Shasta Lake facts, statistics and data (2024)

Shasta's 'Lakes'

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE - Shasta Lake, keystone of the Central Valley Project, is the largest man-made reservoir in California. When full, its 365 mile shoreline exceeds that of San Francisco Bay. Shasta is the second largest and tallest concrete dam in the United States. It was constructed between 1935 and 1945, and the lake was filled in 1948.

The construction of Shasta Dam impounded three major north state rivers: The Pit, McCloud, and Sacramento. Referred to as arms, each one retains its own character, environment, history and recreation opportunities.

People who have never been to Shasta Lake may get the impression they are seeing several lakes as they pass by on Interstate 5. In a way, there really are more lakes than one.

The rugged country, ragged shoreline, and sheer size of Shasta Lake tends to break the lake into different areas, each with its own opportunities, moods, and settings.

For more information or help, the Shasta Lake Information Center is in Mountain Gate, telephone (530) 275-1589.

Lakehead Area

The Lakehead Area, with its fast pace and easy access off Interstate 5, offers a wide variety of services and recreation pursuits. It is convenient for those planning a short visit or an extended stay. It is located near a community which has many services.

From the Antlers Boat Ramp or a number of marinas, skiing, houseboating and fishing are easily accessible on the Sacramento Arm of the lake.

Forest Service and commercial campgrounds are available, or there are resort cabins for rent. At Lakehead you can choose between a campfire supper, full course meal, pizza or burgers for dinner.

For a vacation full of variety and action, the Lakehead Area is a good choice.

Salt Creek Area

Salt Creek is easily accessible from Interstate 5 and wonderfully suited to the overnighter, boater or fisherman. Yet, it is not as active an area as Lakehead.

Camping facilities range from a commercial recreation vehicle park to the Forest Service drive-in or the more secluded walk-in camps.

The Salt Creek Area is also the gateway to the Gilman Road Area and the McCloud Arm of the lake.

Gilman Road Area

The Gilman Road exit off Interstate 5 provides access to the McCloud Arm of the lake and a world removed from the noise and hurry of the freeway. The Forest Service campgrounds here can best be described in one word - relaxed.

The area boasts 5 family camps, several group camps, the Dekkas Rock day-use lake access and picnic areas and launching at the Hirz Bay public ramp. The gradual shoreline below most campgrounds makes moorage convenient. Complete boating services are available at the marinas in the O'Brien area to the south. Boating, hiking, fishing, hunting and even spelunking are popular activities in this area.

Sold on the McCloud Arm ---If so, here are two words of caution --- supplies and bears. The store at Salt Creek is the last chance for services. Beyond lies "bear country." Keep food in secure containers inside vehicles: clean tables thoroughly after meals; use garbage containers; and do not feed or tease the bears.

O'Brien Area

The O'Brien Area is at the hub of the lake and provides central access to all arms. Though rural in nature, the area offers a wide variety of opportunities. Each marina and campground appears isolated amidst the thick oak and pine forests and the steep, rugged country.

The O'Brien Area is a sharp contrast to the Lakehead Area. Although both offer similar facilities and recreation choices, each is a unique outdoor experience. At O'Brien, there are resort/marinas, a public campground, launch ramps and the Lake Shasta Caverns tours.

Jones Valley Area

East of Jones Valley, on the Pit Arm, lies much of Shasta Lake's subtle beauty. Bald Eagle, Osprey, and sportsmen all fish together in the finest bass habitat on the lake. Here also, boaters discover wildlife, challenging skiing, and solitude in its long, meandering coves.

Forest Service facilities include: the Jones Valley Campgrounds, Jones Inlet beach camping area, Rocky Ridge Group Camp and the Jones Valley public boat ramp. The two resort marinas have complete services. Additional stores, gas, restaurants, and taverns can be found nearby along Bear Mountain Road.

Whether exploring, escaping, or improving skiing techniques, the Jones Valley Area is a good place to begin the adventure or end the day.

Shasta Dam Area

Directly behind Shasta Dam is a wide basin formed by the confluence of the Sacramento and Pit Rivers. Spectacular views of Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen backdrop the steep shores and islands in this area.

Although there are no overnight facilities near the dam, lodging is available in the nearby communities. Boats may be launched at Centimudi Ramp, and services are available at several nearby resorts.

WHERE TO GO? - IT DEPENDS ON WHAT YOU WANT TO DO . . .

There are literally hundreds of coves and bays within the 365-mile shoreline of Shasta Lake. Wooded flats, steep, rocky hillsides, secluded creeks, an occasional waterfall, and thousands of acres of mountainous country surround the lake.

A broad spectrum of facilities, ranging from primitive to luxurious, supports the many, varied recreational opportunities offered. At the upper end of the scale, there are 11 marinas and a number of resorts; most offer rental cabins, motel-type accommodations, or trailer parks with hookups and showers.

For the more independent visitor, the Forest Service manages 22 campgrounds. These vary from vehicular campgrounds, which will accommodate trailers up to 30' (no hookups), to walk-in camps; group camps which will accommodate up to 120 people; and a special feature at Shasta Lake, boat-in campgrounds. Most campgrounds have piped water. Some have flush toilets, but the majority have pit or vault-type facilities.

