt on the shoreline will have a reddish rust color. Near Antlers Resort, some of the basalt has formed into crude “fence post” columns much like those found at Devils Post Pile National Monument.
Gooseneck Cove Boat-In Campground: On the West side of the Sacramento Arm, in the middle of the “Goosenecks” before you reach Sugarloaf Creek, you will find “Gooseneck Cove Boat-In Campground” Looking for a small, out of the way peaceful camp site? Gooseneck Cove Boat-In Campground is the camp site for you! Well hidden from the lake, set back in the cove, this campground offers 8 camp sites with picnic tables and fire grills. “Outhouse” type toilets. Drinking water is not available so you will need to bring your own water. Garbage is “pack it in, pack it out” No fee is charged for use of this facility.

Finally reaching the end of the Sacramento Arm you will find Lakehead / Lakeshore Resorts, Gregory Creek, Antlers Resort and Indian Creek. In the early 1900’s the Gregory home was a popular stopping place for people traveling through the area. At the Gregory House people could get a meal for 25 cents or all they could eat and a bed for 50 cents! Prominent attorneys, doctors and actors such as Roy Rogers, Rex Beach and Renny Renfro (owner of “Daisy,” the dog from the Dagwood Bumstead movies) came to stay at the Gregory home. The first telephone switchboard between Redding and Dunsmuir was operated by Martha Gregory. The ranch and home was flooded when the dam became operational in 1945. Ending up at an old resort site, Riverview now a day use area, you will find one of the few sandy beaches left on the lake.

Fishing

The fishing on the Sacramento Arm is excellent! During the summer months, trolling for trout at the headwaters will yield numerous bites! In the spring the bass like to bite on plastic worms and live bait; the best lure to use is the “Dives II to 10 feet” about 15-20 feet down. Other trolling baits and lures that seem to work well are spinners and spoons, silver black minnow, gold/red or nickel/blue trolling spoons, rapalas, cripplures and blue/silver shad imitation. Power bait, minnows, nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, or a salmon egg marshmallow combination also work well for getting the fish to bite. If fishing from the shore is more your speed, a good place is near the outlet of Gregory Creek toward the bridge; we would recommend using Texas Rig Rubber Worms. Fishing in the willow trees? It is recommended to use white rubber worms.

The McCloud Arm

The McCloud Arm is so named for the McCloud River that feeds it. Originally known as the “McLeod River,” after Alexander Roderick McLeod; a Scottish fur hunter / trapper that was snowbound along its banks in the winter of 1829.

Baird Fish hatchery

Baird fish hatchery, the first fish hatchery on the west coast is now ironically located under a hundreds of feet of water. Roads to the cavern now carve through the landslide located in the picture.

In 1871 Livingston Stone was appointed the job of setting up the first Federal Fresh Water Fish Hatcheries. Stone later established the first West Coast salmon fish Hatchery where the Pit River and the McCloud River meet in 1872. (East shore, across from Potter Creek) Named the “Baird Fish Hatchery” after the first commissioner of Fish and Fisheries; Spencer Fullerton Baird. During its many years of operations, more than 50 million eyed salmon eggs were shipped from the hatchery to all parts of the world, including the establishment of salmon runs in several rivers in New Zealand. The Baird Hatchery was the first hatchery in the National Fish Hatchery System which is now the largest hatchery complex in the world.Baird fish hatchery, the first fish hatchery on the west coast is now ironically located under a hundreds of feet of water. Roads to the cavern now carve through the landslide located in the picture.

Seven years later, Livingston Stone established a trout hatchery seven miles upstream at Green's Creek. Rainbow trout from this hatchery were spawned and their eggs were transplanted all over the world. The establishment of the McCloud River Trout was successful in many of the rivers and streams they were introduced to as a result, most varieties of rainbows are descendants of the McCloud River trout.

The Grey Rocks

As you cruise up the McCloud Arm; look up, you will see towering grey limestone mountains. These limestone mountains were formed from ocean sediments that accumulated 200 - 300 million years ago. Now called “The Grey Rocks,” tie off your boat and spend the day searching for the fossilized remains of corals, snails, clams and other sea creatures that existed in prehistoric times.

