In the mid-1800’s, the town of Shasta sitting just 6 miles west of Redding, California was the largest town in Shasta County. The mining community was a bustling settlement of Forty-Niners looking for their shot at the millions of dollars in Gold Rush riches from the 1850’s to 1880’s. At its peak, 3,500 residents shared a blacksmith shop, general store and courthouse near what is now the beautiful waters of Whiskeytown Lake.
Today, the ruins of the once vibrant Gold Rush town remain in “Old Shasta,” with restorations allowing visitors to take a walk through Northern California history in what was once called the “Queen City” of California’s northern mining district.
The grounds of Shasta today are incorporated in the Shasta State Historic Park, which include a courthouse museum, 19th-century brick ruins, a post office, a church, a cemetery and the historic bakery. Walking through this site will give you a unique glimpse into the past of Northern California, and you can enjoy it during a brief afternoon or immerse yourself in its history for an entire day.
The first stop on any tour of “Old Shasta” is its museum, which sits in the town’s old courthouse and includes numerous exhibits and artwork from the 1800’s. The main attraction is the courthouse, which was restored to its 1961 appearance when it tried the thieves and murderers of the old west. You can take a look at the small jailhouse, which famously housed author Joaquin Miller, as depicted in his novel Life Among the Modocs.
Although the museum is the main attraction, the most visually stimulating part of Shasta is its old brick ruins, which you can walk around to get a glimpse of the historic architecture of the 19th century. The picturesque ruins have walkways with plaques to give you the historical relevance of each building.
The Shasta State Historic Park also includes a working bakery, which has been restored to give weekend visitors a glimpse into baking 1870’s style in the faithfully recreated brick oven. Shorty’s Eatery offers sandwiches and deserts for anyone visiting the area, as well as some Filipino favorites added onto the menu by the new owner.
Old Shasta also has some trails that will fill your day enjoying the outdoors and taking in some history. You can hike the trails and roads that give hints of past occupants with cottage ruins, gardens and orchards. Or you can spook yourself with the historic cemetery trail, which will lead visitors to the Catholic Cemetery, where many of the prominent citizens of Shasta are buried.
The history of Northern California is vibrant, telling the story of how the Gold Rush shaped our country and brought settlers to the West Coast. Those people developed much of the cities and towns we live in today. Much of that history is illustrated in Old Shasta, giving a glimpse into the lives of the first to settle in NorCal. Any trip to Redding deserves an educational visit to this beautiful ghost town.