Suitable for: hiking, biking, horseback, no motorized vehicles. 1st half single track, 2nd half paved.
Amenities: drinking water and restrooms at Sacramento River Trail parking lot (end of loop)
Dogs: on leash
Distance: 2.5 mile loop
Elevation: (approximate): Low point– 560 ft., Highest Point—800 ft.
Best Attributes: views of reservoir, mountains
Hiking Time: 45-60 minutes
Biking Time: 20-40 minutes
The trailhead is at the west end of Keswick dam on Keswick Dam Road. There is a parking area across the road from the trailhead.
The name is a bit of a misnomer. While there are several access points to the water line, anglers seldom use this trail, generally preferring the shallower, faster water closer to the Shasta Dam discharge. But as if to question this judgement, other fishers—double crested cormorants—frequently perch atop the debris boom before the dam in the wintertime looking for prey.
The trail starts out at the west end of Keswick Dam where in the summer cliff swallows swoop and nest under pipes and concrete overhangs of the dam. The trail follows the water line for three quarters of a mile as it winds around several inlets through typical northern California riparian thicket: willow, Himalayan blackberry, toyon, oleander, poison oak, coffee berry and other brushy plants. Keep your eyes out for “brushy” birds: kinglets, golden crowned sparrows, bushtits, titmice, towhees and others that flit in the dense foliage.
On the side of the trail in the first half mile are stretches of concrete and stone edging or terracing. A trailside rusty cable suggests past mining activity and it is tempting to think that these artifacts mark a riverside trail in mining days–until one realizes that the water line was 100 feet lower before the dam was built in 1950. The actual explanation is that the now-defunct Young Adult Conservation Corps built the trail in about 1980 and probably added the stonework as an embellishment. The trail is now maintained by the BLM.
At about 1 mile, the trail divides. One leg skirts the shoreline; the other begins to climb. The two legs rejoin in several hundred yards and ascend from the shoreline toward the west. In just a few hundred feet increase in elevation, the vegetation changes from riparian to chaparral, with manzanita, toyon, buck brush, and blue oaks predominating.
At about 1.25 miles, after ascending about 150 feet, the Fishermen’s Trail intersects the paved Lower Sacramento Rail Trail. Proceeding left back toward the dam, note the increasing frequency of invasive trees of heaven (ailanthus altissima). These unwanted imports from China are nastily robust and fecund, to the detriment of native tree species.
A couple hundred yards further the trail crests at about 800 feet and heads downhill. Shortly past the water tower a short paved road leads to two roofed picnic pavilions, a good place to sit and admire the river. A sign at the intersection marks the top of “Heart Rate Hill” with suggestions how to monitor the cardiac fitness of those athletic souls hiking or riding uphill.
The trail descends to the parking lot at Keswick Dam Road. Be careful hiking the road back to the dam parking area as the shoulders are narrow to non-existent.
This “Best-of” article was originally published December 9, 2016.
The Trails and Bikeways Council of Greater Redding is a non-profit organization that advocates, plans, builds and maintains trails, bikeways and open spaces in the region.