Dunsmuir, California

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Dunsmuir, California
City of Dunsmuir
The California Theater in Dunsmuir California on a sunny day
The California Theater in Dunsmuir California on a sunny day
"Home of the best water on Earth"
Location of Dunsmuir in Siskiyou County, California.
Location of Dunsmuir in Siskiyou County, California.
Dunsmuir, California is located in the United States
Dunsmuir, California
Dunsmuir, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 41°13′18″N 122°16′23″W / 41.22167°N 122.27306°W / 41.22167; -122.27306Coordinates: 41°13′18″N 122°16′23″W / 41.22167°N 122.27306°W / 41.22167; -122.27306
Country United States of America
State California
County Siskiyou
IncorporatedAugust 7, 1909[1]
 • MayorMatthew Bryan[2]
 • Total1.64 sq mi (4.25 km2)
 • Land1.60 sq mi (4.16 km2)
 • Water0.04 sq mi (0.09 km2)  2.14%
Elevation2,290 ft (698 m)
 • Total1,707
 • Density1,064.21/sq mi (410.79/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific (PST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP Code
Area code530
FIPS code06-20242
GNIS feature IDs277501, 2410372

Dunsmuir is a city in Siskiyou County, northern California. It is on the upper Sacramento River in the Trinity Mountains. Its population is 1,707 as of the 2020 census, up from 1,650 from the 2010 census.

Dunsmuir is currently a hub for tourism in Northern California, with Interstate 5 passing through it. Visitors enjoy fishing, skiing, climbing, or sight-seeing. During the steam locomotive railroad era, it was notable for being the site of an important Central Pacific (and later Southern Pacific) railroad yard, where extra steam locomotives were added to assist trains on the grade to the north.

Commerce and tourism[edit]

Located in the Shasta Cascade area of Northern California, Dunsmuir is a popular destination for tourists. Visitors come to fish trout in the Sacramento and McCloud Rivers, or to see and climb Mount Shasta, Castle Crags or the Trinity Alps. Visitors ski (both alpine and cross-country) and bicycle, or can hike to the waterfalls, streams and lakes in the area, including nearby Mossbrae Falls, Hedge Creek Falls, Lake Siskiyou, Castle Lake and Shasta Lake.

Dunsmuir is located on the Upper Sacramento River, a blue ribbon trout stream that attracts fishermen from all over the world. Wild rainbow trout abound in the river. Additionally, the city has a private stocking permit from the Department of Fish and Game. The city currently has a "Big Fish Program" and stocks the river within the city limits with trophy-sized rainbow trout up to 14 pounds (6.4 kg). These stockings take place during the summer months. Catch-and-release fishing is permitted in the river during the off-season, so fly-fishing is available year-round.

The town is also a destination for historical and cultural tourists, as the town has preserved an authentic 1920s and 1930s look and feel. Dunsmuir's long connection with the railroad draws railfans to enjoy the sights and sounds of the railroad in the steep Sacramento River canyon. Dunsmuir is officially a Union Pacific "Train Town" and enjoys many financial benefits because of its relationship with the railroad.

Dunsmuir has frequent events that draw people from far and wide. Dunsmuir has been described by many as an ideal venue. During the summer, the city hosts many local weekend festivals, including "State of Jefferson Brewfest", "Dogwood Daze", "Railroad Days" and the "Tribute to the Trees" al fresco dinner/concert along the river in the city's pristine park, home to Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens. These events, along with the wonderful work done by the volunteers of the Botanical Gardens, bring joy to those visiting Dunsmuir. The city also has another river's edge park, Tauhindauli Park, over which passes the I-5 freeway, and several popular easy-access fishing spots.


Mount Shasta as viewed from Dunsmuir
Mossbrae Falls, near north Dunsmuir
Post office in Dunsmuir

Sites in and near Dunsmuir have been inhabited for over 5000 years. At least three waves of early peoples swept through area, establishing residence. At the time of the first European-American contact in the 1820s, the site of Dunsmuir was within the range of the Okwanuchu tribe of Native Americans. Some believe the indigenous peoples of the area were wiped out when the U.S. Army fed them poisoned beef when they came in and signed a peace treaty. However, this point remains open to speculation, as there are few concrete sources of evidence to support this claim.[citation needed]

During the 1820s, early European-American hunters and trappers passed through Dunsmuir's site, following the Siskiyou Trail. In the mid-1830s, pioneer horse and cattle drives came up the Sacramento Canyon, delivering livestock from Mexican California to the new settlements in the Oregon Country to the north. In 1841, an overland party of the famous United States Exploring Expedition passed through the area.

