There were – and still are today – numerous springs in the area where the waters drew travelers and tourists who then spread the story to others. Three of those springs were major influences in the early development of the town of Dunsmuir. Since they all were popular at about the same time period – from the 1880s to the early 1900s – their stories sometimes overlap and can become confused, but each one had its own unique history. They are Lower Soda Springs, located near Soda Creek to the south of Dunsmuir, Upper Soda Springs, located near today’s Tauhindauli Park, and Shasta Springs, located to the north of the town. California’s first “rush” was not the gold rush of 1849 but was preceded by a rush for furs. As early as the 1820s Hudson’s Bay trappers from Vancouver followed foot paths through Washington, Oregon and into California trapping beavers and trading with the native population. Their foot paths followed the Siskiyou Trail and evolved into wagon roads. As the fur trade dwindled and the gold rush began, more travelers passed through. There was a need for accommodations and this led to the first development of Upper Soda Springs in 1852 when the Lockhart brothers built a log house in the bend of the Sacramento River which we now call Tauhindauli Park. In 1855 ownership of the property passed to Ross and Mary McCloud who built a two story inn and a toll bridge across the river and improved the road passing through the area to make their development more accessible. In years to come Upper Soda Springs became a stage stop which included a two-story hotel, and large garden areas to provide produce for travelers and visitors. In 1886 the railroad established a stop across the river and travelers used a footbridge to get to the hotel. Upper Soda Springs stopped operating as a resort in 1919 although the property remained in the same family for many years. Lower Soda Springs was the site of the Tavern of the Crag which – even by today’s standards – was an amazing resort. On property which he had purchased in 1858, Washington Baily built a luxurious three story 210 room hotel. Construction started in 1884 and upon its completion the Tavern of the Crag was furnished in rich English style and catered to wealthy and famous vacationers and railroad travelers. Ultra-modern for its day, it featured electric lighting, a steam laundry, and hot and cold running water in every room. In a tragic fire in 1900 the Tavern of the Crag burned completely to the ground. Five years later the Pacific Improvement Company which managed the railroad’s properties built a much smaller and more modest structure but it never achieved the fame and success of the original Tavern.
Dunsmuir’s history is tied to the water. It was the rushing water of the Upper Sacramento River that native people found to be a source of rich foods – the migrating steelhead and salmon. It was the cold, pure waters of the natural springs that the earliest explorers and Hudson’s Bay trappers found to be sweet and refreshing. It was the mineral waters and their claimed healing properties that drew tourists from far and wide as early as the 1850s. It was the bountiful fishing opportunities that attracted anglers in the 1880s – and they still come today. And it is the basis for Dunsmuir’s proud proclamation: “The Best Water on Earth.” “The Three Springs”
Shasta Springs was by far the most famous of the three springs, greatly because it was so heavily promoted by the railroad in the late 1800s and early 1900s as a rail traveler destination. Investors began to develop the property which extended from the railroad tracks just north of Mossbrae Falls, along the Sacramento River and up the hill to the east in 1886. Numerous small springs – each with different mineral or soda characteristics – were channeled into fountains and drinking basins.
The main hotel at Shasta Springs Resort as it originally appeared. Today the building still stands and is well maintained by the Saint Germain Foundation but is not open to the public. photo - Ron McCloud
The waters were cold, laced with minerals, and some were naturally carbonated. The trains began to stop at the developing resort in the fall of 1890, at the same time that shipments of soda water began by railroad tank cars as well as in bottles. In addition to the bottling works and railroad station, the resort included a public pavilion, gift shop, post office, fountain kiosks, and a natatorium or bath-house. Visitors could walk up over 300 feet to the main resort area by way of the “zig-zag” trail or they could pay five cents to ride the “incline railroad” or tram. At the upper level visitors found an elegant hotel and private cottages with maid service, luxurious dining facilities, a swimming pool, tennis court, extensive vegetable and flower gardens and groomed trails through wondrous natural surroundings and old growth timber. The railroad featured Shasta Springs in its brochures, posters, postcards and other advertising for its Shasta Route passenger service. Many visitors from all over came to “take the waters” and enjoy the facility, including numerous celebrities. Railroad travel and tourism so popular in the late 1800s began to decline with the coming of the automobile. As automobile owners discovered the freedom of having their own transportation and as roads were developed and improved, auto camps or auto courts - which we now would call motels – lured them away from train travel. All three of the resorts were greatly dependent on train travel and began to decline.
All three slipped into private ownership. Other than the soda spring and some of the original trees, nothing remains of Upper Soda Springs – part of which is incorporated into Tauhindauli Park under the Interstate 5 bridge. Remnants of Lower Soda Springs are still visible – the building which replaced the original Castle of the Crag resort still stands on property known as the Berry Estate on Soda Creek Road. Although virtually nothing remains of Shasta Springs near the railroad and Sacramento River, the upper portion of the resort is today well maintained by the Saint Germain Foundation but not open to the public. Ron McCloud is co-author with Deborah Harton of a history of Dunsmuir published by the Arcadia Publishing Company in 2010. He is the owner of Dunsmuir Hardware which dates to 1894.