Lake Shasta Caverns

Useful Information

Lake Shasta Caverns, CA, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Lake Shasta Caverns, CA, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Location: Between San Francisco and Portland. I5, exit Shasta Cavern's Road, 30 km north of Redding, 3,5 km to the cave.
Navi: 20359 Shasta Caverns Rd, Lakehead, CA 96051
(40°48'17.54"N, 122°18'12.12"W)
Open: APR to MAY daily 9-15, tours every hour.
Memorial Day to Labor Day daily 9-16, tours every 30 min.
SEP daily 9-15, tours every hour.
OCT to MAR daily 10, 12, 14.
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Fee: Adults USD 32, Children (3-15) USD 19, Children (0-2) free.
Year Pass: Adults USD 80, Children (3-15) USD 50.
Groups (20+): discount with reservation 72 h in advance.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: T=14 °C, H=90-95%.
Guided tours: D=120 min (60 min cave + 60 min boat and bus ride), St=600,
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark, 20359 Shasta Caverns Rd, Lakehead, CA 96051, Tel: +1-800-795-2283, Fax: +1-530-238-2386. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


known to the Wintu Indian tribe.
03-NOV-1878 discovered by James A. Richardson, a federal fisheries employee.
11-NOV-1878 first exploration by James A. Richardson, clearly legible on the wall where he wrote it that day with the soot from his carbide lamp.
1945 Shasta Dam creates the lake.
1955 ground and cave owned by Grace M. Tucker, an attorney from Chehalis, Washington.
1959 Lake Shasta properties, Inc. formed by Grace M. Tucker, Roy Thompson, and his two brothers.
1963 Ray Winther became partner, artificial tunnel built.
30-MAY-1964 cave opened to the public.
2012 dedicated a National Natural Landmark.
2014 celebrations of 50th anniversary of being open to the public.


First exploration by James A. Richardson, Lake Shasta Caverns, CA, U.S.A. Public Domain.
Lake Shasta Caverns, CA, U.S.A. Public Domain.

A visit to Lake Shasta Caverns includes a boat ride and a bus ride. The road leads to a marina, where the ticket office is located. Tickets are sold on a fist come, first serve basis. Its possible to buy tickets online, but they are valid for the whole day and do not reserve a place in a certain tour. Try to be at the ticket office 30 minutes before the tour starts and get the boarding pass to your online ticket. With the boarding pass you can enter the boat. A 10 minute boat ride takes the visitors to the other side of the McCloud arm of the Shasta Lake. Then there is a short bus ride on a private road to the cave entrance high up the mountainside. The surface of Lake Shasta is 325 m asl, the cave entrance is 550 m asl.

In the 1870s, a small town was built on the McCloud River. Because of the river, it also had a fish hatchery, and one of the employees, James A. Richardson, discovered the cave in 1879. First it was named Chalk Cave because of the white limestone. Soon it was renamed Baird Cave, after Spencer Fullerton Baird (1823–1887), the American naturalist, ornithologist, ichthyologist, herpetologist, and museum curator. He was the first curator at the Smithsonian Institution and expanded the natural history collections from 6,000 specimens in 1850 to over 2 million by the time of his death. He was also second secretary and secretary of the Smithsonian for many years. Less known is that he also was the first U.S. Fish Commissioner appointed in 1872, hence the connection to the fish hatchery.

From 1955 the ground with the cave on it was owned by Grace M. Tucker, an attorney from Chehalis, Washington. She had the idea of preserving it from the destruction by careless visitors by making it a show cave. In 1959 she formed Lake Shasta properties, Inc., together with Roy Thompson and his two brothers. The land which was needed for access roads, parking, reception centers, and boat docks is part of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. It was acquired under a U.S. Government lease. Ray Winther became partner in 1963. The cave was developed, renamed Lake Shasta Caverns, and opened to the public in 1964.

The boat ride for a show cave tour is quite exceptional, there is only one other show cave with a boat ride in New Zealand. On one side it was obviously an organisational nightmare to get it all up and running. On the other side it is a great addition to the tour, especially during good weather. And the bus ride offers some of the most breathtaking views of the mountain ranges and a bird’s eye view of the water activities on the lake.

The cave is entered through a 90 m long artificial tunnel. The guide explains the exceptional speleothems and the fossils in the Jurassic limestone. The cave has beautiful formations, beneath stalactites and stalagmites there are helictites, cave pearls, bulbous calcites, and other rare speleothems. A special tour called the Underground Classroom is intended for school children and give a lot of fundamental informationin connection with a test amd some gold digging. After all, its California.

The pictures on this page are from Carol M. Highsmith, who made an impressive series of rural America. She photographs the entire American vista, including landscapes, architecture, urban and rural life, and people in their work environments, in all fifty U.S. states as a record of the early 21st century. Highsmith donated her life's work of more than 100,000 images, royalty-free and in highest possible quality, to the Library of Congress, which established a free one-person archive.