Shasta Caverns

After you are done searching for fossils, make sure to leave time to take a tour of the Lake Shasta Caverns! Located just past Bailey Cove on the east side of the Arm. Houseboats are asked to stake up to the shoreline, small boats and other watercraft may park on the provided courtesy dock. Tours are given every half hour from 9am – 3pm. (Memorial Day thru Labor Day, contact the caverns for fall, winter and spring hours) Many theories have been made about how the caverns were formed. Evidence suggests that the hollowing out of the mountain began when ground water flowed through cracks in the limestone; minerals and organic matter carried in the water dissolved the softer parts of the limestone, which slowly opened up the two caverns within the mountain.

The most common formations that you will find in the caverns are stalactites (hang from the ceiling) and stalagmites (grow up from the ground). Calcium carbonate is deposited in the cracks and voids, slowly, the accumulation creates the formations. These formations take hundreds of years to form and make extraordinary shapes, sizes and colors!

The caverns were discovered by a Baird Fish Hatchery employee named J.A. Richardson on November 3, 1978. Richardson wrote is name and date in with carbide from his miner’s lamp on the wall of the cavern; which is still clearly legible on the wall today.

While visiting the caverns, be sure to also check out the Sandy Creek Mining Sluice. Popular with young children (of all ages!) Sift for gems, fossils and other treasures in the caverns authentic rustic sluice box. Or if rock climbing and cave exploring is more to your liking, try out the Rock Box. Climbers get a chance to test their skills and to experience cave exploring in a safe environment. The Rock Box features a 6 foot climbing wall, climbing tunnel, climbing rock and tree house carved out of oak!

Bailey Cove Hiking Trail

If hiking is on your agenda for the day, the first trail that you will “boat upon” is the Bailey Cove Trail.  Approximately 2.8 miles this scenic hike begins at the Bailey Cove Public Boat Ramp and ends at the Baily Cove Picnic Area. This little hike is a great way to get a good hike in, but not go very far! The trail circles what was once a mountain before the lake was made! It offers an interesting opportunity to see how exposure to the sun affects the different sides of a mountain. The climate differences are very apparent in this short hike. The south facing side of the trail is primarily manzanita and knob cone pine trees and the north side of the trail is pines, oaks and thick groves of Douglas Fir. (Tip: hike in a counter-clockwise direction, this will send you through the hot sunny south side first, finishing up on the cooler north side). This is a moderately easy scenic hike, nearly flat and uncrowded. Some parts of the trail can be narrow and “cliffy” especially in times of low water levels. Pets welcome, but must be on a leash at all times. Keep an eye out for Osprey, they are known for making their nests in the Bailey Cove area. A little less interesting, but just as important is poison oak, watch for this little bugger as well!

Greens Creek Hiking Trail

Got die hard hikers in your group, then the McCloud Arm has just the trail for you! The Greens Creek Trail is 5.85 miles and yields spectacular views and beautiful terrain. Beginning at Greens Creek Campground. (Accessible by boat only, West side of the Arm) and ending in the Squaw Creek Arm just south of Bear Cove. This trail climbs steeply from the Greens Creek Campground to the ridge above at 1,230 feet. At the top of the ridge, the trail passes through fantastic limestone formations that separate the McCloud and Squaw Creek Arms of the lake. From the top of the ridge, the trail descends back to the shoreline just below Bear Cove in the Squaw Creek Arm. This is an excellent spring and autumn hike! Awesome views of the surrounding countryside and Shasta Lake. During the summer months, this hike can be very hot and dry. Whichever time of the year summer you hike this trail, remember to bring plenty of water!

Greens Creek Boat-In Campground

The Greens Creek Boat-In Campground is one of the prettier campgrounds on the lake. This campground is perfect for your families “base camp” of adventures on the lake, especially if you are out for hiking! Set at the foot of spectacular limestone formations; campsites are in a well shaded area and provide excellent opportunities to see some of the lakes wildlife. The campground offers 9 boat-in only sites with picnic tables, bear lockers and fire grills. “Outhouse” type toilets are available, but no drinking water is available so you will need to bring your own water. Garbage must be packed out, please try to take a little more out then what you brought in Pets on a leash are permitted. There is no fee for camping.

