Skip to comments.Relics exposed in Lake Shasta (Drought Reveals Lost Artifacts)
Posted on 10/06/2008 11:09:05 AM PDT by nickcarraway
Hwy. 99 bridges, train trestles, town ruins emerge as water level drops
There's more than just muddy flip-flops and busted lawn chairs emerging from the depths of Lake Shasta as the reservoir drops to its lowest levels in 16 years.
Old bridges, train trestles, tunnels and the foundations from towns long-drowned have begun to pop out of the lake's muddy depths.
One such relic from Shasta County's pre-lake past even has taken on a new life.
A bridge from Highway 99, the precursor to Interstate 5, was being used last week as a makeshift low-water boat ramp at Antlers Resort & Marina near Lakeshore Drive in Lakehead.
On Tuesday, Lavonne Coskinen of Garberville stood on the bridge, which once spanned the Sacramento River, with her three sisters waiting for a houseboat to arrive for the family's annual reunion trip.
She had no idea the half-submerged bridge under her feet was nearly 100 years old, and that once Model Ts rumbled back and forth across its deck.
"It's sad that the lake is so low," she said. "But it makes it interesting to find all the stuff that's come out of it, too."
Lake Shasta last week dropped to 150 feet below its high-water mark, putting it well on track to break the 155-foot mark set in 1992.
The lowest the lake ever dipped was in 1977, when the lake dropped to 230 feet below the high-water mark.
Although the low water has turned the ever-growing bathtub ring of the lake's shoreline into a muddy mess, local historian Chuck Hornbeck, a 78-year-old retired civil engineer, says those same low levels have brought out many relics from the pre-Shasta Dam era.
All one needs to find them is to know where to look.
The lake's Sacramento River arm is probably the best and easiest place to view many of the ruins.
Hornbeck said that's because both Highway 99 and the old Central Pacific Railroad once ran up the Sacramento River canyon.
And now that the lake's low, the transportation infrastructure that was flooded after the dam was finished in 1945 is back in the sunlight.
Parts of Highway 99, including the bridge Coskinen stood on, and another crossing at Salt Creek, just a mile or two to the east, have emerged from the depths.
The Salt Creek bridge at the end of Lower Salt Creek Road can still be driven across in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
The completed-date stamp of "1925" can be spotted on the bridge's base.
"What amazes me is the level of technology they had back then," said C.T. Carden of Mountain Gate as he looked up Tuesday at the Salt Creek bridge.
Relics from the old railroad have fared a little less well.
Central Pacific Railroad's Tunnel No. 6 is easily viewed in the muddy river bottom below Lakeshore Drive, but it's about half-filled with silt.
Hornbeck said at least one other railroad tunnel, No. 5, can be seen further down the road. And another tunnel, No. 4, might emerge if the lake drops enough.
Hornbeck said that in 1977, a friend once piloted a boat through No. 4 when the lake dropped to its lowest-ever recorded level.
"We went out the next week and the lake had dropped 30 feet, so you couldn't do that anymore," he said.
But probably the most easy-to-spot railroad relic is half of a metal trestle near Tunnel No. 5 which began to emerge last month near the Beehive Camping area off Lakeshore Drive.
The half-submerged trestle rests on its side, looking from above like a discarded child's building block.
"They never scrapped it out," Hornbeck said. "Remember, it was wartime and they didn't have the manpower to do anything."
But one relic of the manpower used to build the dam has become especially visible this year.
More than 50 feet of the head tower once used to move buckets of concrete in the construction of Shasta Dam has risen from lake's surface.
The head tower was partially dismantled after the dam was built and reappears when the lake drops 90 feet below the high-water line.
The skeleton can be viewed from the Shasta Dam visitors' center.
The head tower was built near the town of Kennett, a copper-smelting town that boomed in the early 1900s with some 10,000 residents living there in its heyday.
But Hornbeck said that even when the lake dropped to its lowest levels in 1977, the town didn't become visible.
That's because Kennett was flooded with more than 400 feet of water when the dam was raised.
But the remains of another mining town is visible to boaters on the lake's Squaw Creek arm.
Low water has exposed the remnants of the town of Delamar, a 6,000-person, copper-smelting settlement, near the Bully Hill mine.
Hornbeck said tailings from the mine and crockery have been exposed on the ridge where the town once stood.
But even in high-water years, the foundations of Bully Hill Mine's blast furnace and smelter are above the waterline and parts of the town can be viewed near the Monday Flat camping area, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
enjoyed the post....nice break from the politics....
This formed Shasta Lake with Shasta Dam's face over 600 feet high.
During building, California's decision to go ahead with this project was validated when the Great Flood of 1940 occured in the spring.
When Mountain Lake in Virginia went dry this year, they found a skeleton from the 1920’s.
Well those folks must have gone through a period of global warming.
“The completed-date stamp of “1925” can be spotted on the bridge’s base.
“What amazes me is the level of technology they had back then,” said C.T. Carden of Mountain Gate as he looked up Tuesday at the Salt Creek bridge.””
What’s so amazing about that? Heck, four years later everybody had TVs.
Well, having driven down I-5 many times in that area, it always seemed to me that the lake was low. I rarely ever saw it up to where it was supposed to be. I always saw those rings “around the bathtub”... LOL.
It’s too bad I’m not in the area at the present time (not in Oregon) or this might make an interesting trip and I might get some interesting pictures.
PING...maybe your socks are here.
Neat! Something similar happened with the Amistad Reservoir in Texas back in the 90’s, iirc. When the dam was built, they told the residents that it might take five years for the reservoir to fill. Instead, they had massive rains almost immediately, and everyone had to scram with nothing but their clothes and toothbrushes.
I’m from Redding.
‘77 was amazing as far as the things you could find in the lake.
Outboard motors, fishing gear, boats, cars it was a treasure trove of stuff.
You could catch big sturgeon and other fish trapped in pools left high and dry by the falling water level.
Climatologists said it would take a decade to fill the lake back up. It did it in less than a month in the El Nino winter of ‘77-’78.
Thanks nick. I remember reading about a similar level loss some years ago, wow, 1992? No ping, just an add.
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