Just six miles west of Redding is Old Shasta State Historical Park. Shasta City, the “Queen City” of California’s northern mining district, once stood on this site. The discovery of gold near Shasta in 1849 brought California Gold Rush-era Forty-Niners up the Siskiyou Trail in search of riches. Most passed through Shasta and continued to use it as base of operations. In 1850 the town was the center of Northern California. Temporary camps, tents and shacks turned into permanent residences. It became a “town”, with hotels, stores, saloons and a center of commerce.
The area declined as the freight and stagecoach business moved away, and in the 1880s the Central Pacific Railroad bypassed Shasta in favor of nearby Redding. The principal merchants moved to new locations and the county seat itself moved to Redding. The town soon became abandoned, and even some of the bricks found themselves part of buildings in the Redding area. The remains of the brick buildings are maintained by the state of California as a state historical park.
The town was destroyed by fire twice. An insurance company from San Francisco offered lower rates if the buildings were re-built with brick and if iron door and window covers were installed. Coincidental, the insurance company owned a company that made iron door and window covers.
The Courthouse Museum is a restored building that served as the Shasta County Courthouse for three decades in the late 1800s. Today, the building houses the visitor center and information desk along with exhibits depicting the history of Shasta.
Below is a picture from the early years of the town. The museum pictured above is shown in the middle of the picture, with a hotel to it’s left. Nothing remains of the hotel.
In the basement of the museum is the old town jail. Two of the four cells have been restored for viewing. Stepping on a mat outside one of those cells starts a hologram of a fictional prisoner of the jail named Jake.
Jake presents himself as a thief and, using humor, describes how criminals were dealt with in the town. He tells how the miners and merchants were working too hard to have much time to deal with criminals, so justice was swift and painful. Behind the museum is a re-creation of one of the tools of justice. The gallows was used with murderers and horse thieves.
About two miles west of Old Shasta is Whiskeytown Lake. The lake is a reservoir owned by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and, like many reservoirs in the area, is designed to provide flood control, electrical power, and irrigation water for agriculture in the Sacramento Valley.
What is interesting about this lake is the series of buoys across the lake you see in the picture above. These buoys are not designed to keep boaters away from swimmers, they are to keep water away from water – specifically warm water from cold water. The buoys are attached to a rubber curtain that drops one hundred feet below the water surface. A smaller curtain anchored to the upper end of the lake forces the cold incoming water toward the bottom of the lake. Working together they trap the lake’s sun-warmed surface water, preventing it from mixing with the deeper cold water. The cold water flows below the curtain as it exits into the Sacramento River. All this is done to save the Chinook salmon spawning waters in the river. Chinook eggs require water below fifty-six degrees to survive and the cool waters from the reservoir make a difference in the temperature of water in the river.
Smoke from area fires was quite thick in the air today and there was a noticeable odor of fire. Mixed with the one hundred degree temperature, it made for very poor air quality. But the largest fire is almost under control and they are predicting lower temperatures (mid-nineties is lower?) for today so improved air quality is predicted.
Ours next visit is to the second largest dam in the U.S. More on that later . . .