Hirz Bay Hiking Trail

If a little lighter hiking is more your speed then give the Hirz Bay Trail a try. Located on the East side of the McCloud Arm at the Hirz Bay amphitheater. This trail is approximately 1.6 miles and is for hikers only. It begins at Hirz Bay and ends at Dekkas Rock Campground. If you have people in your group that are not into hiking, have them meet you at the Dekkas Campground picnic area and enjoy lunch together!

Hike to Samwel Cave

Traveling further up the McCloud Arm; located about two miles south of the McCloud Bridge, across from Ellery Creek and Pine Point, at Point McCloud is the trail head to Samwel Cave. Created 200 million to 300 million years ago during the Permian Age. The Wintu Indians in the area believed that the spirits of grizzly bears lived in the cave. The Indian name for the cave was “Sa-Wal” or “Grizzly Bear Cave” they revered the cave as a holy place. The Wintu’s believed that the pools of water located deep inside the cave had magical powers of strength. They would pray to the spirits of the Grizzly Bear for strength and bravery before each hunt or fight. The name has since been changed to “Samwel” a Wintu word for Holy Place. A legend surrounding the Samwel Cave says that:

“A long time ago, three Indian girls went to an old woman and asked her where they could find good, strong men. She told them to go to the cave and bathe in the pool. There they would find brave men. And so, the three maidens went to the cave, but in the darkness, one of them fell to her death.”

Because of this legend, the cave was also known the "Cave of the Lost Maiden." In the early 1900’s a team of anthropologists from the University of California Berkley actually found a skeleton of a young Indian girl at the bottom of the pit, giving credence to the old legend. Along with the remains of the Indian girl, Ice Age fossils were also found 70 feet down in Furlong’s Room at the bottom of the pit. The specimens and the quality of preservation of the remains excavated from the cave are surpassed only by those from the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles.

A one mile trail leads up to Samwel Cave from Point McCloud. The only room accessible by the public is the first room; Putnam Hall. The rest of the cave has been gated off because of the danger of falling to the bottom of the deep pit inside the cave. Spelunkers can explore the inner reaches of the cave by obtaining a special permit issued by the Shasta Lake Visitor Center.

Ellery Creek Campground

Finally reaching the end of the McCloud Arm you will find Ellery Creek Campground. Before the lake was made, several small ranches were located along the upper McCloud River. The Ellery Ranch was one of those ranches; it was located just below where the Ellery Creek Campground currently is and extended up as far as the McCloud Bridge Campground. Fruit trees, berries and sweet peas, found in the McCloud Bridge Campground, are a reminder of the valley's agricultural past.

Ski Island Boat in Only Campground

Between the McCloud Arm and the Squaw Arm, East of Silverthorn Resort, you will find Ski Island. This is a fabulous place to set up camp and then spend your days boating, fishing and exploring! This 3 acre island has 23 “boat in” campground sites, each with a picnic table and fire grill. “Outhouse” type toilets are available on site, however there is no drinking water, so you will need to bring in your own water. There is no fee for camping at this campground. Easily accessible from Silverthorn Resort, rent a fishing boat or patio boat for the night or the weekend and enjoy the lake from this little out of the way boat in only campground! Fishing around Ski Island is typically pretty good; so throw a line in and catch some dinner!

Fishing

Some of the best “shore fishing” on the lake is located near the McCloud River Bridge. In the summer trout are the fish biting and in the fall, German Brown trout migrate through this section of the lake. In the spring, small spotted bass will bite your bait! Anywhere along the trail between Hirz Bay and Dekkas Rock Campground and the trails between Baily Cove and Packers Bay will get some good bites as well. You will have a good chance of catching Bass anywhere there is a heavy abundance of water flowing into the lake. For shoreline fishing we would recommend using Texas Rig Rubber Worms. If you are fishing in the willow trees, it is recommended to use white rubber worms. Trolling in the fall or spring the best lure to use is the “Dives II to 10 feet” about 15-20 feet down.

