Tag Archives: California

exploration quikie: Salt creek bridge

One of the usually submerged historic highway bridges in Shasta Lake

The Salt Creek Bridge was built on the Pacific Highway in 1925 between what is now Lakehead and Redding. This bridge apparently replaced one built some years earlier, as the older abutments are visible underneath the newer structure. It was later abandoned in 1941, as US Route 99 (the former Pacific Highway) was rerouted in anticipation of Shasta Lake inundating the older route (as happened in 1948).

In dryer or drought years, the Salt Creek Bridge is one of the first submerged artifacts to make its appearance as the lake level falls. It is easily accessible from the Salt Creek exit on Interstate 5. Take Lower Salt Creek Road west for about 3 miles at which point you will come to the bridge underneath the towering Union Pacific railroad trestle.

My visit to the site got a little more interesting, as I ran into a gentleman making casts of footprints in the muddy bank of creek upstream of the bridge. He believed them to be evidence of Bigfoot-like creatures. I have to say the footprint and casting of others he had made in the area didn’t look quite human. He proceeded to show me dozens of pictures of like footprints he had found at numerous sites, as well as other weird things that apparently Bigfoot hunters believe are evidence of the mythical creature actually existing. I came away from the conversation thinking I might have to make my forays into the area forests with a new viewpoint.

The Salt Creek Bridge underneath the towering Union Pacific railroad trestle. This is looking south, as the Salt Creek Bridge is oriented east-to-west.
The south side of the bridge.
Looking west down the old highway grade. The shadow is from the trestle above.
Looking east.
Another south side view.
Date stamp on the Salt Creek Bridge.
Another south side view looking east. Notice the flared ends of the railing.
Flared railing at the ends.
Footing from a previous bridge on this spot, probably built when the US 99 predecessor Pacific Highway was built. The previous bridge would have probably been only 15 feet wide.
The underside looking towards the east end. The previous bridge footing can be seen in the center.
Since the 1925 bridge was higher than its predecessor, the road approachmentds had to raised. This is the reinforcement of the east approach.
Evidence of Bigfoot?

All in all, the bridge is in great condition. This is likely due to being submerged in the cold waters of Shasta Lake most of the year. If you decide to drive across the span, beware of the approaches, as there are gaps between the bridge and the road.

Heading west along US 99 through the settlement of Salt Creek before the site was inundated by Shasta Lake. Some structures were move elsewhere before inundation.
Eastman, Jervie Henry. (1941). “Salt Creek Bridge” on Highway 99 near Redding, Calif. Retrieved April 2, 2021, from https://digital.ucdavis.edu/collection/eastman/D-051/B-1/B-1367

The Salt Creek Bridge on bridgehunter.com

EXPLORATION QUICKIE: abandoned southern pacific winters branch

Driving home from the Bay Area up Interstate 505 (the “Winters Cut-off), I jumped off the highway at the Midway Road exit just north of the Nut Tree Airport to look for remnants of the Southern Pacific Clear Lake/ Winters Branch along the modern interstate.

I vaguely remember seeing rail cars along the interstate’s predecessor 2 lane highway as our family travelled back and forth between the Bay Area and Siskiyou County in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I rediscovered the railroad branch while looking at old topographic maps of the area recently.

USGS 1953 Allendale, CA topographic map, photorevised 1973

The above topo map shows the railroad running between Hartley Road and the under construction Interstate 505. I explored the stretch between the two arrows, heading north from Midway Road to Allendale Road.

Google Maps of the same area
Looking south across Midway Road, from the northeastern corner of Midway Road and Hartley Road.

Starting from Midway and Hartley Roads, the railbed would have come through the middle of the warehouse shown in the above picture. (7 January 2021 update: It should be noted that a brand new warehouse has been constructed on the land in the above photo)

Looking north from the northeast corner of Midway and Hartley Roads at the path of the railbed.

Also at this corner is found a USGS benchmark with its associated witness post, monumented in 1904 (Solano County B 44, PID JS1521).

Along this stretch of the abandoned railbed, a number of small drainages are crossed. Below is one the the concrete culverts used to cross these.

Looking east from Hartley Road. Interstate 505 is in the background.
Top view, looking north.
East side of culvert.

At Hartley and Allendale Roads, we look back south in the next photo, the the raised railbed to the left in the image.

