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Dunsmuir: Best Water on Earth

Just 12 miles south of Mount Shasta, is one of northern California’s most pleasant and prettiest small towns … Dunsmuir. This old fashion rail town was founded in 1886. It has no stop lights, no parking meters, and no franchises. What Dunsmuir has instead, is a beautiful free running section of the Sacramento River  (the trout fishing is legendary) and water so pure it needs no further treatment.

The town is carved out in two tiers along the Sacramento River. The upper tier holds the center of town … dominated by the photogenic marquee of the California Theatre (still in business). Within a block of downtown there are small cottages set down from the street and an old stone church  that was built sometime back in the 1930’s.

The second tier is located downhill from the town center. Here Dunsmuir still retains the gritty look of a working railroad town. The huge turntable, machine shops, engine house, and rail yards built by the Central Pacific Railroad stretch almost the length of town. Although the importance of the railroad has dwindled since the last steam locomotives chugged through here in the 1950s, the rail yard still gets traffic.

Across from the rail yards are historic buildings, many of which have been converted to art galleries and restaurants. From the historic photographs we learned that President John F. Kennedy, when running for office, stopped at this small hamlet and spoke from the back of the train.

The highlight for us was a picnic at the Botanical gardens in Dunsmuir City Park. This 10 acre garden has trails and picnic areas adjacent to the Sacramento River. From our picnic table we marveled at how swiftly the Sacramento flowed and how it looked more like a mountain stream than the placid aqueduct we had become accustomed to seeing further south. While reading literature distributed by the local environmental watchdogs, we were reminded of the enormous environmental disaster that occurred here in 1991 ...  a rail accident dumped a tanker of pesticides into the Sacramento River killing all life for 50 miles downstream. Not to worry ... the river rebounded and the trout returned.

Another highlight was hiking down a small canyon to Hedge Creek Falls. Here water that originates from Mount Shasta falls into a small pool before draining into the Sacramento River. We didn't find solitude, but instead enjoyed the squeals of several children who where obviously enjoying the cold spray of the falls.

As expected … Mount Shasta is visible everywhere around town.


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