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Once upon a time, there was copper mining in the Shasta Dam area north of Redding. In the early 1900s, trains provided services to the copper mining town of Coram and others. Well before Shasta Dam existed, the train tracks followed the west side of the Sacramento River. The track at that time passed through the river canyon where the dam spillway and visitor elevator tower are now located. A paved trail has since replaced the old tracks and is called the Sacramento River Rail Trail, and is part of the Sacramento River Trail system.
Drive across Shasta Dam and go down the hillside. Beyond the campground is parking on your left. Your adventure starts there at the Shasta Dam Trailhead going south.
Walking down the rail-trail as an adult could have you feeling like a kid again. Engage your imagination. In the freedom of nature, you might feel the wooden beams of the old tracks beneath you. Imagine walking along with your dog, and in the distance you can hear a train approaching. You might even feel the train tracks vibrate under your feet.
About a mile and a half into the trail, you’ll come to an old train tunnel that passes through a curved section of the mountainside. The tunnel is really cool. I mean, the tunnel really is, actually, nice and cool. Acoustics in the darkened tunnel are loud and all encompassing. I like to yell, “I love you, Bodie.” And my dog Bodie seems to respond with pleasure. Chamise Peak can be seen in my photo from the tunnel entrance. And I added an older Halloween photo of my dog Toby at the tunnel.
River access from the trail is difficult as the train tracks were high above the river to avoid flooding. However, less than a mile from the trailhead, is a rocky, dirt trail to the left of a white sign. It’s steep, so be careful.
The white sign is just before a line of Ponderosa pines. There, to the right of the trail, you’ll see another dirt trail. Go down that rocky, narrow trail, carefully, and an oasis of beauty opens up along Cottonwood Creek.
Your time of leisure on the trail will take you through tranquil scenery that once upon a time was bustling with mining, smelter activity and a whistling train bringing supplies to the hard-working, rough-and-tumble people of Coram, and other mining towns.
The Coram smelter, among others, destroyed all vegetation for miles around. You wouldn’t know it today. It’s absolutely gorgeous along the river, which is now a vacation spot. My how times change.
Don’t forget your camera.