Map and edited text from Mr. Belzer’s Dunsmuir Elementary School 7th Grade Class of 2005
Garden clubs often undertake small community beautification projects, but in 1999, the Dunsmuir Garden Club obtained a grant from the Cantara Trustee Council and turned an unsightly area along the Sacramento River into a park. It was a huge undertaking for a small club, let alone in a small town. The park was named after Grant Towendolly (‘Laktcharas Tauyindali’ in Winty). Grant was a Wintu Indian who worked as a fishing guide at the famous Upper Soda Springs Resort, which was located here from the late 1800s to the 1920s. The park project included ecological restoration, recreational development, and road improvements. The river floodplain restoration will help protect the area from severe damage during floods. Upland, wetland, and riparian woodland restoration will beautify the river and provide import wildlife habitat. Local students and community volunteers helped grow, plant, and water native plants and seeds, spread straw, clean up trash and remove non-native plants. The park offers recreational facilities such as multi-use trails along the river, picnic areas with barbeques, drinking fountains, a parking lot, raft and kayak access, and an interpretive trail. Upper Soda Springs Road was widened and the steep grade was eased to make the road safer.
(2) Dunsmuir Water
Try a drink of Dunsmuir’s famous icy cold, delicious, sparkling clear water, known as ‘the best water on earth’. The reason it tastes so good is that you are really drinking snowflakes that fell on the slopes of Mount Shasta. The snow melted and seeped down through the volcanic rock into lava tubes deep inside the mountain. These icy rivers traveled down the canyon in underground lava tubes to Mossbrae Springs, where the City of Dunsmuir takes part of the flow to supply the town with water so pure it needs no further treatment. The rest of the flow becomes the beautiful Mossbrae Falls.
(3) Critter Creek
This little spring-fed creek was originally in a roadside ditch and culvert and had no name. After the creek channel was restored, Dunsmuir Elementary School students decided to adopt it and had a contest to name the new creek. The winning name ‘Critter Creek’ was made official by the City of Dunsmuir following a student presentation at a City Council meeting. Students planted native plants and seeds along the newly created stream channel. The creek is an ongoing outdoor classroom where students study aquatic insects, do water quality monitoring, pick up litter, write poetry, draw and paint, learn about native plants and animals, and release the trout fry they raise in their classroom
Fun is not hard to find at Tauhindauli Park. The Sacramento River lures those who love to fish. High spring flows attract rafters and kayakers. Picnic tables and BBQ grills make it a great place for family outings. It’s a perfect place to take a walk, and the paved trail is wheelchair accessible. It’s a good place to see wildlife and native plants, and take photographs. For those who love history, you’ll find plenty of it here.
(5) Aquatic Insects
The cold, clean Sacramento River is home to a variety of aquatic insects. If you gently turn over rocks, you might see an insect with two tails called a stonefly nymph crawling around, or find a caddis fly larva who builds a tube around its body using sand or small bits of wood. Tiny mayflies usually have three trails, and dart around in the current near the bottom sucking algae off rocks. These insects will leave their watery home when they become adults, and many become dinner for trout as they surface, unfold their wings to dry and fly away. In quiet pools near the water’s edge, you might see a water strider whose tiny hairs on its legs trap air bubbles that allow it to skate across the surface of the water. (Go right o gravel trail at the fenced area.)
(6) Riparian Trees
The white alder, willow, and black cottonwood trees that grow in the riparian zone along the riverbanks are very important to the river and its inhabitants. Trees provide shade to help keep water temperatures cooler so trout are happy and healthy. When leaves fall in the water, they become a great food source and a hiding place for aquatic insects. Caddis fly larva uses dead twigs and bits of bark to build their underwater tube-like homes. Tree roots hold the soil and keep stream banks from washing away during floods, and also provide great habitat for salamanders and aquatic garter snakes. Trout love the quiet pools that are created when dead trees fall in the river and make small waterfalls. They can hide down below and wait for their dinner to flow by. Aside from providing homes for birds, squirrels, and insects. Trees are beautiful to look at and give off oxygen for us to breath.
