Take a Hike on the Historical Crystal Creek Water Ditch


The Crystal Creek Water Ditch- particularly the Whiskeytown area – is a great trail for history buffs.

To get there, take Highway 299 west to the Whiskeytown Visitor Center. First, stop at the visitor center and enjoy the view, snap some pictures of the beautiful lake and browse the center for a few minutes.

Continue west on 299 for about 8.5 miles. Turn left on Crystal Creek Road and go over the bridge. Keep your eyes on the left. The trail head is about one-tenth of a mile further.

As you begin this 1-mile trek, you will be hiking downhill for a bit. There are two switchbacks that make the drop of about 35 feet quite easy.

When you get to the second switch back, you will find the Clean-out House. This jewel lends itself to examining, photo-taking and exploration, especially if you have young ones. Take advantage of this great piece of history and the teaching opportunity.

In 1913, Charles Camden’s daughter had the clean-out house installed. Its purpose was to remove pinecones, leaves and debris from the water. In the photo, you can see the water-powered rotary rake and the amazing gears and levers that made this marvel work. This prevented the debris from going on down under Highway 299 to the Camden house about a half mile away.

Once you are done examining the clean-out house, continue on the trail along the water ditch. Let the beauty envelop you as you walk through a forest of Ponderosa pines, blue and black oaks, ferns, and deep green moss. Listen for the soothing sound of water of Crystal Creek.

If you look closely, there are some signs of old stone retaining walls along the left edge of the trail. Originally the retaining walls were built from logs and in several places you can still see the old wood.

Not much further from the wood/stone retaining walls, the hillside becomes too steep for a ditch. There you will walk across a 400-foot trestle that supports the flume and a 2-foot wide pedestrian boardwalk. From the flume, you will be able to view the beautiful flowing Crystal Creek.

After crossing the flume, about a quarter-mile further, you will come to a tunnel, and then the very intriguing concrete sluice intake dam. The float at the end controls the flow and diverts excess water back into Crystal Creek.

There is a lot of history on this trail. Take lots of pictures and enjoy yourself! It’s not strenuous in the least, and since it is less than a mile each way, you can take your time and explore all there is.

Be extra cautious if you go in the winter months as ice builds up on the flume, as it can become slippery and dangerous, especially for little ones.

Renae Tolbert lives in Redding, where she enjoys the outdoors and wildlife photography. Her Creator’s Touch prints and greeting cards of local wildlife and scenery can be purchased at Enjoy the Store on Placer Street in downtown Redding. She’s been published in Cup of Comfort for Christian Women, Guideposts Heavenly Company anthology, and Birds and Blooms magazine. You can view some of her local photography at www.creatorstouchcards.com

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