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Sunken Road, Whiskeytown Lake


Duration: Day Trip, 2-4 hours

Distance: 0.7 miles, 0ft elevation gain

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Region: Shasta County, CA

Nearby Cities: Redding

Traffic: Moderate-High

Day Use/Parking Pass: Day Use or Annual Park Pass Required

Dogs Allowed: Yes

Restrictions: Dogs must be leashed on trails

Many locals know the history of Whiskeytown Lake Reservoir. Parallel to countless other mountainous areas of Northern California, a small boomtown was erected in the 1840s following the discovery of gold in ‘dem hills, and faded just as quickly following the exhaust of local resources and human spirit. Construction of the dam on the southwest side of the canyon began in 1960 and between then and its dedication by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, buildings and residents were moved out of the area or to higher ground. Anything left behind was flooded and lost beneath the waves not unlike the fabled City of Atlantis. Although most of the ruins were demolished or have been taken over by the underwater elements, some remnants can be seen by scuba divers who take the plunge into the murky freshwater depths, reaching over a hundred feet deep in some places. A piece of this history, however, is accessible to those who possess even the most limited watercraft.

Southeast of Oak Bottom Marina (point your nose toward New York Gulch) at 40°38’34.2″N 122°34’42.5″W is the remnant of Hwy 299 that runs on the north side of the lake. Just a foot below the water level at the end of summer, the pavement and even some slimy yellow and white lines are visible beneath the silt that has settled on top of the asphalt.

Just a healthy paddle from the marina (if you’re looking for a good workout via kayak) and accessible by boat, this hidden gem is a corridor for visitors and wildlife alike.

For residents as well as tourists this is a unique stop during on-water activities and is a marvel for children to behold. Although we didn’t take Cookie along for this trip I’m sure she would have loved to splash around on the pavement beside our boats, and it would certainly mean more stability during her usual mounting and dismounting of my kayak. The narrow passageway that signifies the former byway is bordered by groves of fresh blackberries ripe for the picking. I gathered enough while paddling around to make a double cobbler. If you haven’t picked blackberries via kayak, I highly recommend it! We found immense outcroppings growing on the edges of the lake that are only accessible via boat, and given that they’re away from greedy fingers and close to fresh water and direct sunlight, it’s no surprise these are the best berries on the lake.

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