And Just Like That, Shasta Lake’s Historic Train Tunnel is Underwater Once Again

The summer and fall on Shasta Lake was a somewhat depressing time. The lake’s water dropped to extremely low levels as locals and visitors alike struggled to deal with the ongoing drought in Northern California. One silver lining during the drought was seeing the historic artifacts typically sitting underwater on the lake, giving people the chance to look at the regions history up close – including the historic train tunnel which became fully unearthed in the latter part of the year.

When the Sacramento River was flooded with the building of the Shasta Dam in 1945, water covered the town of Kennett and put nearby highways and railroads underwater. One of those flooded relics was the Shasta Railroad Train Tunnel, which was built in 1884 and was used until it was covered in water 60 years later.

You may recall how kayakers were able to complete a unique paddle through the train tunnel in August. It became a viral sensation and a unique adventure on the water:

Fast forward to October, where the Shasta Railroad Train Tunnel was fully exposed on the lake:

With the historic rain and snow that fell on Northern California in December, it didn’t take long for the train tunnel to once again retreat to its underwater home. Photos taken by April Collier and posted to Facebook by the Sugarloaf Cottages Resort show the progression of the train tunnel going underwater from mid-December to mid-January. Here are the photos:

Photo: April Collier/Sugarloaf Cottages Resort
Photo: April Collier/Sugarloaf Cottages Resort
Photo: April Collier/Sugarloaf Cottages Resort
Photo: April Collier/Sugarloaf Cottages Resort

The train tunnel has provided us with a silver lining in an otherwise catastrophic drought is a glimpse into the past of NorCal. The town of Kennett peaked in the early 1900’s, with an estimated population of 10,000. The town was a frequent stop for travelers and a crucial hub along the railroad, with numerous stores, saloons, a hotel and a schoolhouse.

Located along the Sacramento River, the Kennett area was the perfect location to build a dam and in 1935, the government forced the people out of the town with the construction of the Shasta Dam. Most people sold their land to the government willingly, while some waited until the waters began to rise before abandoning their homes. Kennett was completely submerged by 1944, one year before the completion of the dam.

It’s certainly sad to see the train tunnel leave us once again, but obviously fantastic news that the lake levels are rising at an astounding rate. You just have to hope that we’ll never see it again.

Active NorCal

Telling the Stories of Northern California

9 Comments

  1. I was there in September of 1977. Not only was the trestle exposed, so were the 20-foot high concrete bridge stations. As I stood in the ‘very low’ Sacramento River, the trestle was 20 feet over my head! Lake level was 225 feet down.

  2. Does anyone have information about all of the railroad tunnels and the location of all the railroad tunnels under lake Shasta.

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