Brought to you by Discover Siskiyou
When gold was discovered in the American River in the 1800’s, it completely changed the landscape of the United States. People flocked to Northern California from all over the world to try their luck of striking it rich during the Gold Rush. One area popular for those people was the lush wilderness of what is today known as Siskiyou County, which transformed into a Wild West world into the early 1900’s.
From the Native American activity to the mid-1800’s settlers to World War II, the area is jam-packed with a fascinating history that tells the story of a growing America. You can experience that history yourself with these 11 historic gems to visit in California’s Far North:
*NOTE: Some of these destinations may have altered hours and experiences due to Covid-19. Please check with each individual destination before visiting.
Mt. Shasta Hatchery/Sisson Museum
You may have past it while driving to Lake Siskiyou in Mount Shasta. There’s a small sign announcing the Mt. Shasta Fish Hatchery along the popular roadway, although many people have no idea that it’s the oldest operating fish hatchery west of the Mississippi.
During the spring months, visitors to the hatchery can see over 3 million baby trout swimming in the waters of the operation. The visit is especially pleasant on a sunny day, where you can relax on the shady picnic tables with a view of Mount Shasta.
After the fish have grown large, they are moved to the large outdoor ponds where fish food dispensers are readily available to get the fish moving excitedly. This is a fun adventure for everyone, especially kids.
Lava Beds National Monument
The Lava Beds National Monument is a land of turmoil, both geologic and historic. Over the last half-million years, volcanic eruptions have created a rugged landscape dotted with diverse volcanic features. Lava tube caves, Native American sites, historic battlefields and a high desert wilderness experience highlight an adventurous trip to the park.
According to the National Park Service, the area around the Lava Beds National Monument is one of the “longest continually occupied areas in North America.” It was long a home to indigenous populations, most notably the Modoc and Klamath nations.
At several locations in the Monument, petroglyphs can be found. The most popular is Petroglyph Point, which is a sheer rock that has been carved into for 6,000 years and visible from any point of elevation in the park.
This area was also the location of the Modoc War, a brutal conflict in the 1870’s between the Modoc Tribe and United States Army. This tragic war bred the legend of the famed Captain Jack, the fierce leader of the Modocs. Today, you can take an audio tour of the conflict throughout Siskiyou County and Southern Oregon.
McCloud River Mercantile Hotel
The well-known historic hotel of the town of McCloud is McCloud Mercantile, which opened in 1897 as a store and hotel for the mill workers at the McCloud River Lumber Company and their families. Today, the hotel and store remain a mainstay in the town of McCloud, attracting visitors from all over the west coast to enjoy the town’s history and shop the unique vintage lines that are still available in the store.
Karuk Tribe People’s Center Museum
There are plenty of historical destinations that dive deep into the region’s past 200 years, but the Native American history can give you thousands of years of history.
In Happy Camp sits the Karuk Tribe People’s Center Museum which is devoted to the preservation, promotion and celebration of Karuk history, language, traditions and living culture. The facility includes an exhibition gallery, a gift shop, a Basketweaving classroom, a library, a collection’s storage area and the Karuk Language Program Office. This is a great place to earn everything you need to know about the Native Americans of Siskiyou County!
Tule Lake National Monument
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941, it started World War II, sending the United States into a frenzy. During this time of confusion and fear, the government began internment camps for Japanese-Americans. One of the most infamous internment camps was right here in Northern California at Tule Lake.
Tulelake Camp, located 5 miles west of Tulelake in Siskiyou County, began as a vocational workers program for young men during the depression to work on the Klamath Reclamation Project. After the beginning of World War II, The Tule Lake War Relocation Center was was built next to the camp as one of ten concentration camps in the US for the incarceration of Japanese Americans who had been forcibly relocated from the West Coast.
Today, the location sits as the Tule Lake National Monument, where you can go on a ranger-guided tour of the barracks and segregation center onsite. Visitors can enter the jail and stockade and see what it was like for prisoners of this camp years ago. While you’re there, be sure to stop by the beautiful Tule Lake Refuge in the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge.
Dunsmuir Baseball Field
Dunsmuir is known for its beautiful waterfalls and proximity to Mount Shasta, but not a lot of people know it was once the stop of Babe Ruth’s west coast exhibition tour, where he and Yankee teammate Bob Meusel travelled through California playing local teams. One of those teams was the Dunsmuir baseball team, which played the Babe on October 22, 1924.
If you were to visit the Baseball Hall-of-Fame in Cooperstown, New York, you would find a poster promoting the event, with admission costing $1.10 for adults (plus a war tax) and 25 cents for children. Dunsmuir Mayor Cornish declared a half holiday on that day for the town to attend the event.
According to legend, Ruth hit a ball so far during the game that it was never found. Today, the field and stands still sit in downtown Dunsmuir, commemorating the memorable visit from the baseball icon.
Weed Historic Lumber Town Museum
In 1893, the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Company bought timbered property in what is now the downtown area of Weed, from H.S. Williams and his wife Olive Williams. When the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill north of Black Butte desired to sell their business, Abner Weed was willing to buy it. He sold his mill on the east slope of Mt. Eddy to a man by the name of Durney and that mill was subsequently known as Durney’s Mill until about 1920. In 1897 Abner Weed bought for the sum of $400.00, the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill and 280 acres of land in what is now Weed.
Today, exhibits in the old courthouse feature artifacts from the timber industry and life in early Weed, as well as the life of Charlie Byrd, the first elected African American county sheriff in California. The museum stands as a tribute and educational experience dedicated to the early settlement of Northern California during the Gold Rush.
Railroad Park Resort
Sitting in Dunsmuir, California is the remnants of a historical railroad operation near the base of Mount Shasta. The Railroad Park RV Resort is home to numerous old railroad cars which were converted into hotel rooms for visitors. They also have an RV hookups and a campground, making it the perfect place to explore the area under the shadow of Castle Crags.
The area is filled with history and there’s even a restaurant in an old railroad car. See our trip there:
The Siskiyou County Museum
We’ve covered a lot of great historical destinations in this article, but if you want an overview of the history of Siskiyou County, the Siskiyou County Museum is the place to go.
Nestled in the Gold Rush-esque downtown Yreka, the museum offers a plethora of educational opportunities for history buffs. You can see a fascinating collection of articles donated by the descendants of early pioneers, along with an Outdoor Museum that displays original and recreated buildings from all over Siskiyou County. It’s the perfect place to see the past 200 years of California’s Far North!
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine