Lake Shasta is formed by the Sacramento, McCloud, Squaw and Pit Rivers, held back by the massive Shasta Dam, the second-largest in the United States after Grand Coulee. Thirty-five miles long with almost 370 miles of shoreline, it holds enough water when full to provide about 5,000 gallons to every person in the country.
It's within an easy drive of San Francisco, Sacramento and Portland for a weekend getaway or vacation.
Scenes from Lake Shasta
Enjoy some of our best shots in this Lake Shasta Photo Tour
Lake Shasta Geography
The three rivers flowing into the lake create three "arms," each named for the river that forms it.
- McCloud Arm: The grey rocks that tower above this waterway were formed from ocean sediments. Stop at the Holiday Harbor Marina to get a tour of Shasta Caverns.
- Sacramento Arm: The busiest and most developed, it ends at Riverview, an old resort site with the lake's only sandy beach. You can get great views of Mount Lassen as you cruise upstream here.
- Pit Arm: The lake's longest arm stretches almost 30 miles. Standing snags of dead trees make the upper Pit hazardous for boating.
Things to Do on or Around Lake Shasta
Lake Shasta is very popular for all kinds of water sports. It's also a good place for a quiet getaway.
- Houseboat Rentals: I think this is the best way to see the lake and a great way to spend a relaxed vacation.
- Shasta Dam: You'll have to get off the lake to take the daily tours through and under the country's second-largest concrete dam. A maximum of 40 people are allowed on each tour. Get there early to get in with less waiting. No phones, cameras or bags of any kind allowed on the tour. Exit I-5 at Shasta Dam Road.
- Lake Shasta Caverns: You'll take a catamaran ride and a bus trip up the mountain before visiting this bit of underground geology. Take I-5 exit 395, or if you're boating, go up the McCloud Arm of the lake to Holiday Harbor Marina.
- Lake Shasta Dinner Cruises: Cruises depart from the gift shop at Lake Shasta Caverns and run on Saturdays from Memorial Day1 through Labor Day2, except holiday weekends.
Lake Shasta Water Sports
- Boating: The most popular activity on the lake, boating gives you a change to get around the lake and enjoy the scenery. You can rent a boat at many of the lakeside marinas.
- Swimming: There are no developed swimming areas at Lake Shasta, but you can swim from the shore or off your boat.
- Water skiing: Water skiing is opular everywhere on the lake, especially the Sacramento Arm and Jones Valley areas. Avoid the Pit River because of submerged debris.
- Fishing: Anglers can snag trophy-size bass and three- to ten-pound trout on Lake Shasta, along with bluegills, salmon, bass, crappie, catfish and sturgeon. You can buy a fishing license at most of the lakeside resorts, and some of them also rent fishing boats and fishing tackle.
1 Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May.
2 Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September.