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Bureau of Land Management

Sacramento River Trail and Sacramento Rail Trail, California

See the City of Redding page for more on the Sacramento River Trail

arrow See A Shared Vision, Spanning Decades: The Redding Area’s Trail System

The trail follows an abandoned railroad line and brings visitors to Shasta Dam.

From the Bureau of Land Management

Map of northern California Following the course of Keswick Reservoir and an old rail line, the Sacramento Rail Trail will soon connect Redding to Shasta Dam. The 9-mile long trail is nearly flat and is open year-round to ho rseback riders, hikers, joggers, and bicyclists. The trail surface is composed of gravel and dirt. On June 1, 2002, the Sacramento Rail Trail and Sacramento River Trail were designated as a National Recreation Trail in the National Trail System.

One-half mile north of Motion Creek sits a prominent, 500-foot long railroad tunnel. It was excavated with the construction of the railroad in the 1800s, and reinforced with concrete in 1923.

photo of trail in hills
The Sacramento Rail Trail

The tunnel curves slightly, and from one end the other opening cannot be seen. However, there is sufficient daylight to illuminate the entire passage for crossing. A tunnel bypass trail is also available on the east side of the tunnel.

Shasta Pacific Railroad

Years before the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, engineers from the Central Pacific railroad surveyed a route to unite the California and Oregon Pacific rail line.They discovered that the Sacramento River had carved a relatively gentle route to its headwaters, where many mountain ranges converge.


old photo of train along river
Southern Pacific Railroad in the Sacramento River Canyon

In 1872, construction stalled due to financial troubles. Nevertheless, it did not prevent the founding of a townsite which they named Redding after the railroad's land agent, B. B. Redding. The Central Pacific railroad, builder of the western portion of the transcontinental railroad, resumed work northward from Redding in 1883.

An estimated two thousand workers, all but about 200 of whom were Chinese, began carving the railroad out of the canyon walls with picks and shovels. Grading and construction of masonry culverts preceded the tracklaying. Skilled masons were brought from Europe to build the stone culverts and walls.

A reorganization of the railroad in 1885 transferred the operation of this route to Southern Pacific railroad. In 1887 the rails were united north from California and south from Oregon. By 1888, express trains ran between Portland and Oakland in 38 hours.

The course through the Sacramento River Canyon became known as the 1,300-mile Shasta Route and was touted in railroad literature as the "Road of a Thousand Wonders."

Coram and Other Mining Towns

old photo of smelter

The railroad brought ore to the smelters

With the opening of the railroad and new lands for development, numerous copper mines north of Redding were using the railroad to transport ore. Later the mines built the iron smelters to refine copper, and towns sprang up to support the workers' living necessities. In the early 1900s, Shasta County was the largest copper producing county in the nation. Copper ore from the Iron Mountain Mines was carried by a spur line to the Keswick Smelter along the mainline for shipment processing.

Farther north, a three-mile aerial tramway transported ore from the Balaklala Mine to Coram for processing. At Coram an entire village stood, complete with a large smelter, repair shops, offices, and residence. The town was abandoned around WWI when the smelter closed, partly due to lawsuits from farmers in the upper Sacramento Valley whose crops were being destroyed by the copper smelter fumes. Most traces of Coram have been removed. At Middle Creek a depot was built to serve the nearby town of Shasta. From the depot, stagecoaches carried passengers and mail to Shasta and on to Weaverville.

Photo of dam
Shasta Dam

Shasta Dam Construction

The Sacramento River Canyon remained the mainline of the Southern Pacific Shasta Route until the building of Shasta Dam. Construction of the dam began in 1938 and a new mainline was built to the east of the Canyon route. On May 23, 1942, the last through train traveled this part of the Sacramento River Canyon. The track between Redding and Shasta Dam was retained as a branch line while the rest of the old main line was inundated by Shasta Lake.

Rail to Trail Development

In 1949, the railroad was purchased by the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation. The branch line was officially abandoned in 1980. Rails, ties, signals, telegraph wires and poles were removed for salvage. By then many community members had a vision of a recreational link between the city of Redding and Shasta Dam. The vision came to reality with a partnership between Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, USDA Forest Service, California Dept. of Forestry, Shasta County, City of Redding, and the McConnell Foundation.

Trailheads are located at Iron Mountain Road (Rock Road junction), Keswick Boat Ramp, and near the OHV staging area west of Shasta Dam. Free parking is available at all trailheads. Off-highway vehicles share the trail between the gates at Matheson. Please take special precautions when traveling through this area. Motorized vehicles are prohibited beyond this section. For hunting opportunities near this area, please contact the BLM Redding Field Office. The only potable water source is located at the USFS Shasta campground near Shasta Dam. Restrooms are available at the Keswick Boat Ramp and the trailheads of Copley Mountain and Shasta Dam.

For more information: U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, 355 Hemsted Drive, Redding, CA 96002 - (530) 224-2100

See the City of Redding page for more on the Sacramento River Trail

The National Recreation Trails Program
American Trails, P.O. Box 491797, Redding, CA 96049-1797 (530) 547-2060 Fax: (530) 547-2035 nttp@americantrails.org www.AmericanTrails.org

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