History & Culture

Whether you're walking in the footsteps of Native Americans or exploring the remnants of Northern California's pioneers, the mountains of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest offer fascinating glimpses into the past.

We invite you to explore the highlighted areas listed below or you can also visit area museums, such as the Jake Jackson Memorial Museum in Weaverville, the Mt. Shasta Sisson Museum, or the Shasta Lake Heritage & Historical Society Visitor Center or Wintu Tribal Cultural Museum in the City of Shasta Lake.

The First People

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest area is one of the most culturally complex regions in California encompassing a varied and rich Native American cultural heritage. Cultural resources distributed throughout the forest, range from archaeological remains of past life ways to sacred sites utilized by contemporary Native American peoples. The forest works with eleven federally recognized tribes include the Redding Rancheria, Resighini Rancheria, Pit River Tribe, Hoopa Valley Tribe, The Klamath Tribes, Quartz Valley Indian Reservation, Round Valley Reservation, Yurok Tribe, the Karuk Tribe, Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians, and Moduc Nation of Oklahoma; and with eight non-federally recognized tribes include Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Tsnungwe Tribe, Nor-Rel-Muk Wintu Nation, Wintu Tribe of Northern California and Toyon-Wintu Center, Wintu of Hayfork, The Moduc Nation, The Shasta Nation Inc., and Shasta Indian Nation. 

The federal government’s unique relationship with each and every Indian tribe is embodied in the U.S. Constitution, Indian treaties, court decisions, federal statutes, and executive orders. This relationship is deeply rooted in history, dating back to the earliest contact between colonial and tribal governments. As the colonial powers did, the United States acknowledges federally recognized Indian tribes as sovereign nations; thus, federal government interaction with federally recognized Indian tribes takes place on a “government-to-government” basis.

Public lands across the United States hold an extraordinary record of the past. Rock shelters, cliff dwellings, pithouse villages, pueblos, incredible rock art, and the remains of historic homesteads, historic mines, logging railroads, and ghost towns are but a few of the wonders that await your discovery. The remains of prehistoric and historic cultures are a part of our heritage. When artifacts are stolen and archaeological sites are destroyed, we lose important clues about the past, forever.

All Native American artifacts are protected and must not be removed from where they are found. Laws protect these historic and prehistoric artifacts from removal.  

Strict laws protect artifacts and sites on state and Federal and Native American lands. Report violations to your local law enforcement or land management agency.


Shasta-Trinity National Forest is the largest National Forest in California and was established by President Theodore Roosevelt’s proclamation of 1905. Initially, there were two forests; the Trinity National Forest (headquartered in Weaverville) and the Shasta National Forest (headquartered in Mt. Shasta City). The two forests were combined into one in 1954. We welcome you to visit the historic headquarter buildings in Weaverville and Mt. Shasta where our employees still work and front desk employees can provide information and maps for the area. Our office locations are listed on this website.

Mount Shasta at 14,179 feet is the highest peak on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, second highest peak in the Cascades, and fifth highest in the state. It has an estimated volume of 85 cubic miles, which makes it the most voluminous volcano in the Cascade Range. It is connected to its satellite cone of Shastina, and dominates the landscape, rising nearly 10,000 feet above its surroundings. On a clear winter day, the mountain can be seen from the floor of the Central Valley over 100 miles to the south. This magnificent mountain has been a focal point of history, science, art, literature and mythology of the region. Long before settlers arrived, Mount Shasta was a important place in the lives and mythologies of Native Americans. Then in the early 1800's, it guided explorers, fur trappers, gold seekers and settlers traveling trails to California and Oregon. The mountain has attracted the attention of poets, authors and presidents.  Find out more about Mt. Shasta on this website.

