Woody debris on Shasta and Trinity Lakes

Shasta Recreation Company performing debris mitigation on Shasta Lake.
Shasta Recreation Company performs debris mitigation. Debris that is stranded at the boat launches, and is accessible, is mitigated by Forest Service concessionaire Shasta Recreation Company (SRC). The process used by SRC is to pull the debris onto land using a tractor, load it onto a trailer, and haul the debris off-site. Photograph by a Shasta Recreation Company employee.

Higher than usual lake levels have caused an increase in woody debris in Shasta and Trinity Lakes.  As a result of the increased debris load, access from boat launches may be negatively impacted and boat travel on the lake may be unsafe. The location of the debris is highly variable and is dependent on wind patterns.

Lake users should exercise caution and keep an eye out for floating debris and underwater obstacles. Debris may not be visible as it becomes waterlogged and rests under the water’s surface. The location of the floating debris changes often and can happen rapidly. This is primarily due to wind patterns. A boat launch area that is clear one minute may be impassable the next because of a shift in the wind. The alternate is also true, a launch may be impassable one minute and complete clear the next. This presents many difficulties when managing the debris.

Floating woody debris on Shasta Lake is common, and expected, however, this year we are seeing a greater concentration than usual. Debris normally washes into the lake from the streams and rivers that surround it and is spread around the lake by wind and current. The debris floats on the lake’s surface for much of the spring and is eventually stranded when the lake level recedes. Stranded debris rests on the 365 miles of shoreline until the lake has reached a level that causes it to float again. This is the cause of the amount of debris floating in the lake this year. Presently the lake is three feet from crest which is the highest lake level we have seen for a number of years. As the summer passes and demands on the water in Shasta Lake increase, the water will recede and cause the debris to once again be high and dry.

Once previously floating debris collects on the shoreline it can be collected for personal use.  This is possible with a debris permit which is available from the Shasta Lake and Weaverville Ranger Stations.  These permits are free and for personal use only. For up to date information regarding the impact of woody debris on boat launches, or how to obtain a woody debris permit, please call the Shasta Lake Ranger Station at (530) 275-1587 or the Weaverville Ranger Station at (530) 623-2121.

Prior to paying the launch fee, we encourage users to inspect the launch ramp and determine if you are able to launch at that time. If you are not able to launch at that location, at that time, you may be able to launch at another facility. There are seven launch facilities on Shasta Lake and five on Trinity Lake.  Shasta Lake launching facilities include Antler’s, Bailey Cove, Centimudi, Hirz Bay, Jones Valley, Packer’s Bay and Sugarloaf. Trinity Lake launching facilities include Bowerman, Trinity Center, Fairview, Minersville and Stuart Fork.  These launches, on both lakes, are in addition to boat launches located at marina facilities.

For more information regarding boating safety regulations and vessel assistance requests, boat operators should call the Shasta County Sheriff’s Boating Safety Unit at (530) 245-6075 or the Trinity County Sheriff­’s Department Lake Patrol Program at (530) 623-2611. (Please note that patrol on Trinity Lake occurs during the summer months only.)