National Parks Are Free Starting Saturday


Free. Gratis. No charge. On the house. You’ll hear something along those lines when you roll up to the entrance at Lassen Volcanic National Park anytime from this Saturday, April 17, through Sunday, April 25.

It’s National Park Week, and admission to all parks is free. Whiskeytown National Recreation Area , which is operated by the Park Service, is included in this most excellent deal.

National parks waive admission for a day from time to time, such as on National Public Lands Day (September 25) and Veterans Day. But Lassen Park Superintendent Darlene Koontz said she cannot remember all 392 units of the national park system waiving fees for an entire week, or, in this case, a nine-day period.

Clearly, the Park Service is trying to continue the momentum provided by the Ken Burns documentary that aired a few months back on public television.

Asked whether she thought hordes would descend on Lassen, Koontz said, “It just depends on the weather. If it’s nice out, and it’s fee-free, we’ll see more visitors.”

Lassen is still a winter wonderland, with many feet of snow on the ground. Crews had cleared the highway from the north entrance as far as Dersch Meadows, a little beyond the Devastated Area. Then it snowed some more. As of right now, you may drive only as far as the Loomis Ranger station. From the south, you’re not driving past the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center.

To make the best of it, park rangers will lead snowshoe hikes from the visitor center (at the Southwest park entrance, off Highway 36) on April 17, 18, 24 and 25. The hikes start at 1:30 each day and the Park Service provides snowshoes. Get there early because the hikes fill, recommended Koontz, who said winter conditions do not deter people.

“It amazes me how many people come on the weekend. We have so many people who come out with snowshoes or cross-country skis,” she said. “We have the extreme skiers. Families come with sleds and play in the snow.”

On Earth Day, April 22, the Park Service will have climate change presentations at the visitor center. April 24 is National Junior Ranger Day, and participants may earn junior ranger patches by completing activities at the visitor center.

The folks at Whiskeytown have coincided their annual Waterfall Week to coincide with the free park admission period – and their timing could not have been better. With all of the precipitation we’ve had lately, the big waterfalls at Whiskeytown are absolutely roaring right now, and many smaller, seasonal falls hidden all over the park are also at peak flow.

Read up on the Whiskeytown offerings here. When you’re done with that, look for me in the backcountry.


• It’s probably no accident that next week is also “National TV-Turnoff Week.” The target audience is children, who, according to the experts, spend an average of four hours a day watching the idiot machine (and who knows how many additional hours staring at other video screens). Shasta Lake School is among the local institutions encouraging kids to hit the “off” button and get outside for some physical activity. Maybe Mom and Dad could taken ’em to Lassen or Whiskeytown. I hear you can get in for free. And kids, you’re not going to miss a darn thing on television.

• Caltrans promises to have the Sundial Bridge Drive overpass, from Park Marina Drive to the convention center, entirely open for the enormous Kool April Nites car show on Saturday. Caltrans added a lane in each direction on the overpass, which I swear used to be called Auditorium Drive. (I guess Sundial Bridge is the real draw these days, isn’t it?) Here’s hoping the widened road helps ease the legendary Kool April Nites congestion.

• The dead peach tree that my wife and I planted about six years ago (the tree had life then) suggests at least one of us should attend the fruit tree planting workshop scheduled for next Thursday, April 22, at Shasta College. Well-known local arborist Rico Montenegro will lead the free session, set for 9 a.m. for the farmland adjacent to the soccer field. Reserve your spot by calling the college’s Horticulture Department at 242-2210.

shigley-mugshotPaul Shigley is senior editor of California Planning & Development Report and a frequent contributor to Planning magazine. His favorite waterfall at Whiskeytown is Boulder Creek Falls. He lives in Centerville. Paul Shigley may be reached at

Paul Shigley

has been a professional journalist since 1987. For 12 years, he served as editor or senior editor of California Planning & Development Report, a statewide trade publication for land use planners, real estate development professionals and attorneys. Prior to that, he worked as a reporter or editor at newspapers in Redding, Grass Valley, Napa and Calistoga. Shigley's work also has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Planning magazine, Governing magazine, California Law Week, National Speed Sport News and elsewhere. In addition, he is co-author of Guide to California Planning, a college text and reference book, and is currently working on a book for the American Planning Association about the Bay Delta and California water resources. A graduate of California State University, Sacramento, Shigley has contributed to A News Cafe since 2009. He and his wife, Dana, live in western Shasta County.