Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
Thought for today: Philippians 4:8 ..Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things..
Disclaimer: THERE IS NO ASSURANCE THAT ANY RESOURCE OR ACTIVITY I'VE FOUND OR DESCRIBE WILL BE AS 'ACCESSIBLE' AS YOU MIGHT NEED. Or information may be out of date. Use the information at your own risk.
On Friday May 26, 2017 we decided to go to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. I wanted to check out their 'accessible recreation features', particularly the Crystal Falls Trail.
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that there were not hordes of people already there when we arrived at the Visitor Center. The Center opens at 10am. The staff are summer seasonal employees and while very helpful don't expect them to know a lot about the park this early in the season. Ask anyway, as one staffer made a very good suggestion about where to photograph the west end of the lake from one of the park's recently opened back roads.
Everyone needs a permit to be inside the Recreation Area boundaries. You can either buy a suitable pass through the drop box, online or in person. We already had our Access Pass, so we didn't actually need to stop at the visitor center, but it's all part of the 'Park' experience. If you stop anywhere in the Park your pass will need to be displayed on the dash or hangtag. If you park in a handicap spot you'll also need to display your DMV handicap placard/plate in addition to your Access Pass.
The Visitor Center itself is a little tight in terms of moving around inside with a wheelchair or my mobility device 'Big Red.' The bathrooms were outside of the Center, and ADA wheelchair accessible. There's a nice little barrier-free trail around the outside of the Center that's hard-packed surface some 48 inches wide. There were a number of pretty flowering plants and I got some fine photos right there. Plus, you have some fine views of Whiskeytown Lake from the Visitor Center display areas.
Once we picked up our maps and literature at the Center we headed west down 299W to the Crystal Creek Road. I wanted to eat lunch by the falls at the picnic area. The main road is paved, but the turn into the Crystal Falls Trail parking area is a short, rough dirt road. There is a wide area right there in the dirt stretch where I'd recommend parking if you are driving an RV. The road then becomes paved again and is steep up to the paved parking lot which has an ADA vault toilet, 1 ADA parking spot, and several regular parking spots. It would be very difficult to turn a large RV around in this area, though a pickup or SUV is fine.
When you park, be sure to display your park pass, as well as your handicap placard if you use the ADA parking spot. The bathroom for the Falls Trail is here. There is no restroom farther up by the falls, so take care of that 'business' now. We parked in the ADA spot and there were a couple of other families parked and already walking the 'trail'.
The trail itself is more like a really nice paved road about 10 feet wide. The entrance has a pole gate, with a 5-foot side area walk-through. Since there are trash cans up by the falls picnic area, I am sure the roadway gets used by park vehicles for trash pickup. But the 'path' is barred for casual vehicular use. It's no problem getting any type of mobility device onto the walking path as it is a continuous pavement 'path' from the parking area clear to the falls view point. However, small wheeled rollotors may find the trek somewhat tiring as those 8 inch wheels don't provide much give.
It's quite a nice walk. The path goes over a little rise, then up a slow incline towards the falls. It's not a long trail at .3 miles one way (.6 round trip). But it is basically uphill to the falls, and downhill coming back. We guessed it was about a 3 percent to 5 percent incline. It was an easy walk with Big Red (Walkinchair) and I would expect it would be similarly easy for manual wheelchairs and a cinch with a power chair. Some people who have low energy levels might need a little extra push using a manual wheelchair going uphill and may be very tempted to coast back down. Resist the temptation of coasting in favor of chair or device control.
At the time we were walking the trail the blue blossom shrubs were flowering nicely as were an assortment of other flowering plants like yellow daisies and some sort of berry bush. I made many stops to take photos of the flowering plants. The morning was somewhat overcast which made for a very comfortable walk and good light for photos. Otherwise, there isn't much shade for most of the distance.
You'll hear the creek but just glimpse it in the small canyon. Near the falls you'll reach the picnic area, which is dirt, not paved. There are 3 picnic tables, 2 of which have ends that are wheelchair friendly. There is also a pedestal grill and trash containers. The pavement ends and the pathway becomes gravel as it goes by the falls overlook.
The falls are very, very pretty and very photogenic. I was able to get multiple angles, different perspectives, closeups, and more. A photographer could spend a couple of hours there setting up various shots.
There is a dirt trail that goes to the base of the falls but this trail is NOT accessible with any mobility device. Nor is the trail that goes behind the concrete building and up the rugged slope. These side trails are simply too steep, too narrow for mobility devices. Never mind about these side trails. The main trail is lovely enough and easy enough for anyone to feel the experience worthwhile.
After leaving the Crystal Creek Falls we went back down to 299W and went back towards Redding, then turned onto Carr Powerhouse Road in order to go around Whiskeytown Lake on the south side. Taking the gravel road around the south side of the lake gave me several opportunities to photograph Whiskeytown Lake as well as roadside foliage. We'll return a different time to walk the Guardian Rock Vista Point Trail. All in all, a very fun day!
*There are lots (and lots, and lots) of places yet to be reviewed for wheelchair accessibility and I am unlikely to get to them all. So that others may find some new places, I've compiled a draft list of locations that may be wheelchair accessible. These are POSSIBILITIES, no certainties. Some places may be complete duds. ATTENTION: this is a ROUGH draft list - mostly for my own use, so if you use this draft list, lower your expectations and do your homework! DRAFT SHASTA COUNTY ACCESSIBLE RECREATION LIST