Holly and I have a thing for headwaters and watersheds and this has become, if not an obsession, certainly a focus of our travels. We’ve decided to head to the headwaters of as many California rivers as we can and on our most recent trip north, our river was the Sacramento.
We only recently learned that the Sacramento begins as a spring in the town of Mount Shasta, just west of the mountain, a place we had driven past many times on highway I-5. We visited the actual headwaters of the river in a city park. I had imagined a little trickle of water bubbling out of the rocks, but this is way more than a trickle; it’s a full-blown creek pouring from the side of a rocky hill. The water that springs from the earth here was deposited as snow on Mt. Shasta 50 years ago. People were busy filling containers with the pure spring water, ignoring a sign that says, “Open springs are NOT an approved source of drinking water.”
Holly has a particular interest in this place, as it was once the summer quarters of the Chico Normal School where her grandmother was a student in the 1920s. We don’t know if Nana Marge ever went to summer school here, but she certainly might have. The old wooden school buildings are still used as a park headquarters and community center. Holly has posted about this on her family history blog: thehollyberryblog.wordpress.com.
The state’s largest river, the Sacramento flows south for 447 miles before running into a huge estuary, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, which empties into Susuin Bay, the Carquinez Strait at the San Francisco Bay and finally the Pacific Ocean at the Golden Gate Bridge. We Californians depend on this great river for life in all its forms. Our pilgrimage to the Sacramento’s headwaters reminds us of its origin in a magic mountain, Mt. Shasta.