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Visit Redding, California
Visit Redding, California
A bike ride across the Sundial Bridge in Redding, Ca
Two people hiking next to a lake at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Kayaking and paddleboarding at Shasta Lake
Middle McCloud Falls
Kyle Sheppard
A family at Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark in Redding, CA.

7 Ways to Discover the Fascinating History of Redding, CA

By Redding CVB | 03/03/2020 | Art & Culture, Caves, Downtown, Empty Nester Activities, Family Friendly , Great Outdoors, Historic Architecture, Museums, State & National Parks, Things to See and Do, Top-Sights, Tours

A trip to Redding means that you’re going to be surrounded by forested mountains, gorgeous valleys, and scenic lakes and rivers. But in addition to the physical beauty of the region, you’ll also find a rich history of the people who’ve made their home here and helped shape the state of California. You’ll find historic structures, museums, ghost towns, and natural wonders that tell the story of not only Redding but of the Shasta Cascade region, known as UpState CA. Here are seven adventures in, or a quick day trip away from, Redding that are sure to impress and give you a bit more understanding of how the area has evolved.

1. Visit the Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds

The Joss House is a Taoist temple and museum dedicated to preserving the Chinese immigrant culture that came to California in the 19th century.

Asian immigrants were a big part of building the railroads and mining for gold in the late 19th century, and one of the most important reminders of their influence here can be found at the Weaverville Joss House State Historic Park. Here you’ll find the Joss House, a Taoist temple built in 1874 that remains an active Taoist place of worship. It’s the oldest Chinese temple in California that’s still in use, and it has been open to the public since 1956 when it became part of the California State Park system.

The Temple of the Forest Beneath the Clouds, as it’s officially named, is located about 50 miles west of Redding in the foothills of the Trinity Alps. It’s an impressive structure that offers a glimpse into both the Taoist religion and Chinese culture. Among the exhibits at the historic site are displays of Chinese artwork and mining tools as well as weapons dating from an 1854 skirmish, the so-called “Weaverville Tong War,” fought between two Chinese factions. It’s a year-round interpretive site (with daily temple tours), and it also hosts an impressive (and well-attended) annual Lion Dance as part of Chinese New Year festivities.

2. Dig Into Gold Rush History at Shasta State Historic Park

At Shasta State Historic Park, you’ll find the remains of Shasta City, a boomtown during the Gold Rush.Tom Hilton

The Gold Rush produced booms and busts, and you can see the remains of one of those boomtowns just outside of Redding at Shasta State Historic Park. It’s the site Shasta City, which from 1850 to 1890 was known as the “Queen City of the Northern Mines.” Today you can see the relics of barbershops, markets, hotels, and other buildings evoke the heyday of the mining culture.

The restored 1861-vintage Shasta County Courthouse—which includes a courtroom, jail, and gallows—now harbors a museum of early California art and a visitor center. You can catch period baking demonstrations in the Blumb Bakery, and the Litsch General Store offers an enchanting peek at 1880s-era merchandise and displays. This is a great educational spot for children, field trips, groups, or history buffs.

3. Step Into the 19th Century at the Behrens-Eaton and Kelly-Griggs House Museums

Behrens-Eaton House in downtown Redding.

The Gold Rush made many people in Redding rich, and with that wealth they were able to build some remarkable Victorian-era homes. Two such historic buildings are open to the public as museums. In Redding, you’ll find the Behrens-Eaton House Museum, which was donated to the public by Judge Richard Behrens Eaton to introduce visitors to Shasta County history via his family’s heirlooms and other historical artifacts displayed in the 19th-century home. The free museum includes everything from Victorian-era housewares and furniture and regional Gold Rush artifacts to some amazing World War II memorabilia.

Nearby in Red Bluff, the Kelly-Griggs House Museum is a splendid Victorian home dating from the early 1880s with its own remarkable storehouse of regional history, including exhibits on Tehama County’s American Indian cultures and pioneer heritage.

4. Marvel at the Rock Art of Lava Beds National Monument

See Petroglyph Point and other native rock art at the Lava Beds National Monument.Ray Bouknight

Lava Beds National Monument is celebrated as a geological marvel, host to an incredible density of lava tubes and other remarkable features on the flanks of the great Medicine Lake Volcano. But it’s also a rich historical and cultural landscape, being part of the traditional homeland of the Modoc people. The monument is also known for its native rock art, including the astonishing Petroglyph Point, a butte that once rose from the waters of Tule Lake and marks one of the most significant repositories of American Indian rock art in all of California. Here you’ll find more than 5,000 artistic rock carvings, or petroglyphs, some of which may be more than 6,000 years old. The entrances to numerous caves at Lava Beds National Monument, meanwhile, come decorated with painted pictographs created with charcoal, animal fat, clay, and other mixtures.

5. Admire an Art Deco Landmark in Redding

The Cascade Theatre in Redding, CA.

Redding’s Cascade Theatre anchors the city’s arts-and-culture scene, hosting a variety of concerts, plays, and other performances throughout the year. Opened in 1935 as a cinema and vaudeville house under the Golden State Theaters umbrella, the Cascade also represents one of Northern California’s most significant Art Deco buildings. The exterior with its old-school marquee makes a heck of a photo op, while within the theater you’ll find restored murals, lavish chandeliers, vintage balustrades, and other grand features.

6. Explore History (and Much More) at the Turtle Bay Exploration Park and Museum

Redding’s Turtle Bay Exploration Park and Museum is a wonderful destination that features an arboretum, botanical gardens, and a variety of live animals—most of them representing species native to the region (from kingsnakes and Pacific tree frogs to gray foxes, bobcats, and golden eagles). History buffs have much to sink their teeth into in the Turtle Bay Museum, which has exhibits that include an Atsugewi dugout canoe recovered from the Rising River, a replica of a Wintu bark house, and a variety of artifacts from the pioneer era.

7. Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark and Shasta Dam

Think of this destination as the best of both man and nature. At Lake Shasta Caverns National Natural Landmark, you can explore the amazing cave system that dates back to 250 million years ago. The Wintu Indians lived in the region and used the caves as part of their culture, but settlers weren’t aware of them until 1878 when an employee at a fish hatchery on the McCloud River stumbled upon them. In 1964 the caverns were open to the public, and it has become one of the region’s top draws. Today, a trip to the caverns involves a short trip on a catamaran across Lake Shasta, a bus ride to the entrance to the caves, and a guided tour.

Also be sure to visit Shasta Dam, which crossed the Sacramento River to form Lake Shasta. The 602-foot-tall curved dam was completed in 1945, providing hydroelectric power and flood control for the region. When it was built, it was the second tallest dam in the U.S. (behind the Hoover Dam), and it created what is still the largest reservoir in California. Enough concrete was used in the dam to create a sidewalk that would circle the world at the equator. You can take a free guided tour of the dam year-round, where you’ll take a 428-foot elevator ride to the base of the dam to see the powerhouse and other inner workings of the structure.

Written by Ethan Shaw for Matcha in partnership with Redding CVB.

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