  • "...At last the water went down... Then the animal people came down from the top of Mount Shasta and made new homes for themselves. They scattered everywhere and became the ancestors of all the animal peoples of the earth." ~ Native American Flood Legend

  • "When I first caught sight of it (Mount Shasta) over the braided folds of the Sacramento Valley, I was fifty miles away and afoot, alone and weary. Yet all my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since." ~ John Muir, 1874

  • "I consider the evening twilight on Mount Shasta one of the grandest sights I have ever witnessed." ~ Theodore Roosevelt, 1908

Shasta Lake is the largest reservoir in the state and the area around the lake (and now underwater) has a fascinating history. Read more about Shasta Dam, old mines, and towns beneath the surface of the Shasta Lake here.

Medicine Lake Highlands is the largest identified volcano (in total area) within California, and is one of the most unique geologic features in North America. Because this subrange of the Cascades is somewhat remote, the fascinating nature of this area is largely unappreciated. There are obsidian flows in the Highlands area, some of which are over 1,000 acres in size. Native Americans used this material to make arrowheads and spearpoints. Many archaeological sites have been identified, and some artifacts indicate that the Highlands have been inhabited for at least 4,500 years. As a reminder, these archaeological resources are protected. The remains of prehistoric and historic cultures are a part of our heritage. When artifacts are stolen and archaeological sites are destroyed, we lose important clues about the past, forever. Strict laws protect artifacts and sites on state and Federal and Native American lands. Report violations to your local law enforcement or land management agency. Find out more about the Medicine Lake Highlands area here.

McCloud River “Of all fair rivers I have known, no fairer waters than thine own” - Wintu poet Alfred Gillis, 1924 The Native People of the McCloud River depended upon the river’s bounty for survival. The Winnemem (McCloud River) Wintu Tribe lived, fished and hunted around Lower Falls. Norel-putis, a Wintu Elder, speaks of a village site here with ten houses and a chief from the Pit River Tribe. The Village people were Winnemem Wintu, Pit River and Shasta. The Winnemem Wintu name for Lower Falls is Nurunwitipom (falls where the salmon turn back). The river offered water, protection and food for the Winnemem Wintu. They thrived on the rich supply of salmon and other fish. In 1874, a traveler reported... “a party of six Indians on McCloud’s Fork, speared over 500 salmon in one night!” The Winnemem Wintu also enjoyed acorns, pine nuts, wild onions, wild plums, chokecherries, mushrooms, elderberries, currants, watercress and wild tubers. Present day Winnemem Wintu people are still very connected to the River. “It is our life blood that flows from the mountain down to the people below”... Mark Franco, Headman, Winnemem Wintu Tribe. Find out more about the McCloud River area here.

South Fork of the Trinity River's first visitors were Native Americans who lived, hunted and fished here. The river and surrounding mountains were rich with wild game, salmon crowded the river and oak forests offered a bountiful harvest of acorns. In these surroundings they developed a deep and fascinating heritage. Except for intertribal warfare, they remained relatively undisturbed for centuries. Read more about the South Fork area here.

Castle Crags - For thousands of years, Wintu Indians living around the base of Castle Crags regarded this formation with awe and superstition, rarely if ever venturing up into its heights. Early European fur traders and explorers who camped at the mineral springs at its base along what was then known as the Destruction River (Sacramento River) knew it as the Devil’s Castle. During the Gold Rush relations between the miners and Wintu Indians strained to the breaking point resulting in what was called the 1855 Battle of Castle Crags. The primary location of this battle was at the very northwest end of the Crags between what is now known as Battle Rock and Castle Lake. It was the completion of the Stage Road and Southern Pacific Railroad though that really opened up this country. Mining and lumbering flourished and tourists began to flock to the resorts that sprang up around the highly mineralized springs. Chromium mines operated in one part of the Crags until the 1950s. The resorts were popular destination points until the advent of the automobile. Little remains of the mining and resort business and most of the mines have been swallowed up by the reemerging wilderness. A few historic buildings dating from the resort era can still be found in the Castella area. In 1933, concerned citizens who wanted to see Castle Crags preserved, succeeded in acquiring much of the land that became Castle Crags State Park. Castle Crags Wilderness was set aside in 1984 and is administered by the US Forest Service. Read more about the Castle Crags area here.

