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The wild McCloud River is easier to get to.

A river born of the snowmelt from Mount Shasta, the icy McCloud is tinted a cool turquoise by the volcanic silt of the surrounding countryside. Once wild and remote along its entire length, in 1945 the river was dammed on its lower portion to create Shasta Lake. In 1965 a second dam formed Lake McCloud on the upper river. But the 53-mile stretch between the two lakes remains clean and rugged. Interstate 5 puts you within easy reach of a Nature Conservancy preserve and new access points on the river. If you'll be in the Mount Shasta-Lassen area this summer, consider a day trip to the river. It's also a pleasant overnight detour for travelers about halfway between Portland and San Francisco.

Hiking, fishing, wildlife-watching

In the early 1900s, private fishing clubs own much of the riverfront here, and publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst bought 60,000 acres upriver as the site for his Wyntoon retreat (still in family hands, it's closed to the public). In 1973, the McCloud River Club donated 2,330 acres below Lake McCloud to The Nature Conservancy--and the McCloud River Preserve was born. It now consist of about 6 riverfront miles. California's state resources agency recommended against inclusion of the McCloud in the state's wild and scenic river system, but supported a bill--now law--that bars new dams and water projects on the river. A option of the McCloud is also being considered for protection under the federal river system. Hike about 1/2 mile into the preserve to find the conservancy caretaker's cabin, where you can sign in and pick up a brochure for a 1-mile self-guided nature trail along the river. Beyond this trail, a path leads along the river through virgin stands of Douglas fir and incense cedar and into oak forests. Backtrack to return. Within the preserve, catch-and-release fishing for native rainbow and summer-migrating brown trout is permitted (license required) but limited to the use of artificial lures and flies with single, barbless hooks. Below Lake McCloud, the river is a state-designated wild trout stream. Fishing is best spring through fall. You can reserve ahead by calling (415) 777-0487; five spots are available daily on a drop-in basis (sign up at the cabin). Here you may also catch sight of abundant mule deer, a belted kingfisher, a small gray water ouzel, even an occasional river otter. Wear sturdy hiking boots and bring water and mosquito repellent. From Interstate 5, take State 89 east 10 miles to McCloud; take Squaw Valley Road south, following signs to the Ah-Di-Na campground (about half of the route is on dirt roads, which are well graded--but still watch for rocks). The trailhead is 1.2 miles beyond the campground.

The historic town of McCloud: supplies, three falls, a lumberjack fiesta

A thriving mill town in the 1890s, McCloud is a good stop for supplies (two small grocery stores), a meal, a look. The first mill opened here to work on the plentiful ponderosa pine and fir. Until the 1960s, the town was still literally owned by a lumber company. Drive the side streets spurring off Main and you'll notice distinct neighborhoods: the workers' small cottages (each identical in plan, each repainted every seven years by the company) contrast with the larger, varied managers' houses on the hill. The Main Street store, where workers once paid bills in company scrip, is now the Mercantile Building, with a general store, shops, and a cafe. Also in town, the beautifully restored McCloud Guest House (606 West Colombero), which once housed big lumber company guests, has five rooms ($65 to $85) and a fine restaurant; telephone (916) 964-3160. You might time your McCloud visit to catch the Lumberjack Fiesta on July 27, 28, and 29. From 9 to 4 each day, timbermen compete in contests such as jack-and-jill hand bucking (tree sawing), steeple races (tree climbing), and logrolling; admission is free. From town, you can reach the three waterfalls along the upper McCloud. Until recently, only one offered easy public access, signage, and parking. To get to the falls, take State 89 east about 6 miles and turn at the sign for Fowler's Campground; its 39 sites cost $7 per night on a first-come basis. About 1/2 mile up this dirt road, you'll find an intersection (it should soon be signed). Lower Falls--with parking lot, rest rooms, a viewing platform, and steps and ladder to the natural pool--is straight ahead; newly opened Middle and Upper Falls are to the left, though neither has a parking lot or any facilities (use caution when viewing; there are no barriers).
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Title Annotation:California
Date:May 1, 1990
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