The California Gold Rush led to increased traffic along the Siskiyou Trail through Dunsmuir's site, leading to the first non-Native American settlers at Upper Soda Springs in north Dunsmuir in the early 1850s. The discovery of gold at Yreka, California dramatically increased movement through the site of Dunsmuir, and a toll bridge and stagecoach hotel were built at Upper Soda Springs.

In 1887, the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad along the line of the Siskiyou Trail led to the creation of the modern town of Dunsmuir. The railroad developed a division point on the flats south of Upper Soda Springs, where railroad steam engines would be serviced, and added to trains to push them up the steep grades north of town. A roundhouse and turntable were built. All this activity required the creation of a town, initially known as 'Poverty Flats' or 'Pusher'. South of the present downtown and north of Castella is an area known as Nutglade, which was previously known as Dunsmuir and before that, Cedar Flat. So the name moved north from the South rail yard to the main rail yard. During the railroad heyday, Dunsmuir was the largest town in this County which is the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

In 1888, Alexander Dunsmuir, second son of British Columbian coal baron Robert Dunsmuir, was passing through, and according to contemporary accounts, was so taken with the beauty of the area that he offered to donate a fountain to the new town, if they would rename the town in his honor.

By the early 1900s, Dunsmuir was the largest town in Siskiyou County, and for a long time had been the largest California city north of Sacramento. The construction of the Pacific Highway along the Siskiyou Trail in the mid-1910s brought more tourists. By the mid-1950s, the railroad transitioned from steam to diesel locomotives, and the substantial workforce in Dunsmuir was not needed, resulting in the town's contraction. Interstate 5 runs through the canyon along with the railroad and the upper Sacramento River.

California Theater

As a result, Dunsmuir retains today much of the charm and scale of the 1920s and 1930s, and has been designated on the National Register of Historic Places. The downtown area is now a designated historic district. The California Theater, currently under renovation, is unique in that after fifty years without an organ, they were able to acquire and re-install their original Wurlitzer instrument.[importance?]

In July 1935, two fugitives were passing through town. Police Chief F.R. "Jack" Daw, and California Highway Patrol Officer C. "Doc" Malone went to catch them. The criminals ambushed the officers wounding Officer Malone and killing Chief Daw. One of the criminals, Clyde Johnson, was caught and put in jail in Yreka to await trial. A group of vigilantes from Dunsmuir went to Yreka, broke Johnson out of jail and lynched him. To this day the identity of those vigilantes has never been formally acknowledged. It is said to have been the last public lynching in California.[5]

California's largest hazardous chemical spill[edit]

Site of the 1991 spill. Guardrail on left was constructed after the spill.

On the night of July 14, 1991, a Southern Pacific train derailed into the upper Sacramento River at a horseshoe curve of track known as the Cantara Loop, upstream from Dunsmuir. Several cars made contact with the water, including a tank car. On the morning of July 15, it became apparent that the tank car had ruptured and spilled its entire contents into the river – approximately 19,000 gallons of the soil fumigant metam sodium. Ultimately, over a million fish, and tens of thousands of amphibians and crayfish were killed. Millions of aquatic invertebrates, including insects and mollusks, which form the basis of the river's ecosystem, were destroyed. Hundreds of thousands of willows, alders, and cottonwoods eventually died. Many more were severely injured. The chemical plume left a 41-mile wake of destruction, from the spill site to the entry point of the river into Shasta Lake.[6] The accident still ranks as the largest hazardous chemical spill in California history.[7]

The Upper Sacramento River is now largely recovered from the spill though some species (crayfish and frogs) have not yet come back. The watershed is carefully stewarded by The Upper Sacramento River Exchange. The popular fishery is again healthy. Recent changes to angling regulations have opened the Upper Sacramento River to catch-and-release fishing all year round. Five-pound trout have often been caught right in the city.

City parks and botanical gardens[edit]

Dunsmuir has numerous parks located throughout the city, with multiple city parks currently under development and improvement.

Dunsmuir City Park and Botanical Gardens is a 10-acre (4.0 ha) municipal park and botanical garden maintained by Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization of volunteers within Dunsmuir City Park.[8] It requires public support to maintain the Gardens, which are on City of Dunsmuir property under the general control of Siskiyou County, via the Board of Directors of the Dunsmuir Park & Recreation District. In 1924, New York Yankees Babe Ruth and Bob Meusel visited the park as part of a barnstorming tour, playing an exhibition baseball game against Dunsmuir locals.[9]

