Sacramento River Trail

California

At a Glance

Name: Sacramento River Trail
Length: 12.27 Miles
Trail activites: Bike, Inline Skating, Fishing, Wheelchair Accessible, Walking
Counties: Shasta
Surfaces: Asphalt, Concrete
State: California

A Brief History

The Sacramento River Trail provides a chance to enjoy the incredible scenery afforded along Northern California’s Sacramento River near Redding. The corridor’s history can be traced back to a subsidiary of the Central Pacific (CP), which helped build the Transcontinental Railroad and later became a part of the burgeoning Southern Pacific system. The trail was the original alignment of the SP’s “Shasta Route” that linked Portland, Oregon, to California. After the line was realigned in the mid-20th century to make way for the Shasta Dam, it fell into a secondary role as a branch until finally being abandoned in the early 1980s. This particular section of the main line saw considerable freight traffic during its early years related to the local mining industry around Iron Mountain, which first opened in the 1880s. Mining continued intermittently until most operations were shut down between 1960 and 1980 when the railroad was also abandoned.

The history of trains operating through the Sacramento River Canyon go back to the California & Oregon Railroad (C&O), which was originally chartered on June 30, 1865, as a route from Marysville, California, to Portland. The railroad eventually connected with the CP main line south of Marysville at a location known as Junction. Actual construction of the C&O did not begin until a few years after its chartering. On May 10, 1869, CP made its famous Transcontinental Railroad link with the Union Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah. On August 22, 1870, the company was acquired by the CP, which looked to use the route as its own to reach Portland. By 1872, it had reached Redding, a town named for the railroad’s own land agent B.B. Redding. Further construction north of Redding was on hold while additional sources of funding could be acquired and a decision could be made on how to best link up with the Oregon & California Railroad (O&C). The latter was building southward from Portland but had fallen into bankruptcy itself in 1872.

Building of the C&O route finally began north of Redding in 1883, and within four years, the two railroads linked their lines at Ashland, Oregon, on December 17, 1887. Soon after, the Southern Pacific acquired the O&C; it had already formally leased the CP as of April 1, 1885. While a somewhat circuitous route with stiff grades, it not only gave SP a strategic line linking California with the Pacific Northwest, but also offered stunning scenery of the region. Mining interests around Iron Mountain near Redding took off, and the new line provided a transportation artery to efficiently transport goods and people in and out of the region. The area became noted for its high volume of copper, iron, zinc, and cadmium but also contained lesser amounts of silver, gold, and pyrite. As a result, numerous smelters and refineries popped up along the line between Redding and Shasta Lake in small towns such as Coram, Iron Mountain, Copper City, and Kennett. Mining operations began being cut back after World War I because contaminants were polluting the waters and lands, although operations continued to carry on after that time.

For the Southern Pacific itself, the Shasta Route was rerouted in a big way to make room for the Shasta Dam project. The dam would flood much of the original right-of-way north of Redding around Shasta Lake. The final train used the line through the Sacramento River Canyon on May 23, 1942. The new alignment was built to the east, which is still in use today. Subsequently, the old route between Redding and Shasta Dam, roughly 15 miles, was retained as a branch to continue serving the region’s remaining mining industry. These operations, however, and the remaining freight the Southern Pacific carried slowly dried up in the succeeding years.

Mining at Iron Mountain ended in 1963 as a result of the severe level of pollution it had caused over the decade. Sporadic and light rail service continued over the remaining branch until 1980 when all service was suspended. In 1983, the region was designated a federal Superfund site and the cleanup has been ongoing today. Also in 1983 the first section of the Sacramento River Trail opened to the public near Redding. Today, the trail stretches from the town to Keswick Dam where it links with the Sacramento River Rail Trail, which continues northward along the river to near Shasta Dam.

Railroad history California offers a wide variety of attractions not far from the trail, including the California State Railroad Museum, Sacramento RiverTrain, and Sacramento Southern Railroad in Sacramento; Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad & Transportation Museum in Nevada City; and the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola.

Do you have Historical Photos of the Sacramento River Trail?
Share with TrailLink!

Nearby Trails

Blue Gravel Mine Trail

California - 1.75 miles

The Blue Gravel Mine Trail winds through southern neighborhoods of Redding. Although the trail parallels Buenaventura Boulevard and Canyon Creek Road for ...

Clover Creek Preserve Trail

California - 2 miles

Paved trails on either side of Clover Creek combine with a loop around a retention pond to form a larger trail loop through Clover Creek Preserve in Redding. ...

Stanford Hills Trail

California - 0.84 miles

The Stanford Hills Trail is a short spur off the much longer Sacramento River Trail, the gem of Redding's trail network. The paved path primarily serves ...

Accordion

Middle Creek Trail (CA)

California - 3 miles

The Middle Creek Trail provides a gentle 2-mile climb along a former railroad bed from the river bottom up to its intersection with Iron Mountain Road. ...

Hornbeck Trail

California - 4 miles

The Hornbeck Trail is one of several single-track dirt trails open on the east side of Keswick Reservoir in Shasta County. The trail follows the former ...

Sacramento River Rail Trail

California - 11.1 miles

Over the years the Bureau of Land Management, with many partners, has worked diligently to develop one of the premier trail destinations in the West. North ...

Great Shasta Rail Trail

California - 37 miles

Nearly half of the proposed 80-mile Great Shasta Rail Trail opened September 2015. The rail-trail meanders through Northern California’s small towns and ...

Chico Airport Bike Path

California - 3.25 miles

This linear trail through the northern sections of bike-friendly Chico runs on the abandoned Sacramento Northern Railway right-of-way. The trail marks ...

Chico State Bike Path

California - 2 miles

The Chico State Bike Path, also known as the Railroad Bike Path, runs between CSU campus at Cherry Street and W. Lindo Avenue, paralleling an active rail ...

Lake Almanor Recreation Trail

California - 9.5 miles

The Lake Almanor Recreation Trail offers scenic views of the lake and mountains, including Lassen Volcano in nearby Lassen Volcanic National Park. The ...

Midway Bike Path

California - 3.4 miles

Travel through the orchards south of Chico on the Midway Bike Path, which runs toward Durham on the abandoned Sacramento Northern Railway right-of-way. ...

Paradise Memorial Trailway

California - 5.2 miles

Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills, Paradise, California, is a warm and inviting city with a small-town feel, and this trail offers visitors the perfect ...

Explore by City

Explore by City

Explore by Activity

Explore by Activity

Log in to your account to:

  • View trail paths on the map
  • Save trails to your account
  • Add trails, edit descriptions
  • Share photos
  • Add reviews
OR

Register for free!

Join TrailLink (a non-profit) to view more than 30,000 miles of trail maps and more!
OR