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 includedCharles Camden,Philena Camden andLevi 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.
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.