Friday, October 2, 2009



I spent last weekend paddling and camping at Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park. Basically it is a huge collection of springs flowing into where Big Lake, Fall River, Tule River, Ja-She Creek, and Lava Creek converge. Together they form one of the largest collection of fresh water springs in the entire country. Yet this park only gets about 2,000 visitors a year making it the least visited park in the California State Park system.


A good part of the reason that this park is so infrequently visited is the fact that there are no roads to it. To get to this special place you have to go by boat and parts of the waterways do not allow any motorized boats at all. So this seemed like the perfect place to test out my canoe with a weekend trip.


With the canoe loaded with tents, sleeping bags, stove, ice chest, fishing gear and everything else we needed for the weekend, a buddy of mine and I paddled our way the two miles across the lake and over to our destination Crystal Springs campground (it actually ended up being further by the time we paddled up and down a few waterways looking for the camp).


Finally we caught sight of what appeared to be a landing spot. Sure enough just inside the tree line was one of the three available camping locations in this campground (there are three separate campgrounds, Horr Pond, Crystal Springs, and Ja-She Creek each with three well spaced out sites). This turned out to be our favorite of the three sites, so we unloaded and called it home for the next two nights.


We spent most of the first day settling in and doing some fishing. There are some seriously big rainbow trout that call this place home. My favorite spot to fish was right off the footbridge on Ja-She creek.


We started off the next day by hiking the spatter cone loop trail. I wasn't all that impressed by the spatter cone itself, but it was really neat seeing all the lava rock strewn about, and the lava tubes were really cool to climb down in (literally cool as it was 10-20 degrees cooler than the outside air of the hot day). We also found this black berry bush on the way that was just overflowing with ripe berries. Oh so good!


My favorite part of the trip by far was when we paddled up Ja-She Creek. The water there was amazingly aqua blue (see the first picture on this page), and I wish I had done it justice photographically. We saw lots of neat rock fish traps that have not changed since the Pit River Indians used to use them for harvesting spawning fish. The clarity of the water and the hues of blue were spectacular. I hope to go back sometime in the spring (and fight the hordes of mosquitoes) to see the waters when the clarity extends beyond where the creeks and springs come in (this time of year the main body of water was pretty murky and green with algae growing everywhere).

Until then I'll have thoughts of paddling my canoe solo Canadian style in the first light of day, gliding on the crystal water coming out of volcanic springs.


To get to Ahjumawi take the 299 out of Redding towards Burney and McArthur. At McArthur turn north on Main st (a left if you're coming from Redding). This turns into a dirt road. The way isn't marked very well, but stay right, across the canal, and follow the road to the Rat Farm parking lot. Launch your boat here, and paddle up the narrow water way until it reaches the main lake. From here head across to the northern shore line and follow it towards the west. After a short while you'll see Horr Pond. It's marked with a series of State Park Property signs and is enclosed by small islets that ring it. No motor boats are allowed in here and the first campground is located on the shore. I personally found the other two campgrounds more attractive.

Continue west, exiting the Horr Pond ring of islets, and follow around the next peninsula you hit. On the far side of this peninsula head up into the cove to Crystal Springs campground. You'll know you are in the right place when you see an old abandoned cabin at the northern most part of the cove. This is where the "iron ranger" is, which is where you deposit your camping fees.

In front of that cabin in the main landing spot and where I would land for camp site number 6. Number 6 is not right on the lake, but up the road a short bit to the east and on the left (this might be attractive in peak mosquito seasons).

For campsite 4 there is another landing just to the left of that "main" landing. This campsite is where the pit toilet resides and is fairly close to the water.

To the right of the main landing, past all the rock ringed (fish traps) springs is another takeout for campsite 5 (this might actual be a better place to land for site 6 as well, but you have to go through 5 to get to 6). This was where we stayed and it provided the closes access to the water with a nice shady spot just inside the tree line.

The final campground, Ja-She creek, is a bit further west of Crystal Springs. You'll see a concrete boat ramp, and this is the takeout for all three campsites. It's a little ways from the ramp up to the sites, and I found them to be a bit closer together than the Crystal Springs sites. Still nice spots, and they are closer to my favorite area of the park which was Ja-She creek coming in further up into the cove from the boat ramp.

BTW, while you are in the area I highly recommend stopping off at Burney Falls. We stopped by on our way home and I blogged about it here:


Felicia said...

Such a lovely place. It look so serene. Glad to see you're getting lots of mileage out of your canoe :)

Kristi Veale said...

Great photos! I love to find little spots like these! You are a very outdoor kind of person....there is so much to be adventured....hope you get to see everything!

AlwaysJanuary said...

Oh yeah, getting lots of use out of the canoe. :-)

Thanks for commenting you two.

Sherri Meyer said...

Randy, thanks for visiting & commenting on my Photo Blog!

I really enjoy your Blog too & it looks like we have a lot in common!

Auburn, CA