My quick exploration ends at Allendale Road. The next stretch of railbed is now private property across the road.

The railbed heads north towards Winters through the center of the photo.

REFERENCES

Vaca Valley and Clear Lake Railroad – Wikipedia

A Daytrip Around a Big Mountain

After a few weeks of self isolation, and the onset of great spring weather, my wife and I headed out for a day trip through eastern Siskiyou County, as well as parts of Shasta, Lassen, and Modoc counties, California, and Klamath County, Oregon.

This is sparsely inhabited country, consisting of national forest lands, large ranching and farming operations, small towns, and stunning volcanic, forested, and high desert vistas. This was mostly a scouting trip to plan future explorations. Some parts of this country I had never been to, and others it had been decades since I visited. 

We drove this loop counterclockwise, starting in Mount Shasta.

Inside the 300 mile round loop is found Mount Shasta; the Medicine Lake Highlands, including the massive Medicine Lake Volcano; the McCloud, Pit, and Fall rivers, which flow into the Sacramento and then the Pacific Ocean through the Golden Gate some 300+ miles south; Lava Beds National Monument; the Tule Lake and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuges; the remains of historic lumber, agricultural, and railroad operations; large cattle ranches; numerous alfalfa, hay, potato, garlic, onion, and horseradish farms; and Native American reservations and historic sites. The trip also skirts the Klamath River along the Oregon border.

This region on the eastern side of the Cascades is classic Basin and Range landscape, combined with the spectacular results of Cascade volcanism. 

We loaded on provisions for the day to minimize our contact with others. We drove counterclockwise from Mount Shasta on this loop. State Route 89 (Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway) going east takes you through the former lumber town of McCloud, then through federal and privately held forest lands for about an hour until reaching the junction of 89 and State Route 299 (Lassen State Highway). This portion of the drive treats one to an impressive view of Mount Shasta’s east side, as well as titillating turnoffs to a multitude of destinations (McCloud River and its falls; Pondosa ghost town; stretches of the abandoned McCloud Lumber Railroad (now a multi use trail); and Burney Falls and the nearby railroad bridge used in “Stand By Me”). 

As you approach the 89/299 junction, the forest gives way to views of grass covered valleys, flood basalts, and other volcanic structures, such as cinder cones and impressive secondary volcanic peaks in this eastern side of the Cascades, such as Burney Mountain (7864 feet). As you head east on 299 to the town of Fall River Mills, the highway climbs a volcanic ridge, with a spectacular canyon carved by the Pit River to the south. Here, one gets a view of Lassen Peak, as well as other prominent secondary volcanic peaks between Lassen and Mount Shasta. 

Forests give way to grass covered valleys as you near Burney, driving from McCloud.

It’s amazing how much water there is in these parts. Just north of Fall River Mills lays Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park, which is only accessible by boat. According to Wikipedia, “The park sits on “one of the nation’s largest systems of underwater springs.” They produce some 1.2 billion US gallons (4.5×109 l) of fresh water per day into the aboveground waterways. Water in the springs originate as snowmelt from the Medicine Lake Volcano highlands.”

A readout just outside of Fall River Mills reveals the volcanic structure of the area. Layered cinder cone deposits are covered by a newer lava flow.

The towns along this trip are for the most part shells of their former selves. With the mechanization of logging and farming operations, the closing of smaller milling operations, railroad mergers, and the shift towards more sustainable industries (i.e. tourism), these are settlements still looking for a purpose and relevance in today’s world. Fall River Mills has done better than most, with a golf resort, nearby hot springs, and retirement development. Other towns are struggling to repurpose themselves. 

We stopped to inspect a forest service campground and have lunch. Just a few miles north of Adin is the Lower Rush Creek forest service campground, only 3/4 of a mile off of combined State Route 299/139. It was a nice little campground with the creek running through it, but you drive past several manufactured home hovels to get to it. In fact, the campground is situated within 200 yards of one of these shacks. I’m not quite sure what a night would be like at this site, as it seems that several of the nearby properties house cannabis grow operations. There is another campground (Upper Rush Creek) farther up the road, but the road was not yet open for the season beyond this campground.