You can fish all year in the pools and riffles at Tauhindauli Park. The corner pool and under the Interstate-5 Bridge are favorite spots for many local anglers. The catch-and-keep season runs from the last weekend in April to November 15, with a five-trout limit and no special gear required. Fishing regulations for the rest of the year are artificial lures with barbless hooks and a zero-trout limit. The Department of Fish & Game stock the park area approximately once a week throughout the catch-and-keep season, and there is also a healthy population of native rainbow trout. Other fish you might see are brown trout, brook trout and the smallest and most numerous fish in the river, riffle sculpin. In the days before Shasta Dam, the river was full of salmon during the spawning season. Check current fishing regulations as they can change from year to year.
(8) Sewer Pipe Lift Station
Many people think that this pipe is a water pipe, but it carries wastewater from north Dunsmuir. Wastewater flows by gravity to the small building next to the pipe, called the Lift Station, where it is pumped ‘lifted’) over the river to a treatment facility (several miles to the south). At one time the pipe ran under the river, but it washed out in a big flood. It is now safer and less likely to harm the river (Go back to the main trail and turn right.)
(9) Upper Sacramento Facts
The Sacramento River is the largest river in California, starting at its headwaters on Mount Shasta and Mount Eddy, and flowing to the ocean at San Francisco Bay. The upper Sacramento River canyon is approximately 40 miles long, stretching from Box Canyon Dam to Shasta Lake, and dropping nearly 3,000 feet on its journey down the canyon. The river’s average temperature ranges from 48 degrees near the dam to 68 degrees as it reaches Shasta Lake. Over forty tributaries along the river increase the flow to four times its size at Box Canyon. Average summer flows are about 50 cfs (cubic feet per second) at Cantara, 100 cfs at Tauhindauli, and around 400 cfs at Lamoine. During the 1997 New Year’s flood, flows at the Delta station peaked at 63,234 cfs. There are beautiful waterfalls and springs upstream from Tauhindauli Park including Mossbrae Falls, Hedge Creek Falls, Faery Falls, Shasta Springs, Cave Springs, Ney Springs, and Big Springs.
(10) Cantara Spill
On July 14, 1991, a Southern Pacific train derailed, and a tanker toppled into the Sacramento River at Cantara Loop, about four miles north of Dunsmuir. The tanker ruptured and spilled over 19,000 gallons of a soil fumigant, Metam Sodium, into the water. The toxic plume spread out from bank to bank and killed practically all the aquatic life in its path during its two day, 40 miles journey to Shasta Lake. Birds and other animals that depend on the river for food and water were also poisoned, as well as trees and plants along the river’s edge. The plume sank to the bottom of Shasta Lake where the Department of Fish and Game pumped oxygen bubbles to help bring it to the surface and then sprayed it into the air to help break it down. Although there was no trace of the chemical one month after the spill, scientists realized that full recovery from the effects of this deadly chemical would take years. After ten years the river had almost completely recovered except for long-lasting effects on riparian trees and reduced numbers of crayfish, snails, clams, riffle sculpin, and some stoneflies. (Head back down the hill.)
(11) Highways and Bridges
In 1837, the Wintu Indians trod along the route that would become the Siskiyou Trail. After the discovery of gold, it became the stage route. Later it became a toll road until winter floods washed away 15 of the 17 bridges. In the early 1900s the State built [Oregon Road, then] the Pacific Highway to follow the Sacramento River north and later Highway 99, later becoming Interstate-5. The arched bridge was the first [cement] bridge to span the Sacramento River and the railroad tracks in Dunsmuir and was built in 1915 for $45,418. [The first bridge was at river level and worked up the cliff entering what is now Florence Loop near the northeast corner.] In 1955 the bridge was widened to carry increased traffic at a cost of $698,421.15 – almost 15 times the cost of the original bridge! In the 1960s a second bridge was added and Highway 99 was converted to a four-lane freeway with the arched bridge becoming the southbound lane. Another bridge known as the 800-Foot Bridge was built to accommodate local traffic.
