The Spectacular Waters of the Shasta-Cascade Region

The Shasta-Cascade region of Northern California is known for its numerous lakes, rivers, and waterfalls, and boasts visually stunning locations surrounded by water for ample photographic opportunities. I recently had the opportunity to spend the long, Fourth of July holiday weekend here to explore this wild and scenic area, and share a few of my favorite spots with you!

Lake Siskiyou

Throughout the weekend, the clouds appeared to be promising some interesting sunset color. In the hope to capture the sunset and clouds over Mount Shasta, Lake Siskiyou is a prime location to capture the reflection of the mountain and sky in the water. Lake Siskiyou Camp-Resort, located on the southwest section of the lake, seemed best positioned to capture the glow of the setting sun on the mountain. The beach that belongs to the resort is accessible to the public and costs $2 per person to access, making this a wildly popular area, particularly on a hot, holiday weekend. But even with the summer crowds, the lake still provided a serene setting I was hoping to capture. The downside is that the access gates to the beach are closed and locked at 9 PM, making it tricky for summer photographs when the sun sets so late. While waiting for some color in the sky to appear I found some pink, flowering bushes to place in the foreground to keep me busy.

After an hour of waiting, and getting nervous about the gate closure, some color finally emerged in the sky at about 8:45 PM, just long enough to get a few snaps in before hightailing it out of there!

Burney Falls

Burney Falls, is a waterfall in McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. The waterfall is fed from underground springs in this volcanically active area, so even in this time of drought in California, the flow is less dependent on rainfall and melting snow-pack. One of the many things I love about Burney Falls is the ethereal quality of the falls bursting forth from the moss covered vertical rock at 129 feet in height. It’s a beautiful place to visit in the early morning. Arriving around 7AM, I didn’t see any restricted access to the park, probably because of the campground that shares an access gate. It’s a short, steep hike down, but paved, and easily navigable, but if you plan to scramble among the boulders like I did, wear water resistant clothing and sturdy hiking boots. A substantial mist comes off the falls and the rocks are extremely slippery. In this season of long summer days, it wasn’t long before the sun crested over the hills and began to illuminate the sheer cliff.

I played around with zooming in on different sections of these wide falls before heading back, just as the tourists began to arrive.

Mossbrae Falls

I had long wanted to find and photograph the elusive Mossbrae Falls, one of the most scenic waterfalls in California.  Like Burney, these falls are fed by underground springs, and the distributed flow of the water creates an ethereal effect over the moss covered rocks. I used this blog post from my favorite website, The Outbound Collective, to find my way, and won’t rehash the directions here.  But, please note that the only access to the falls at this time is illegal, subject to fines, and, as the hike is along the Southern Pacific railroad tracks, potentially dangerous due to passing trains along the route! Until public access to the falls can be established, officials are discouraging access through citations.  But, after walking a mile or so along rocky, ankle twisting terrain along the railroad tracks past signs that said, “No Trespassing” and “No Access to Mossbrae Falls”, the sound of the falls could be heard, and a short hike down the water, a cooling reprieve from the hot July afternoon. If I had to do it again, I would suggest visiting here in the morning if you’re intending to photograph, as the falls are west facing, and the afternoon glare can be harsh. I lucked out with just a little intermittent cloud cover to get in a few decent shots before the hike back.

Sacramento River and Mossbrae Falls

It was a quick weekend that flew by, but I’m looking forward to exploring this area further in the future, and spending more time photographing Castle Crags State Park and the McCloud River Falls.



My name is Beth Young, and I'm a licensed architect specializing in healthcare facilities, with a strong passion for capturing the beauty of the natural world through photography. Please feel free to browse or comment. If you wish, prints are available using long lasting and high quality photographic paper or museum quality canvas using archival inks at my website:

One Comment

  1. […] of my waterfall bucket list: Mossbrae Falls in Shasta County! Photo by my friend, Beth Young of Optimal Focus Photography. We met on a landscape photography workshop a few years back and I love following her adventures […]

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