At Canby, we turned north on 139 towards Oregon, we finally popped into the southern end of the Klamath Lake Basin. We made our way into the Lava Beds at Petroglyph Point, containing one of the largest panels of Native American rock art in the United States. It was pretty awesome, but sad at the same time, as one also sees the the results of vandalism thrust upon such a significant cultural treasure. 

From here, Mount Shasta again dominates the landscape, with Mount McLoughlin in Oregon also visible to the north. By this time, it was getting late in the afternoon. We headed briefly to Merrill, Oregon, where we used the bathrooms at the local Dollar General, then headed west on California State Route 161. We stopped for a few moments to enjoy the golden hour at Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge, watching the birds at a gorgeous viewing platform. With hunger pains not too far from manifesting themselves, we headed home to Mount Shasta to grab some takeout before finally arriving home.

The Lower Klamath Wildlife Refuge, with Mount Shasta in the distance.

Historic Highways: Old US 99, Weed, CA

I spent an hour or so this afternoon exploring a small section of Edgewood Road going north out of Weed. This used to be US Route 99, before Interstate 5 was built and replaced Highway 99.  I concentrated my efforts on one curved section of the road, examining old wooden guard rails, and looking for “C-blocks”, which are old California Division of Highways survey monuments. I did not find any, but I’ll return and spend a little more time in the brush looking for any that might exist.

The general location of my efforts was 41.43049, -122.39933

1954 USGS 15 minute topographic map showing the US 99 alignment.

2010 USGS 7.5 minute topographic map showing the US 99 alignment next to Interstate 5.

Heading north into the curve. Broken wood guard rail is on the right.

Reflector bracket.

Railroad property line markers delineate the old highway right of way on east side. These should assist in locating any “C-blocks”.

The rail is actually comprised of three pieces of layered lumber.

Bolt head.

Retaining nut.

Guard rail at the north end of the curve (looking south).

Dog Creek Bridge

An accessible, historic, and photogenic bridge worth exploring

Trip dates: November 24 & 25, 2017

The Harlan D Miller Memorial Bridge, known also as the Dog Creek Bridge, is an abandoned concrete arch bridge completed in 1927 as part of US Route 99 just north of Lakehead, Shasta County, California. After Route 99 was replaced by Interstate 5, it carried traffic as part of Interstate 5 until a bridge to the northwest was expanded to accommodate both directions of traffic in 1974. It was abandoned and slated for demolition, until saved due to efforts of concerned citizens, and is now managed by the US Forest Service.

According to Bridgehunter.com,

Harlan D Miller (1880-1926) was the State Bridge Engineer for the California Highway Department from 1923 until his untimely death in 1926. During his short tenure as State Bridge Engineer he made radical changes to the way California designed bridges. These changes included requiring all highway bridges in the state be designed by the state and designing bridges that matched the geometry of the roadway. The latter often complicated design fork but the final result (skewed or curved bridges) justified the efforts in drivability.

Miller’s most visible effect on California bridges was the consideration given to design aesthetics. His designs were recognized in their own periods as possessing beauty and boldness. Many fine details can be seen on Miller designed bridges including rail and end post details, as well as clean lines and details of the superstructure design.

When my family relocated to the Bar Area in 1963, I remember driving across this bridge as we traveled to the Mount Shasta region to visit relatives several times per year. After the bridge was decommissioned, it had always been my desire to explore the now abandoned structure. I finally had a chance to do so this past week.

Looking west at the span. Photo taken from bridge that crosses the Sacramento River. A short railroad bridge is visible to the left which also spans Dog Creek.

Looking south down the bridge deck.

Looking south along the west side of the bridge. Notice the blue tiles in the deck wall pillars.

Curb details.

The view south looking down the Sacramento River.

Looking north up the Sacramento River.

At several places benched areas were provided for travelers to stop, enjoy the views, and rest a bit.

Stone retaining on the northern approach to the span.

Dog Creek.

Looking north. The Interstate 5 span can be seen near the center.

DIRECTIONS & ACCESS

Off Interstate 5, take the Vollmers/Delta exit. Proceed west about a quarter mile and turning left onto Fenders Ferry Road. Drive down along the Dog Creek watershed for about a mile, crossing the creek twice and underneath the I5 span until reaching the historic bridge. Park just before the railroad tracks, and climb up the east side of northern end of the bridge.