New River Backcountry - After the discovery of gold along the Trinity River in 1848, prospectors and miners came from far and wide. By 1851, placer mining operations were spreading rapidly up into the New River drainage. Mining settlements, such as Hoboken, Francis, Lake City, and Quimby, were established and occupied, first by Anglo-Americans and Europeans, and soon after by the Chinese. While placer mining subsided during the 1870s, lode, or hardrock, prospecting activities slowly increased, particularly in the higher elevation areas near Salmon Summit Divide. By the 1880s major lode gold deposits had been discovered, causing a second gold rush. During this period, several thriving mining towns sprang up along with support industries. Settlements like White Rock City (Coeur), Marysville, and New River City (now called Old Denny) became major centers of mining and commerce in the New River country. By 1920, with most of the major mines worked out, the last of these towns, Old Denny, was abandoned. Lack of access was a major impediment to early settlers. The remoteness and ruggedness of the area was largely responsible for the naming of the New River. Up until the mid 1800s, the main trails totally avoided the rugged and treacherous terrain around what is now called the Burnt Ranch Gorge. Early explorers, miners, and settlers did not find the mouth of the New River until sometime after much of the surrounding area had been discovered. The search for gold along the Trinity River eventually led to the discovery of this “new” river, and it has retained its name ever since. Until 1923, the only access within the entire lower Trinity River drainage was by trail. All supplies and mail had to be hauled in by pack trains. The operation of pack trains and other support industries, including farming, grew during the period of greatest mining activity. Though mining was on the decline, by the end of 1932 a road had been constructed as far as Denny (formerly called Quimby). Since then, private property owners and mining claimants have engaged in small farming and placer mining activities. Read more about the New River area here.

Ah-Di-Na Campground - The McCloud River Wintu said they called the area “Piuti Witomas." According to local lore the site's name is derived from the first two initials of the first names of the three daughters of one of the previous owners. It is pronounced Uhdeenuh. On word, soft 'A' hard 'E'. The name Ah-Di-Na first appears on a 1936 Shasta National Forest map when the Hearst's owned the property. Many tribes claimed Ah-Di-Na as part of their tribal territory. These include the McCloud River Wintu, the Okwanuchu and the Pit River Tribe. Further archaeological research is needed to study the surface and subsurface remains of this settlement. Read more about the Ah-Di-Na area on this page.

Bowerman Barn, built in 1878 by Jacob Bowerman, stands today as an outstanding example of a late 19th century hand-crafted structure. The barn (along with 155 acres of land surrounding it) was acquired by the Forest Service in 1974, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It is significant for its historic association with the growth and development of local commerce and agriculture. Few other barns remaining in Northern California rival Bowerman Barn in age or state of preservation. The barn is located between Covington Mill and Bowerman Boat Ramp. Read more about Bowerman Barn here.

Forest Fire Lookouts, The importance of fire lookouts in early fire detection is as old as the U.S. Forest Service. The term “lookout” even does double duty as shorthand for both the structure and the person who staffs the tower. In recent years, camera stations and other innovative technologies have been enhancing efforts to detect the first signs of smoke. But human-staffed fire lookout towers still play an essential role on the forest.

Foster's Cabin is a historic cabin located in the spectacular Trinity Alps Wilderness Area.

Forest Glen Guard Station is the oldest Forest Service building on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. This charming two-story structure was built in 1916 under the direction of John T. Grey, District Ranger of the Mad River Ranger District on the old Trinity National Forest. It is located where Highway 36 crosses the South Fork Trinity River. Read more about the Forest Glen Guard Station here.



Shasta-Trinity National Forest Historical Photos

A slideshow of historical photos from the early days of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest

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