Once a Northern California Boomtown, Now a Sunken City at the Bottom of a Lake

400-feet underwater sits the relics of a once booming town in Northern California

Kennett, California was once a boomtown in Northern California, prospering in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, with numerous stores, saloons, a hotel and a schoolhouse. Now, it sits at the bottom of Shasta Lake. And while the artifacts of this town are now lost to the 400-feet deep waters of the lake, we still have the photos and stories to map together what was once an important part of Northern California’s rich history.





Kennett was originally settled by nine groups of Wintu Native Americans in 250 villages surrounding what was then an upper stretch of the Sacramento River (it’s hard to distinguish the Upper and Lower Sacramento River without the Shasta Dam). European fur-trappers settled in the area in the early 1800’s and it is said that 75% of the Wintu population were dead with disease from contact with the white settlers.

The town started to grow during the construction of the railroad and was given the name “Kennet” after a railroad worker. At some point, the spelling changed to Kennett, probably due to the misspelling of a mapmaker.




In 1884, Charley Golinskey arrived in town, opening up the first store, post office, and hotel. Once two mines were opened in the area, pure copper ore was found, bringing riches to the community.

The town was visited by prominent businessmen off the railroad tracks and became known for it’s spirited Diamond Saloon, open 24 hours a day. The saloon even distilled and bottled its own successful brand of whiskey which was served to patrons on a 150 foot long redwood bar.

The town peaked in the early 1900’s, with an estimated population of 10,000.



Kennett continued to prosper during World War I due to increased metal prices, but once the war ended, the mines were forced to close and the town’s population dropped significantly in 1923.

Located along the Sacramento River, the Kennett area was the perfect location to build a dam and in 1935, the government forced the people out of the town with the construction of the Shasta Dam.

There is no record of any public hearings to ask Kennett residents their opinion. The diminished population of the town was likely considered too insignificant to matter. Most people sold their land to the government willingly, while some waited until the waters began to rise before abandoning their homes. Kennett was completely submerged by 1944, one year before the completion of the dam.

Now the town is lost to the waters that flow down from Mt. Shasta and into the ocean through the San Francisco Bay.

While it’s easy to grasp onto the past looking for answers to our history, let’s not forget the beauty we see at that same location today:

Active NorCal

Northern California's Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine

14 Comments

  1. The Southern Pacific Railroad lost right of way due to Shasta Dam….. When the water receded due to the drought, it exposed one of the tunnels. The ROW was relocated under the I-5 bridge

  2. The article forgets two key items in the story. Bounties on the local native peoples were in place during those early days. That equals genocide. Secondly, many Winnemem Wintu sacred sites are also under Lake Shasta not just that old ‘boomtown.’ Let’s get all the facts straight.

  3. I don’t really understand the turns toward racism every collection of comments seems to hold. I’m an American. I’ve got a Native American issued ID from a northern California tribe, my grandfather was Portuguese, arriving in 1915, my other set of grandparents were a French Canadian woman and a grandfather that came here from MO in the 40’s and was if Irish descent. My 75% Native American grandad served in ww1 with all 4 brothers and two of which were poisoned by gas, injured by bullets and returned to work the rest of their years raising families. My Irish grandad was unable to serve in ww2 and to serve his country traveled to a new place to become an underwater welder building ships to serve our country as naval warships. I can appreciate the admiral things done by each and fail to see how the other differences defined or limited either to one thing or another. All I can be sure of is that I’m thankful for the sacrifice and the contribution made to our country and myself as an individual for their service and my DNA. I believe that in the city of old Shasta that anybody could bring in evidence of murdering a native such as a scalp could receive currency from the city or county clerk located in the city hall building. Anyone ever wonder how many men women and children of Indian people were killed for a few bucks? Or the number of Mexican/ Spanish people scalped and passed off as aboriginal scalps? It is worth mentioning that an orphaned Indian child could be taken and claimed by any citizen, leading to the world of possibilities for a miner or rancher to come by such a child to help work a claim, cut hay, or many other labor conducive tasks. Theres no doubt that early northern Californian settlers and miners did sickening things to the native people that existed here. It’s heartbreaking to look at history from that point of view and really put thought to what they were victims of, as a person of that decent in part it’s sad. As a person also of white decent I also find great shame that those before me did such gross acts of evil. At the same time I find things from both sides of my ancestry that make me quite proud to carry the blood in my veins that these left flowing in my veins, as well as in the soil of the land I call home and raise my family in. I don’t hate grandpa kincannon for an atrocity committed to great grandpa burcel. That’s 100% fucking retarded. We aren’t responsible for what was done before our time. We shouldn’t necessarily celebrate all things in the history of our nation but we damn sure ought to acknowledge it and do our best to not repeat mistakes made and see why and how other instances were a succes propelling us forward as one nation under God. I think that’s exactly the very thing to focus on- we are “ONE NATION UNDER GOD” We are now considered one people by every other country in the world, only here at home are we such a petty divided people. Here amongst ourselves we can’t seem to just let history be a recording of past events and strive to be better to our fellows on this earth , instead we cry about wrongs done before we even existed and caused us zero personal harm other than the anguish we may feel reflecting and feeling the suffering of our ancestors. I’m betting that a NA hurts no less killed for a poultry bounty on his head than a settler scalped and his wagon burned. If truth be told, the Irish in America were as mistreated as anyone in this country. They were the niggers of the day in many many places. Yet not a lot of sniveling is heard or riotous actions taken as an excuse to lute rape and pillage their way through communities destroying what is right and good by the hard work and determination of others and falls a victim to individual greed and hatred bred by laying down and succumbing to the self appointed fate givin to themselves as the chosen path they created for destiny at the hand of themselves. In reality we aren’t equal or fairly blessed with the same gifts. I personally am not exceptional at many things, and the things I do excel at may be the weaknesses of others. To my thinking that makes a strong team if allied with each other, if my team has strengths in all areas instead of superior strength in one area and multiple weak areas wouldn’t that put me at a disadvantage? But as a nation it seems that we hate what isn’t our way and condemn it. That is 100% retarded.

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