History & Culture

U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy dedicating Whiskeytown Dam
U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy dedicates Whiskeytown Dam on September 28, 1963.

The archeology and history of what is now Whiskeytown National Recreation Area goes back thousands of years.

For Millenia, the Wintu and their ancestors lived in general harmony with the area’s land and water. Their living in what is now the national recreation area was altered substantially before, during, and after the California Gold Rush, as European Americans decimated California’s American Indian peoples through direct and indirect actions (read the story of Kate Camden and Indian Slavery). Nevertheless, the Wintu exist in northern California to this day, a testament to perseverance against all odds.

When word got out about gold deposits along Clear Creek, European Americans, Chinese, and immigrants from other parts of the world poured into Northern California with hopes and dreams of striking it rich. Communities with the names of Whiskeytown, Oak Bottom, and Tower House sprang to life, and pioneer-settlers included Charles Camden, Philena Camden and Levi Tower. You can learn about the Camdens and more at the Tower House Historic District.

As the 1800s moved into the 1900s, water became the new gold. Visions involved storing and transferring northern California’s abundant rain and snow runoff to the drier farm fields of the Central Valley. The
Trinity River Division of the Central Valley Project was an engineering milestone involving the construction of a series of dams, reservoirs, tunnels, and hydroelectric powerplants. Whiskeytown Lake, Clair A. Hill Whiskeytown Dam, and Judge Francis Carr Powerhouse, all located within Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, were part of this Bureau of Reclamation project.

On a conservation and political tour of western states,
U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy dedicated Whiskeytown Dam on September 28, 1963. This was Kennedy’s final visit to California; he was assassinated less than two months later. To honor the slain president, Redding locals funded and dedicated the Kennedy Memorial.

Congress passed and then President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed legislation establishing Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity National Recreation Area on November 8th, 1965. In the next few years, land was acquired for Whiskeytown and visitor infrastructure was further developed. While the Shasta Lake and Trinity Lake units of the national recreation area are administered by the U.S. Forest Service, the Whiskeytown unit is managed by the National Park Service.

To learn more about Whiskeytown's history during your visit to the park, stop at the Kennedy Memorial and/or head out to Tower House Historic District. Thirty miles east of the park, the
Trinity County Historical Society's Jake Jackson Memorial Museum in Weaverville includes exhibits and artifacts on the Wintu, Chinese miners, white miners, logging, and ranching.

Read up on Whiskeytown's history by clicking on the links above and below...

Where's the Whiskey? Where's the Town? The Story of Whiskeytown, CA
"The Camden House Orchard: Historic Survivor of Age, Disease, Drought, Fire, and Neglect" - written by David Laws (2021)
"From the White House to Whiskeytown: An Administrative History of the Creation of Whiskeytown National Recreation Area" - written by Jim Milestone
The Peltier Family, Peltier Bridge, and Peltier Valley Road
Crystal Creek Water Ditch

Explore nearby history with California State Parks...
Shasta State Historic Park
Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park

...And with the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.


Last updated: November 23, 2021

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Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 188
Whiskeytown, CA 96095


530 242-3400

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