The Road Trip to Burney begins at Old Station, the intersection of highways 44 and 89. Highway 44 turns to the right and goes on to Susanville, which is covered in our Road Trip to Susanville. Proceeding north on 89, just a few hundred feet ahead on the right is the entrance to Subway Cave, as mentioned in the Road Trip to Old Station which got you this far. For the next couple of miles you’re driving over a lava
field with Hat Creek on the left. There are a number of turn offs that provide parking and access to the creek – which can be decent fishing. Near the end of the lava field, again on the left, is the entrance to a Forest Service camp ground which can handle smaller trailers. Continuing on 89 takes you over a bridge with camp sites on the immediate left and right. The site to the right is great for tent campers but not approved for trailers; the one on the left will handle smaller units.
Another three miles ahead on the left is Rancheria RV Park which has drive through sites, full hook-ups, tent sites, a store, some small cabins for rent, and a fishing pond. A note to ATV folks; the land to the west of Highway 44 and now 89 is mostly public from Lassen Park to well past Old Station with the exceptions of the congested areas around Old Station. The rules on access seem to change yearly, so check with the authorities. This is a vast area with plentiful good rides. Be sure to wear a helmet so your mama is not feeding you with a spoon the rest of your life.
About two miles past the Rancheria RV Park, on the right, is Wilcox Rd., a paved single lane road that will take you to Lost Creek – one of my favorite spots in late spring when the wild flowers begin to bloom. On the way, after crossing Hat Creek, is an Indian Cemetery on the right. Probably because of the lava caps beneath the soil, the graves are mounded. They are all covered with bright, artificial flowers and assorted memoir’s including a 49er’s football helmet atop a pole.
This is a functioning, small cemetery, so please be respectful. It reminds me of the Mexican cemeteries – a true work of art. Beyond is a road to the left across a lava field leading to Lost Creek. The stream comes out of the side of Hat Creek rim and has a nice population of small trout. It’s very brushy but can be fished by wading. You’ll probably have it to yourself.
A short distance from the Wilcox Rd. turn off, on the left, is a gravel road that leads to Thousand Lake Wilderness area. There’s no sign on 89, but if you look in a bit, there’s a forest service sign indicating the Tamarack trail head. . I’ve been in Thousand Lakes twice from different sides. The Tamarack trailhead is a fairly easy 3.5 mile hike and accessed via good gravel roads from this station. There are 22 miles of trails, some running in loops, through the wilderness area. No permits or fees are required. Horses and dogs are allowed. This is a particularly popular destination for fishing, though the lakes can get pretty low in dryer years. They are shallow, glacier pockets of water and stocked by plane yearly. Don’t expect any big fish as they usually winter kill due to the lack of depth in the lakes. Also, don’t expect to encounter a thousand lakes, more like seven of decent size. Wildlife is abundant including mosquitos.
You are now in a very picturesque valley dominated by cattle ranches with lush irrigated pastures. This is mostly private land with little to no access to Hat Creek.
One of the ranches, Hat Creek Hereford Ranch, has a good RV park with full amenities, a stocked fishing pond, and access to Hat Creek. Turn right at Doty Rd., or check it out at hatcreekrv.com. Further ahead is a very interesting site to visit – The Hat Creek Radio Observatory.
Look for a sign on the right that says ‘Hat Creek Radio Observatory’. Turn right on Bidwell Rd. and go about a mile ahead. You’ll begin to see the array of satellite dishes. This is a very cool operation with some 42 (and growing) dishes searching deep space for ET. It is part of the Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute (SETI). They are obviously not under the same restrictions as the NSA, but are purportedly run by aliens.
Returning to earth, ahead on the left is a Forest Service station which is a good place to get information on current conditions, additional access roads to Thousand Lake Wilderness, and, if you catch the right person, hunting and fishing reports.
Continuing on towards Burney you’ll pass through the village of Hat Creek which is just a post office, sometimes store, church, and fire station. This again is private land with no Hat Creek access. Water is drawn off the stream for irrigation leaving little until you near the Cassel turn off to the right. For the fishermen and women, this is a must diversion. After crossing over a large section of grazing land, you’ll cross Raising River.