Shasta Lake is one of the few in California where visitors can camp along the shore. Some areas are "restricted", such as a Bald Eagle or Osprey nesting site, but even so there are several hundred miles where shoreline camping is permitted.

To assure that the privilege of camping along the shoreline is not lost, help keep the area clean. Pack it in, pack it out. Please dispose of trash at the boat ramps, and do not leave it at the floating toilets.

A campfire permit is required for building campfires or using gas or charcoal stoves (such as hibachis) along the shoreline. This permit is free and may be obtained from any Forest Service office.

Deciding where to go and what to do at Shasta Lake can be a bewildering and frustrating experience for a newcomer. The following information is intended to serve as a guide to help you get around. More detailed information and brochures are available at the Shasta Lake Information Center, and, during the summer, from Campground Hosts at many of the National Forest Campgrounds.

SWIMMING

Shasta Lake has no developed swimming areas. However, some of the resorts do have pools. Many people swim from the shore near their campgrounds or from boats. During the summer, the water is comfortably warm; but visitors are urged to avoid areas with heavy boat traffic. Swimming is prohibited at boat ramps.

HIKING

The trails at Jones Valley, Packers Bay, Bailey Cove, Shasta Dam and Hirz Bay provide moderate hiking and good access to shoreline, fishing, oak woodlands and occasional secluded creeks or vistas. Since the summer days are often hot and dry, be sure to carry water. Better still, hike trails when the weather is cool. Hiking trails are generally open all year.

LODGING

Motel accommodations are available in the Lakehead area and at Bridge Bay. Cabin accommodations are available at many resorts and marinas.

TRAILER CAMPS

Hookups are available only at commercially operated campgrounds and resorts. Many Forest Service campgrounds will accommodate small trailers. Large trailers, 22-30 feet, are not advised in the Bailey Cove, Jones Valley, Lakeshore East or McCloud Bridge Campgrounds due to narrow parking spurs.

TENT CAMPS

Shasta Lake offers both conventional and walk-in camps. Walk-in campgrounds provide a central parking area, but equipment must be carried a short distance to the campsite. The Jones Valley and Lakehead areas are popular with skiers, as are some of the camps on Gilman Road. Fishermen often prefer the quiet waters of the McCloud, off Gilman Road, or the back country areas of the Squaw and Pit near Jones Valley.

BOAT ACCESS CAMPS

Four campgrounds on Shasta Lake are accessible only by boat. These camps have tables, stoves and toilet facilities (pit or vault). Situated in the more remote areas of the lake, these camps offer a unique camping experience away from headlights and traffic.

PICNICKING

Picnic facilities are available at Fisherman's Point, near Shasta Dam; Bailey Cove; and Dekkas Rock. Each has tables, stoves, and restrooms.

BOAT LAUNCHING

The Forest Service maintains six public ramps, with parking areas, which provide access to most areas around the lake. Bailey Cove, Centimudi, and Jones Valley Ramps are often congested on summer weekends. Packers Bay, Antlers and Hirz Bay are recommended alternatives during periods of heavy use. Low water ramps are located at Jones Valley and Centimudi. Additional launching facilities are available at the marinas.

WATERSKIING

Popular everywhere on the lake, the Sacramento Arm and Jones Valley areas are particularly favored. The water is generally calm and ideally suited to this sport. Skiing can be hazardous in the Pit Arm where snags and floating debris have not been removed. Waterskiing is prohibited in some of the smaller coves and bays; these areas are posted by buoys.

FISHING

Everyone has a favorite "hole". The Jones Valley area provides the best access to the Pit and Squaw Arms - considered by many to provide the best overall fishing. Other popular spots are located where the major rivers and streams empty into the lake, such as McCloud Bridge, on the McCloud, and Riverview (Lakehead) on the Sacramento Arm.

THINGS TO SEE AND DO AROUND THE LAKE

Shasta Lake is one of the dominant features in Northern California. Visitors can see the lake from Antlers Bridge, O'Brien Rest Area, and the Pit River Bridge on Interstate 5. The three Shastas - Shasta Dam, Shasta Lake, and Mt. Shasta - can be seen from the Shasta Dam Vista Point.

Operated by the United States Bureau of Reclamation, Shasta Dam provides a variety of services including irrigation, power, and flood control.

Shasta Caverns began forming over 250 million years ago in the massive limestone of the Grey Rocks visible from Interstate 5. The caverns, located off the Shasta Caverns/O'Brien exit, are privately owned and tours are offered year-round.

Explore the natural and human history of Shasta Lake by taking a self-guided nature trail. The Hirz Bay Nature Trail is located in the Hirz Bay Campground, and the Samwel Cave Trail is located one mile south of the McCloud Bridge Campground.

AREAS OF HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

Interesting historical sites can be found throughout the area. For instance, a trail blazed up the Sacramento River by Michael LaFramboise in 1834 later became the Oregon Trail. It was used extensively by traders, trappers, and gold seekers before being improved to a stage road. In 1872, the Central Pacific Railroad followed the same route as far north as Dunsmuir.

Shasta Lake facts, statistics and data (2024)

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