According to a couple of other websites, there is supposedly access at the northern end of the bridge from the top, at end of a private road where a Forest Service begins. I checked it out and I’m not comfortable at this time on recommending its use. The adjoining property owners have posted a lot of onerous signage, and have tried to unsuccessfully block the easement. I would be nervous parking my vehicle here. Check this post for updates, as I will attempt to get clarification from the Forest Service regarding use of this easement.

FURTHER READING

redding.com (Redding Searchlight newspaper website) article Travelin’ in Time: Dog Creek Bridge, a work of art, was almost demolished,  posted June 26, 2008

CalTrans Digital Collections, Historic Bridges and Tunnels: Dog Creek

 

Deadfall Lakes, Siskiyou County, CA

A string of lakes located in the Trinity Mountains
Trip date: August 11, 2017

The trailhead is 19 miles west of Weed on Forest Service Road 17/42N17.

One of several meadows that the trail passes through.

The Pacific Crest Trail crosses the Deadfall Lakes Trail just east of the lowermost lake.

Lake 7259 (it’s noted elevation on topo maps) is the largest lake of the 5 lakes.

The uppermost of the Deadfalls lake. Mount Eddy is the peak in the background.

Looking north across the uppermost Deadfall Lakes.

Wildflowers were abundant along the trail.

Yellow Butte, Siskiyou County, CA

Looking south to Mount Shasta from the Yellow Butte high point. The middle and south peaks of the ridge line can be seen in the center.

Trip date: May 4, 2017

Yellow Butte is a hill on the north side of US Highway 97 about 12 miles northeast of Weed. Unlike other nearby peaks which are some kind of volcanic feature (dome, cinder cone or shield volcano), Yellow Butte is an uplifted complex of intrusive igneous and metamorphic rocks. This makes for some interesting quartzite outcrops on the top of the hill, and the unexpected diorite pluton along the first third of this route I hiked today.

Yellow Butte is actually more of a ridge, with three distinct peaks, the northernmost being the highest.  The route I’ve seen described elsewhere is a 3 mile round trip starting inside a Forest Service gate alongside Highway 97 that traverses the west side of the hill. Because my available time was short, I chose a shorter route on the east side of the hill on Yellow Butte Road, a narrow, dusty two-track off of 97.  This route proceeds up to saddle area between the middle and north peaks. Truth be told, both routes to the peak are old two tracks themselves – in fact, one could drive to the summit in a 4WD high clearance vehicle. But, as I got near the top, I encountered a guy camping in a beat-up, 30 year old, 2WD, low clearance Chevy van at the top – so don’t I guess I don’t know what I’m talking about.

Summit area of Yellow Butte high point.

Quartzite outcrop atop Yellow Butte.

Looking west at Haystack (left) and cinder cone 3924 (right).

Thistle along the trail.

 

I could not locate a survey triangulation mark indicated on some older topo maps. Neither could I find a summit log, so I left a new one behind.

NOTES:

Trip time is about 25 to 30 minutes each way.

For an excellent discussion of the geology of the lower Shasta Valley, see a masters thesis by Joseph Holliday, “The bedrock geology of the southeastern Shasta Valley, Siskiyou County, California”

 

Haystack

No needles involved, just a great little hike
Trip date: April 21, 2017

Haystack is a volcanic feature rising above US Route 97 11 miles northeast of Weed. The peak offers wonderful views of Mount Shasta to the south,  the Trinity Mountains to the east, and the Mount Shasta Valley to the north. The trail is an overgrown 4WD trail to the top. Good parking is just off the highway inside a Forest Service gate. One walks about .4 mile before reaching the actual trail that starts the climb up the east flank of Haystack. The short climb takes a moderate effort to reach the top. The trail circles the rather flat, open top. Vegetation is typical high desert scrub with the scattered juniper tree. There is a high point marked with a cairn with a survey mark underneath and a summit log. The summit log revealed that Haystack is visited every few days by hikers. The distance from the parking area to the high point is about one mile.

Haystack as seen from US Route 97.
My hiking partner & daughter, Claudia, on the trail as it climbs the east flank of Haystack.
Old growth juniper dots Haystack.
Summit cairn with benchmark and summit log.
Panorama from east to west, with Mount Shasta to the south. The Whaleback is to the left of Mount Shasta, and Mount Eddy is to the right. Click on the photo for a larger view.
Mount Shasta as seen from Haystack.