Raising Lake is feed by lava tubes. Don’t even think about it. This is extremely private property with much of the lake owned by Clint Eastwood. As a kid, when Bing Crosby and Phil Harris owned it, I was lucky enough to get to fish the lake and stream. Out fishing the adults was easy as they mostly took to drink and were out by midafternoon. Aside from the trout, I mostly remember bourbon and cigars.
The town of Cassel is ahead and currently offers no services. There was a small store there last year, but it seems to have come and gone like most dreams in this part of the world.
Raising River passes through Cassel and into a concrete cannel. Upstream from the bridge you can fish the river for a few hundred yards until you’ll be clearly warned to go no further. This is excellent fly fishing for sizable trout. Bait and lure folks seem to do well along the cannel. There’s a P.G. &E. campground to the west side of the cannel, about a hundred yards off the Cassel road. This is the start of P.G. &E.’s re-plumbing of Hat Creek for hydroelectric power generation and continues to Baum Lake a few miles below.
Turn off Cassel Rd. to the right about one mile or so north on Baum Lake Rd.
The Lake itself is easily one of the best year round fisheries in the area. There’s a Hatchery, Crystal Lake Hatchery, to the left. Crystal Lake is actually part of Baum Lake. As you enter the area, the power house is to the south end, the boat launch, picnic, restrooms, and parking in to center strip, and the lake along the whole stretch of things. It takes a few moments to get oriented and to see who’s doing well on what. A boat is best but the lake is very fishable upstream from the bank. Most anything works though I prefer flies. The osprey and assorted fisher birds put on a real show.
Back on the Cassel Road you will suddenly come upon what appears to be a 1950’s road side attraction with an array of giant scrap metal sculptures. This is the Packway Landscape Materials yard. Stop and take a look, it is fascinating. The blue dino is their logo. But the pink flying pig is my favorite.
Continuing north is a red gravel road turn off to the right that leads to what is commonly known as the ‘blue ribbon’ stretch of Hat Creek There are no markings, but drive in approximately a half mile and the road turns to asphalt.
The spur to the left goes to Highway 299, again with no markings. A mile and half ahead (slight right) is Hat Creek power house #2 and the start of the ‘blue ribbon’ section of Hat Creek.
This is the first Wild Trout Management Area created in California. The stream is a wide, classic spring creek with a two fish over 18” limit. This, for all intent and purposes, means fly fishing with barbless hooks. It’s no walk in the park.
These trout are very selective but it’s well worth the effort. If you don’t like challenges, stay away. The native aquatic system has been severely damaged over the past twenty years mostly due to cattle. In 2013 a major restoration project was begun to stabilize the banks and remove the silt. This will go on for the next three years, but I believe it’s still open to fishing.
The Cassel Road now dead ends into State Highway 299. Turn left to go to Burney, right to go to Fall River Mills and on to Alturas, which is found on Road Trip to Alturas. This portion of our Road Trip takes us west to Burney, some six miles up the road. You’ll come to the intersection of 299 and 89 a couple of miles west. Keep going straight to get to Burney, left to go to McCloud and Mt. Shasta, which is covered in Road Trip McCloud & Mt. Shasta.
Burney is an attractive, full service mountain community – good place to grab some drinks, food, supplies, fuel, and what-have-you. There are a number of motels in town but I’ve never noticed a RV park. There are a couple of mobile home parks which, at least in rural communities, usually have a few designated overnight sites. Aside from the generic McDonald’s and such, the better bets for food are the Dragon Palace Chinese restaurant on the left entering the downtown area, the nearby Blackberry Patch restaurant, and, for a little more upscale, the historic Rex Club at the west end of town.
They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A few blocks ahead on the left is a large sign and turn off for the Pit River Casino, which does have RV spots, slots, some food and beer and wine.
This could be changing at any minute. Most Indian casinos seem to start small but quickly add amenities as the bucks flow in. They recently added a RV park and gas station/mini-mart across the street.
You are now at a CROSS ROADS; this is the fun part.
You can go on to Burney Falls from here which is covered in the Road Trip to McCloud and Mt. Shasta or go on over to Fall River Mills and McArthur, Road Trip to Alturas, if you have the time. Choose your continuing adventure and please let us know what you discover and share via email to this website.