Tauhindauli Park and Trail is on the former site of Upper Soda Springs resort along the Sacramento River canyon. It consists of approximately 10 acres (4.0 ha) of level ground on the bank of the river, the surrounding hillsides, and continues north along the eastern bank of the Sacramento River to the Dunsmuir City Park, in the heart of Dunsmuir. Long a local fishing spot, swimming hole, and site of both historical[citation needed] and ecological significance,[to whom?] the site has been improved to enhance its recreational opportunities and esthetics. Environmental work and levee restructuring has improved flood control for the entire town. The Tauhindauli river restoration project created a park with pathways winding through native grasses and plants, with fishing access and picnic areas. For ecological and flood-control purposes, riparian forests and meadows have been restored close to their original condition. Levees have been moved and built up for maximum protection for the park from river erosion and to restore the watershed to the natural habitat which provides food for animals. The Park can be accessed from River Avenue. to the south and Stagecoach Road to Upper Soda Springs Road in the canyon. Tauhindauli Park and Trail was a project of the Dunsmuir Garden Club. Funding for this project came principally from the Cantara Trustee Council and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.[10]

Historic resorts and waterfalls[edit]

Hedge Creek Falls

Shasta Springs was the name of a popular summer resort on the Upper Sacramento River, during the late Nineteenth Century and early Twentieth Century. It was located just north of the City of Dunsmuir, California and just north of Upper Soda Springs along the Siskiyou Trail in northern California

Upper Soda Springs is on the banks of the Sacramento River in Dunsmuir, California. It consists of approximately ten acres (40,000 m2) of level ground on both sides of the River, the surrounding hillsides, and continues north along the eastern bank of the Sacramento River to the Dunsmuir City Park. The State of California and the City of Dunsmuir are creating a new park on this historic site. The Upper Soda Springs site contains a riparian ecosystem and includes its namesake mineral water springs. In large part because of its location on the Siskiyou Trail, the site mirrors the history of the state and of the American West.

Mossbrae Falls is a waterfall flowing into the Upper Sacramento River, in the Shasta Cascade area in Dunsmuir, California. The falls are located just south of the lower portion of Shasta Springs. Access to the falls via a mile-long hiking trail on the Union Pacific Railroad tracks is currently closed, as Union Pacific and the City of Dunsmuir figure out a safer route to the falls.

Hedge Creek Falls is a waterfall on Hedge Creek, in the Shasta Cascade area in Dunsmuir, California. There is a small cave located behind the waterfall, allowing visitors to walk behind the cascading water.[11] Shortly after the waterfall, Hedge Creek flows into the Sacramento River south of Mossbrae Falls. There is a viewing platform over the river, with a view of Mount Shasta. Access to the waterfall and viewing platform is via a short hiking trail. The trail starts at a small park off the Dunsmuir Ave/Siskiyou Ave exit on Interstate 5.[12] The close proximity to Interstate 5 makes the waterfall a very popular stopping point for passing motorists. Charles E. Bolton, better known as Black Bart, robbed the Roseburg, Oregon to Redding, California stage near Dunsmuir on October 25, 1879. Evidence found at the time indicated that Bart hid in the shallow cave behind the falls prior to the holdup. This was one of three holdups committed by Black Bart in this area. Normally he operated much further south.


Dunsmuir has an oceanic Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csb), with cool wet winters and hot dry summers with cool mornings. Its temperatures are similar to nearby cities, Yreka and Medford (about ninety miles north in the state of Oregon) but Dunsmuir receives three-and-a-half times as much precipitation. There are an average of 54.3 afternoons with highs at or above 90 °F (32.2 °C) and an average of 99.7 mornings with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower.[13] The record high was 109 °F or 42.8 °C on August 8, 1981, and the record low was 4 °F or −16 °C on December 21, 1990.[13]

The average annual precipitation is 63.31 inches or 1,608.1 millimetres.[13] There are an average of 98 days with measurable precipitation.[13] The wettest "rain year" was from July 1982 to June 1983 with 110.52 inches or 2,807.2 millimetres and the driest from July 2013 to June 2014 with 33.31 inches or 846.1 millimetres. The most rainfall in one month was 39.20 inches or 995.7 millimetres in January 1995. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 6.44 inches or 163.6 millimetres on January 1, 1997.[13] Snowfall averages 29.2 inches or 0.74 metres. The most snowfall in one year was 226.6 inches or 5.76 metres from July 1951 to June 1952, including 119.5 inches or 3.04 metres in January 1952.[14][15]

Climate data for Dunsmuir, California
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 70
Average high °F (°C) 50
Average low °F (°C) 28
Record low °F (°C) 12
Average precipitation inches (mm) 11.39
Average snowfall inches (cm) 8.3
trace 0
trace 1.8
Source: [16]


Dunsmuir is located at 41°13′18″N 122°16′23″W / 41.22167°N 122.27306°W / 41.22167; -122.27306.[17]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.7 square miles (4.4 km2), 97.86% of it land and 2.14% of it water.