(12) Urban Interface
Tauhindauli Park is surrounded by streets, houses, and train tracks. There are an electrical substation and sewage lift station at the park site. Overhead, thousands of cars and trucks whiz by on the freeway every day. Critter Creek collects runoff from I-5, yards, streets, and storm drains of north Dunsmuir and empties into the Sacramento River. Some people do not realize that dumping things down storm drains could harm fish, frogs, and birds at the park and river. We are part of their community because what we do affects the animals and their habitat. They depend on us to keep their water clean so please, remember that they drink what we dump!
(13) Electrical Substation
Dunsmuir’s electricity was once produced by a hydropower plant. Water was taken out of the Sacramento River at [what is now the] Dunsmuir City Park and was diverted to a turbine [pelten wheel (it surfaces on occasion in the river)] that generated electricity for the entire town. It was located across the river from the corner pool where you can still find pieces of old pipe, wood, and concrete from the old hydro plant. As the town grew COPCO Power now called Pacific Power, built an electrical substation on the park side of the river. After a big flood destroyed it, it was rebuilt in a new location above the floodplain where it stands today. You can also see the historic yellow-handling boom and remains of the wooden platform that was used in the early 1900s to load and unload poles and transformers for storage.
(14) Meadows and Wildlife)
If you happen to visit our park in the early morning or late evening, you might be lucky enough to catch a gray fox drifting across the meadow with its fluffy tail sticking straight out, or a doe and fawn bedded down in the tall grass. This meadow, though relatively small, is an important habitat as meadow areas are not abundant in river canyons. The tall grasses and surrounding willow clumps provide a perfect place for deer to over-winter and give birth. Along the river, you might catch a river otter sliding down the rocks into the water like a kid in a playground, or see an osprey with a trout in its talons heading back to feed its young. Near dark, raccoons show up to turn over rocks along the river to find insects and bats fly overhead eating up to 1,200 insects per hour. Even though we may seldom see them, these creatures are happy here because there is food, water, and habitat. Habitat can be as simple as the underside of a leaf for an insect, a small rocky crevice for snakes and lizards, or a hollow tree for an owl or a flicker. Even the bridges provide habitat for bats, swallows, and rock doves (native pigeons).
(15) Upper Soda Springs Resort
This area was where the Upper Soda Springs Resort once stood. You can imagine what a beautiful sight this was for a resort. It was built in the mid-1850s by Ross and Marry Campbell McCloud and was on the main California-Oregon Stagecoach Road. It became a railroad stop in the 1800s. The next 20 years were the height of the Soda Springs Resort as wealthy travelers, following the fashion of the Victorian era, flocked here for ‘taking the waters’ and enjoying the mountain scenery. You can still see the old wooden shed and the magnolia and fruit trees that were planted back then. Across the road from the park is the old Soda Springs box and stone walls that were reported to have been built by Grant Toweendolly (see [the] historic marker along the road). Grant was born at the resort and worked there until it closed in the 1920s after the ‘fashion’ declined and travelers began to speed by in their automobiles on the new highway and bridge overhead. He enjoyed taking visitors hunting, hiking, and fishing and was always helping others in times of need.
(16) Old Cable Bridge Site
Beneath the big leaf maple tree at the end of the trail, you can find a large eyebolt embedded in a boulder that was part of the old footbridge that crossed the river from the railroad tracks. The bridge was built in 1886 and allowed railroad travelers to access the popular Upper Soda Springs Resort. Metal cables were used to suspend the bridge deck and were anchored at both ends and supported by towers. This style of bridge is called a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate Bridge. (head back on the trail.)
