Mount Eddy is visible above a strongly flowing south channel at the Lake Siskiyou inlet.
Since the beginning of 2015, I have been documenting the changes that have occurred at the Sacramento River’s inlet into Lake Siskiyou. For many years the Sacramento River divided itself into a northern and southern channel at it flowed into the impounded Lake Siskiyou. Of the two, the southern tended to have the larger volume of water. However, during one heavy rain in the midst of the drought winter of 2014/2015, the river blocked up the southern channel at the inlet and forced all the water into the northern channel. See some of the posts that documented this process here, here and here. Most importantly, I found that the southern channel remained dry, even when the river volume was relatively dry. This was the case last year as well.
However, we have had heavy precipitation all winter and the volume water in the river has been particularly high. At times it was downright scary how much water flowed into Lake Siskiyou. It should come as no surprise then, that the Sacramento River managed to open its southern channel back up and it now has a significant amount of water flowing through it. When the channel originally ran dry, the bridge that spanned it was left in place on the gabions. It was subsequently removed, though the gabions remained in place, of course. Unless hikers want to get their feet wet, it will now be necessary for the bridge to be reinstalled.
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Note the amount of snow on Mount Eddy. The drought winter left little even at high elevations.
Even if the bridges were installed on the south channel, the loop around Lake Siskiyou is still incomplete. The north channel, now the dominant route for the Sacramento River, still has a very heavy flow and it would be difficult to place the bridge over the channel. The river is wide and deep and also has a couple of smaller subsidiary channels that also have a strong flow. The difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that the original gabions were destroyed when the river first altered its course and the location of the new bridge has shifted with each winter’s heavy flow. It is premature to ascertain where the new bridge or bridges will have to be located. The water need to drop quite a bit before the loop can be completed once again. For those look to attempt the loop without the bridges, fording the water in the south channel is not difficult but trying to do so at the north channel is ill-advised right now. What the Lake Siskiyou Trail needs is a permanent bridge over the main channel prior to reaching the inlet. That is the subject of another post…
For the time being, the south channel has water in it once again, which is nice. For those who know the back way into the inlet from South Fork Road, it is a great place to take kids and let them play in the water. The section of the trail heading east along the south shore of the lake is also quite nice right now, before people doing the loop and campers from the Lake Siskiyou Resort have there way with it. Right now it feels quite isolated.
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It is also worth noting that the Sacramento River has been altering the landscape along its course at places other than the Lake Siskiyou inlet. I have not explored the Box Canyon yet (which no doubt got hammered when the lake went over the spillway during the winter) but I did note that the confluence of Castle Creek and the Sacramento has been altered as well. For the last several years, the creek reached the river six or so feet higher than the Sacramento. It cascaded down the rocky embankment in order to join the swift flowing river. Just prior to the confluence the Sacramento River separated into two channels around an island. Castle Creek joined in just as these two channels rejoined. Now all the rock at this point has been cleared out and the creek cascades down to the river as it meets one of the two channels, not the recombined stem of the river. It has somewhat diminished the great view but remains an awesome spot nonetheless.
Despite the way the river has impacted the land around it, now is a great time to visit the Sacramento. It isn’t the best time to hit swimming holes or let kids play in the water. However, it is right now, as the temperatures increase and the snow melts, that the river takes on the full character of a real mountain river. It flows powerfully and swiftly, racing through rocky flood plains and deep canyons. The Mount Shasta area is fortunate to have such a fantastic waterway.