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Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area

Geologic Setting

Figure 1. Location map of Zion National Park.
Figure 1. Location map of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

The Klamath Mountains of northeastern California were one of the focal points of the 1849 gold rush. The region is the second most productive gold district in California. Placer gold was first discovered in the regions streams and rivers in 1848, and the lode gold was found in nearby French Gulch in 1852 (Clark 1970). Mining in the French Gulch area continued until 1942. From 1900- 1914, and again in 1930, gold mining activity was at its peak. During the 1970s and 1980s, a resurgence of mining interest for lode gold, copper, silver, zinc, and iron contained in massive sulfide deposits took place (Albers 1965). The name Whiskeytown comes from an early incident involving a team of donkeys that lost their footing on a local trail spilling a load of whiskey into a nearby ravine.

From historical remnants of the early settlers to the present, human interest in the area has continued with the creation of the Whiskeytown Lake and Dam. President John F. Kennedy dedicated Whiskeytown Dam on Clear Creek on September 28, 1963, during his last trip to California. The area was authorized on Nov. 8, 1965 and established as a Natural Recreation Area on October 21, 1972. Together with the Shasta and Trinity units (both managed by the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture), Whiskeytown is part of the 42,503 acres of Whiskeytown- Shasta- Trinity National Recreation Area (figure 2). This area received more than 750,000 recreation visits in 2006.

The Whiskeytown Unit, with its mountainous backcountry and large, man- made reservoir, offers many recreational opportunities while preserving the historical remains of the 1849 California Gold Rush. Whiskeytown Lake provides 58 km (36 miles) of shoreline and 3,200 surface acres of water at an average elevation of 369 m (1,209 ft). The lake was created by diverting water through tunnels and penstocks, including the Clear Creek Tunnel, from the Trinity River Basin to the Sacramento River Basin (Prokopovich, 1993). The most prominent geologic feature within the recreation area is the peak of Shasta Bally (elevation 1,893 m [6,209 feet]).

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area lies in the Klamath Mountains physiographic subprovince of the Pacific Border Province in northern California (figure 3) (CGS, 2002; USGS, 2003). Geomorphologically, this province is considered a northern extension of the Sierra Nevada, but this link is still unclear (CGS, 2002). The boundaries of this province are not well defined. According to Irwin (2003), the Klamath Mountains extend from about 43º north latitude (near the Umqua River in Oregon), south to about 40º15' (North Fork of the Eel River) a distance of approximately 306 km(190 miles).

The province extends roughly 113 km (70 miles) in an east- west direction from the Great Valley west to the Coast Ranges. In northernmost California and southwestern Oregon, the Klamaths are bounded on the east by the Cascade Range, which includes Mount Shasta. The province covers an area of about 30,562 square kilometers (11,800 square miles) (Irwin, 1966).

Following their formation, the Klamath Mountains were cut by several large rivers into separate mountain ranges. In the western Klamaths, an irregular drainage incised on the Klamath peneplain, an uplifted plateau. The uplift is responsible for a series of successive gold- bearing gravel benches in the canyons of the region (CGS, 2002). In California the northern half of the province is drained by the Klamath River and the southern half by the Trinity River (Norris and Webb, 1976). The principal ranges of the Klamath Mountains in California are the Siskiyou Mountains extending northward into Oregon and the Trinity Mountains to the south. Other ranges of the Klamath Mountains include the Salmon, Marble, South Fork and Scott Mountains. The highest point in the Klamaths in Oregon is Mt. Ashland reaching 2,295 m (7,530 ft), near the town of Ashland, Oregon. In California, the highest elevations are Thompson Peak, 2,744 m (9,002 ft) and Mt. Eddy, 2,755 m (9,038 ft). General elevations range from 610 to 1,524 m (2,000 to 5,000 ft) in Oregon and 1,524 to 2,134 m (5,000 to 7,000 ft) in California. The topography is rugged and steep throughout the entire province.


Albers, J.P. 1965. Economic geology of the French Gulch Quadrangle, Shasta and Trinity counties, California. Special Report - California Division of Mines and Geology.

CGS. 2002. California Geomorphic Provinces. California Geological Survey Note 36. http://www.consrv.ca.gov/CGS/information/publicati ons/cgs_notes/note_36/note_36.pdf (accessed March 25, 2007)

Clark, William B. 1970. Gold district of California, California Division of Mines and Geology Bulletin 193.

Irwin, W.P. 2003. Correlation of the Klamath Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. U.S. Geological Survey, Open- File Report: 02- 490.

Irwin, W.P. 1966. Geology of the Klamath Mountains Province. In Geology of Northern California, ed. Bailey, E.H. California Division of Mines and Geology, Bulletin 190: 19- 30.

Prokopovich, N.P. 1993. Carbon dioxide and its engineering impact in the Trinity River Division, Central Valley Project. California Bulletin of the Association of Engineering Geologists 30 (1): 107- 120.


updated on 06/27/2007  I   http://www.nature.nps.gov/Geology/parks/whis/geol_setting.cfm   I  Email: Webmaster
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