(17) Floodplain Restoration
Floodplains are important to rivers because they are large flat areas that allow the water to spread out and slow down during a flood. This helps keep the water from eroding the riverbank and destroying homes and towns. In 1946, a huge landslide buried the railroad tracks, and the railroad decided to move the river channel over and build new tracks around the slide. All the soil that was dug out of the new river channel was piled in the floodplain along the riverbanks to make a levee. As part of park construction, a new floodplain was excavated along the river. The levee was moved away from the river and is now the trail. This newly created floodplain was planted with native plants and trees to help hold the soil during high water, as was the newly restored floodplain under the freeway bridge.
Dunsmuir had its beginning in 1886 as the place where Central Pacific Railroad added extra engines to get trains up the very steep grade between Dunsmuir and [the town of] Weed [Weed was not there yet]. They named the settlement Pusher, after the pusher engines that were placed at the back of the trains. [That is folklore – it was originally called Cedar Flat.] The first town hall was a boxcar [originally located south of the present townsite near Manfredi’s Mini-Mart and Gas Station]. A coal baron, Alexander Dunsmuir [from British Columbia], passed through on a stagecoach [to board the train that stopped there at that time] and offered to give the townspeople a fountain if they would name the town after him, and his fountain still remains at the Dunsmuir’s City Park. As a major link in the north-south rail line, Dunsmuir grew quickly and became a bustling little town. The railroad employed over 2,000 men to work in the roundhouse, rail yards, and machine shops. The roundhouse was used to repair the work-horse steam engines until the 1950’s when train engines switched to diesel [diesel-electric]. It was also the site to turn locomotives around for the return journey [on the turntable that still exists today]. The railroad is still an important part of Dunsmuir’s economy today and train buffs from all over the world visit Dunsmuir to get a glimpse of a time gone by and to photograph trains passing through the beautiful scenery of Northern California.
(19) Native Americans
The Wintu and Okwanuchu tribes gathered in this area to fish for salmon and drink the soda springs water which they believed was good for digestion. They called this area mem-okis-takki “strong water place”. Under the highway bridge was called “wayeltcupus phuyuq” which means “where they wade the river”. Grant Towendolly, whose name means “he who ties with the left hand”, was chosen by his father to be the next chieftain of the northern Wintu and was the keeper of the stories and legends. He told a story of how the Wintu used three large flat rocks (now buried since the river was moved because of a landslide) to roast their salmon. Fire was made by twirling a buckey stick on dry bark, then salmon was laid on a bed of small hot rocks and covered with ‘umbrella’ plant leaves and hot ashes. When done they were served on the smooth side of a piece of bark.
(20) Native Plants
Unlike parks with lawns and ornamental plants, Tauhindauli Park was restored to its natural state by using plants that are native to this area. Not only are these plants best suited for this soil, but natives also provide habitat and food for animals that live here. In spring you can enjoy California poppies, lupine, flax, asters, and goldenrod in the meadows. A favorite along the river’s edge is Indian rhubarb (also called umbrella plant or elephant ears) that has huge ruffled leaves and starts out every spring with a cluster of small pink flowers. Horsetail, rushes, sedges, and the sweet-smelling western azalea also like to have their feet wet and live in the riparian zone with the willows. Since rushes and sedges both look like tall grasses, just remember that sedges have edges, rushes are round and grasses have nodes.
Volunteers from the Dunsmuir Garden Club, Dunsmuir Schools, Sacramento River Exchange, civic organizations, and local communities worked tirelessly to help plant and water native plants and seeds, spread straw, clean up trash, and remove invasive non-native [plants] at the park. The efforts helped revegetate the restored floodplain, meadow, and riparian area along the newly established Critter Creek. ‘Friends of Tauhindauli Park & Tail’, the local support group for the project also assisted by raising additional money for park improvements. It was a labor of love for many to see how their efforts helped transform a place that was full of trash, overgrown with weeds, and eroded by floods, to a place they can come and take a walk along the river, fish, picnic, and just enjoy.
This was written by Dunsmuir Elementary School students as part of their ongoing commitment to improving Tauhindauli Park and sharing what they have learned about their watershed and others. The Dunsmuir Recreation and Parks District is maintaining the park for the City of Dunsmuir.