Northern California is home to some of the most popular National Parks in America, with Yosemite National Park ranking high in annual visitation reports and the Redwood National Park among the top in bucket lists around the world. Over the years, the National Park Service (NPS) has added many destinations to their management roster, but they have only removed 26 areas. One of those areas is a popular lake right here in Northern California
The Shasta Lake Recreation Area was only part of the NPS for three years, making it one of the shortest stints among all the sites. In 1945, the NPS took control of the area, just as California’s Central Valley Project was being built along the Sacramento River. This project involved the construction of the manmade Shasta Lake, a reservoir, and Shasta Dam.
The curved concrete dam, located around 14 miles north of Redding, was a marvel of architecture at the time, taking over four years to construct. Once completed, the 602-foot spillway made it the second tallest dam in the US, after the Hoover Dam.
Today, the majority of the property is managed by the National Forest Service, which has divided it into the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, covering approximately 2.2 million acres, and the Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area, spanning 246,087 acres. However, one portion is still under the control of the NPS, the 42,000-acre Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, which was once a thriving gold mining town.
Although Whiskeytown’s historic buildings have been mostly submerged by flood waters from the Whiskeytown Dam, they can still be seen by keen-eyed scuba divers and snorkelers. All three areas are popular with boaters and hikers, and the wildlife is diverse, ranging from bald eagles and mountain lions to North American river otters and Western pond turtles.
Despite once being under the management of the NPS, Shasta Lake today is thriving with local businesses catering to the many recreation opportunities it creates. For some outdoor destinations, being a National Park is crucial. That just wasn’t the case for Shasta Lake.