Squaw Creek Arm

Squaw Creek begins its journey on Mount Shasta. The headwaters emerge from the mountain in a series of large natural springs at Squaw Meadows (sometimes referred to as South Gate Meadows). The clear waters race down Mount Shasta and settle to a winding flow through Squaw Valley, which gives the creek its name.

Squaw Creek Arm with its many fingers and coves makes it a popular arm for house boaters. For the first several miles up the arm the shoreline is flatter than anywhere else on the lake, making it especially convenient for staking a houseboat or staking a tent. There are several undeveloped campsites sporadically placed along the shoreline.

The Squaw Arm in also home to several different types of wildlife. Boaters are likely to see Eagles, osprey, otters, and occasionally you may be able to catch a glimpse of a bear or Rocky Mountain Elk! Some shorelines have been closed to protect critical habitats and wildlife, if you see a shoreline that is closed, please be respectful and stay out of the closed area.

The mouth of the Squaw Arm is where the Greens Creek Trail ends (or begins, depending on where you start! See the McCloud Arm for the Greens Creek Trail description)

Bully Hill Mine

Just past the Greens Creek Trail and Bear Cove is the trail head for the Bully Hill Mine. In 1853 gold was discovered on the Squaw Creek, a year later a settlement was established as a silver and copper mining town. Originally called Chuse Bully by local Indians meaning “brushy hill,” later the name was changed to Bully Hill by the white man because of a controversy over the spelling of the word “Chuse.” Another theory for the name is that it was named after Bolli Holans, a Wintu chief. In 1901 The Bully Hill Copper Mining & Smelter Company built a giant smelter on the banks of the Squaw Creek that processed 150 tons of ore daily. (Smelting is the process in which an ore, usually mixed with purifying and / or heat generating substances such as limestone, is heated at high temperature in an enclosed furnace. After a reducing reaction, lighter ore-components, impurities called slag or tailing, rise to the top and float on the molten metal.) The smelter was enlarged to a 400 ton daily capacity in 1907, as a result it could then produce flat copper ingots 2ft square and 2” thick. (An ingot is a mass of metal, such as a bar or block that is cast in a standard shape for convenient storage or shipment.) In addition to processing ore from the Bully Hill Mine, copper ore was transported by an aerial tramway 8.5 miles long from the Afterthought Mine in Ingot to the Bully Hill smelter on the Squaw Creek! Due to decreasing copper supply and litigation over the poisonous fumes and smoke from the smelter, it was closed in 1910. The mine continued to operate off and on until 1927. Explorations of the mine were conducted again from 1951-1956, it was determined that nothing of value could be excavated so it was allowed to fill with water when the lake was made. Most equipment was removed; however there are still many interesting ruins of the Bully Hill Mine left to be explored. Old rustic gates mark the entrance to the mine where you can still find a stone hydroelectric powerhouse, a winery, old cars, houses, hard milling stones brought over from Sweden surrounding the crushing area of the plant, the blast furnace foundations; easily identified by their fire brick linings and piles of burnt slag, various parts of the smelter plant and miscellaneous fruit trees remain. The Bully Hill Mine was one of five local mines located in the area before the dam was completed.

Fishing

Fishing near Monday Flat and North Fork Creek typically yield substantial catches. If you are trolling you may want to consider using spinners and spoons, silver black minnow, gold/red or nickel/blue trolling spoons, rapalas, cripplures and blue/silver shad imitation. Trolling in the Fall or Spring the best lure to use is the “Dives II to 10 feet” about 15-20 feet down. Bass Fishermen have had good luck with plastic worms and live bait. Other baits used on the lake have been power bait, minnows, nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, or a salmon egg marshmallow combination. A good place to catch Catfish is Second Creek at Monday Flat, throw a chunk of meat on the hook and wait for them to chomp! If you are fishing in the willow trees, it is recommended to use white rubber worms. For shoreline fishing we would recommend using Texas Rig Rubber Worms.

