The Lower McCloud River is featured in the new ebook, Wild Trout. Price: $3.99
Drive about 55 miles north on I-5 from Redding to the exit for Highway 89. From the exit, the town of McCloud is about 10 miles east on HWY 89. Once you reach the town of McCloud, turn left at the main intersection onto Squaw Valley Road. Follow Squaw Valley Road for about 8 miles. You will arrive at a fork in the road (just above Lake McCloud), stay right. Two miles later you will see a right turn with a sign to Ah-Di-Na and the Nature Conservancy property. Take the turn and proceed up the hill and down to the river.
Located near the top of California, north of the Sierra Nevada and at the southern end of the Cascade Range, the McCloud snakes its way down a scenic canyon beneath the rugged slopes of 14,000-foot Mount Shasta. The cool waters of the river roil with life.
In this section of the McCloud, Rainbow trout share the waters with the exotic (non-native) brown trout, first introduced by sportsmen in the mid-1930s. The McCloud was formerly the southernmost refuge for the bull trout or "Dolly Varden," which is, like the Shasta rainbow, a member of the salmon family. Although once a common sight, the bull trout has not been seen in the McCloud since 1975 and has been declared locally extinct. Riffle sculpin, another McCloud native species, abound in the cobble-lined portions of the river.
Beneath dense mixed conifer and oak forests, wildlife is active in the rugged canyons. Mountain lions prowl the forest along with ringtails, and gray foxes. On the canyon's limestone outcrops are found two species, the Shasta salamander and a plant named the Shasta eupatory, that occur nowhere else on earth. Along the river, otters searching for a meal glide through large pools lined with white alder, Indian rhubarb, and horsetail. Black bears lope along trails beside the river, and bald eagles and osprey soar overhead.
The McCloud River Preserve, open only from sunrise to sunset, offers three miles of hiking trails and a self-guided nature walk. Keep in mind that the preserve is snowbound during the winter months (late November through early April). The preserve allows 10 anglers to fish using catch and release techniques at any one time. Five of these fishing places may be reserved a least a few weeks in advance through the Conservancy's San Francisco office: 201 Mission Street, 4th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105; phone (415) 777-0487. The remaining five fishing spots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are held until 10 a.m. of the date reserved. Anglers may use spinning or fly equipment, but the creel limit is zero and fishing is catch and release only. Single, barbless hooks are required by state law.