The locals call the town "Old Shasta," which is easier to say than the official name. At one point in history, in the early 1850's, it was one of the biggest cities in California because of the richness of the gold strikes in the area-- placer, hard-rock and hydraulic mining. But then the gold ran out and shortly afterward Redding was chosen as the county seat mostly because it was easier to reach by railroad, and that was the beginning of the end for Shasta as a metropolis. Now it's a small bedroom community for Redding, three miles east.
Many old brick buildings survived the years, and some have been restored to their former "glory." There's a general store that is a museum. There's the old courthouse with the jail downstairs. There's the re-built gallows behind the museum, where many bad men met their final ends. Shasta is also the site of one of California's last lynchings, when the townspeople took the Ruggles Brothers out of jail and hanged them unceremoniously. But no worries-- that was at the beginning of the 20th century, and no lynchings of tourists have been noted in the last century.
Highway 299 West out of Redding leads right through town on its way to the Pacific Ocean 150 miles west, so you can't really miss Old Shasta. It's definitely worth taking an hour or more to walk around the ruins and look through the buildings. There is also a pioneer graveyard on a hill at the western edge of town, on the north side of the highway. The graves have dates from as far back as 1850. It's a little hard to find, but it's there if you look. There are no restaurants in town, but there is a place to get gas and buy basic necessities like soda or beer. Continue about 4 miles west and you'll reach Whiskeytown Lake, which is why the highway in Shasta is often crowded with boaters and swimmers heading to the lake to escape the summer heat.
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