Trip Report: McCloud Lake

by Shasta Cascade on September 8, 2009

img_0570aLast weekend we headed out to McCloud Lake (also known as McCloud Reservoir to locals) in hopes of finding blackberries for a pie.

The lake is located about 10 miles south of the town of McCloud on Squaw Valley Road. We didn’t find many berries, but we did rediscover an area we hadn’t visited in a couple years.

McCloud Lake is currently in the news because the dam license is up for renewal. The section of river below the dam is considered a world-class trout fishing area, so the licensing process has attracted quite a bit of local attention.

When we stopped at the dam, we could see that the flow gates were closed. The entire river flow below the dam was supplied by a bypass pipe, which shot water 30-40 feet into the air down below, and could be heard from quite a distance away.

I was surprised to read later that there is another pipe from the dam that diverts water into the Iron Canyon Reservoir, about 20 miles away to the southeast. With water on the Lower McCloud river so scarce, it seemed odd that water would be diverted miles away into the Pit River drainage. I later learned that the river level has been kept low for so long that any return to natural levels would cause havoc downstream. Hence the need for a pipe to carry away water that the river wouldn’t be able to handle.

Continuing around the dam, we took a right at a fork in the road and entered the Ash Camp campground. The campground is nestled at the bottom of a canyon next to the river, where Hawkins Creek flows into the McCloud River. The campground is a very relaxing place, and only one spot out of the available four was not taken. The campground is free, and has pit toilets, and visitors supply their own water. A camper with Washington state license plates was reading a book while enjoying a crackling fire.

The best thing about this area is that it makes for a great base camp to explore the lower McCloud area. If Ash Camp is full, visitors can stay at nearby Ah-di-na campground. Either location makes for a great jump-off point to visit the McCloud River Preserve, owned by the Nature Conservancy.

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