Pit River Arm

The Pit River is the largest river in Northern California. The North Fork of the Pit starts at Goose Lake and the South Fork starts high in the Warner Mountains. The two forks converge near Alturas California and continue as one cutting through basalt canyons and mountain valleys; ending its journey by empting into Lake Shasta. The Pit River is one of only 3 rivers that cross the Cascade Mountain Range; Bald Eagle, Osprey, and sportsmen all fish together in the finest bass habitat on the lake. Historians say the river gets its name from the Atsuegewi Indians and the Ajumawi Indians who would dig large pits as traps to catch wild game that came to the river for water.

Clikapudi Trail Hiking Trail

As you come out of the Silverthorn Resort Marina, turn to your right and head east, and another sharp turn to your right heading south will start you down the Upper Pit River Arm. The first marina you will come to is Jones Valley Marina, home to the Clikapudi Trial. This trail is approximately 8 miles long and will take you about 2 hours to hike. The trail gets its’ name from the Wintu word “Klukupuda” which means “to kill” referring to a local battle between Wintu Indians and local traders in the 1800’s. One of the most popular trails on Lake Shasta, it is great for mountain biking, horseback riding, running and hiking. The Clikapudi Trail is accessible from 3 trailheads, one at the foot bridge at Jones Valley Campground, also at the Jones Valley Boat Ramp parking lot and halfway between where the trail crosses forest road 33N03. This trail is comprised of breath taking views of Lake Shasta, colorful wildflowers and various wildlife. Please keep in mind that this is a long trail, bring with you plenty of water and be mindful of the time of day that you start the hike. Summer temperatures can be very treacherous and there is no drinking water along the trail, the best times to hike are in the morning hours or the evening. The Clikapudi Trail will take you through a forest of mixed conifer, black oaks and several small meadows.

Although the Pit Arm is considered “the outback of Shasta Lake” because there are no services past the Jones Valley Inlet, it is still popular with houseboaters because of its numerous coves and inlets along its forested shoreline that provide many secluded campsites. It is not uncommon for boaters to see eagles, osprey, otters, deer and bear when traveling this arm of the lake. If fishing is what you are looking for, the Pit Arm is considered by many to have the best bass fishing on the lake.

Arbuckle Flat Boat-In Campground

Looking for a secluded camp site far away from the hustle and bustle of the lake? Arbuckle Flat Campground is your spot! Approximately 5 miles up the Pit Arm from the Jones Valley Inlet, this little campground is set far back on the right side of the arm (south side) in a deep cove in the oaks above the shoreline. The only price you will pay for this gem of a campground is packing your gear up the hill to the camp sites. Surrounded by oak trees, you will find 11 camp sites complete with picnic tables and fire grills. “Outhouse” type toilets are available, however there is no drinking water. Garbage is “pack in, pack out.”

The Upper part of the Pit Arm was never cleared of trees prior to the completion of Shasta Dam. The clearing crews were just getting to this section of the lake when World War II broke out and many of the men on the clearing crews left to join the war. As a result, many dead snags remain in the water and on the shoreline. During times of low lake levels, these snags can be a hazard to boaters, or they can be a welcome site to the fishermen as the fish like to gather around the snags feeding off the moss that develops on the trees.

Once you pass Arbuckle Flat, waterskiing is prohibited due to the channel becoming much narrower and the amount of dead snags in the water; this makes for a great area to “cruise” your boat and take in the beauty of the Upper Pit Arm. The glaciers that came through many thousands of years ago left behind spectacular steep canyon walls that line the narrow channel of this upper part of the arm. At Bear Creek, on the south shore about 3 ½ miles above Stein Creek Campground, a short hike leads you to a double waterfall known as Bear Creek Falls. Potem Falls, a larger waterfall, can be found on Potem Creek near Fenders Flat. This fall can be reached by trail from the lake but only when the lake level is at or around 15-25 feet from the top, or it can be reached from Fenders Ferry Road.

Fishing

The Pit River Arm is considered by many fishermen to be the best bass fishing on the Lake. Fishing for bass in and among the trees is your best bet. Every spring the Plankton run in the Pit Arm, this is the only arm of the lake that you can find them. You are sure to catch a large amount of fat trout feasting on the plankton “boiling” in the water. (It looks like the water is boiling with plankton) Most sportsmen use golden Humdingers and Cripplers when fishing this part of the lake.