At an elevation of approximately 2,350 feet (720 m) above sea level, a unique setting is created by the Sacramento River in which class 3 whitewater rapids are usually created during summer run off through a town of about 2,000 residents. In plain view from some of the city's public streets, this may be one of the few places in western North America where three categories of "twos" (population, elevation, and whitewater difficulty) are met or eclipsed. (Eastern US example-The Cherry River at Richwood, WV)[citation needed]

Mt. Shasta's lava layers filter the drinking water and eliminate the need for filtration or treatment; thus the town's marketing slogan, "Home Of The Best Water On Earth".[18] Three water fountains are located on Dunsmuir Avenue in the Historic District. Two of the fountains previously ran 24 hours a day, however have since been changed in 2015 to only flow on demand due to water conservation measures placed on the state of California by Governor Jerry Brown.[citation needed]


Historical population
Census Pop.
U.S. Decennial Census[19]


The 2010 United States Census[20] reported a population of 1,650. The population density was 951.0 inhabitants per square mile (367.2/km2). The racial makeup of Dunsmuir was 1,443 (87.5%) White, 32 (1.9%) African American, 17 (1.0%) Native American, 15 (0.9%) Asian, 4 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 30 (1.8%) from other races, and 109 (6.6%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 167 persons (10.1%).

The Census reported that 1,650 people (100% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 763 households, out of which 180 (23.6%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 276 (36.2%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 84 (11.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 51 (6.7%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 80 (10.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 6 (0.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 271 households (35.5%) were made up of individuals, and 99 (13.0%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16. There were 411 families (53.9% of all households); the average family size was 2.77.

The population was spread out, with 320 people (19.4%) under the age of 18, 110 people (6.7%) aged 18 to 24, 354 people (21.5%) aged 25 to 44, 584 people (35.4%) aged 45 to 64, and 282 people (17.1%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47.0 years. For every 100 females, there were 105.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.2 males.

There were 1,110 housing units at an average density of 639.8 per square mile (247.0/km2), of which 416 (54.5%) were owner-occupied, and 347 (45.5%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.8%; the rental vacancy rate was 15.6%. 886 people (53.7% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 764 people (46.3%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[21] of 2000, there were 1,923 people, 867 households, and 491 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,062.1 inhabitants per square mile (410.1/km2). There were 1,170 housing units at an average density of 646.2 per square mile (249.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 90.64% White, 1.87% African American, 1.98% Native American, 0.52% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 2.34% from other races, and 2.60% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.93% of the population.

There were 867 households, out of which 23.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.3% were non-families. 35.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 22.4% under the age of 18, 6.8% from 18 to 24, 23.2% from 25 to 44, 28.8% from 45 to 64, and 18.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females, there were 97.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $23,191, and the median income for a family was $27,420. Males had a median income of $27,393 versus $19,148 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,982. About 13.4% of families and 19.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.7% of those under age 18 and 3.2% of those age 65 or over.


Dunsmuir City Hall

Dunsmuir has a City Manager form of government with an elected five-person Council, a Chamber of Commerce, a mayor, and two school districts. The current mayor is Matthew Bryan.

The Dunsmuir Fire Department and The Dunsmuir Fire Protection District operate together under a Joint Powers Authority (JPA). The department has an automatic aid agreement with the Castella Fire District and all three are overseen by a single Fire Chief. The fire department runs on average 400 to 500 calls per year. The original city fire department was founded in 1897.

In 1992 the City of Dunsmuir Police Department was disbanded and law enforcement services for the city were contracted to the Siskiyou County Sheriff Department. Dunsmuir contracts for 7,200 hours of service per year which provides the city with a Sergeant and four Deputy Sheriffs. The sheriff department answers around 2,500 calls for service annually.

State and federal representation[edit]

In the California State Legislature, Dunsmuir is in the 1st Senate District, represented by Republican Brian Dahle,[22] and the 1st Assembly District, represented by Republican Megan Dahle.[23]

In the United States House of Representatives, Dunsmuir is in California's 1st congressional district, represented by Republican Doug LaMalfa.[24]


The Amtrak station in Dunsmuir, California

Amtrak's Coast Starlight stops daily in both directions at the Dunsmuir Amtrak station,[25] located on one of Dunsmuir's two commercial streets, both in the historic district. This is the only stop in Siskiyou County, and the northernmost Amtrak station in California, located at a midpoint between Redding and Klamath Falls, Oregon. The County bus service, the Stage, from Dunsmuir north through the county (Mt. Shasta, Weed, Yreka, etc.) connects to Amtrak. The station is maintained by city residents and local rail enthusiasts, and includes a museum,[26] telephones, restrooms and shelter from the weather. The town itself is a railroad museum with an operating turntable.

The city is bisected by Interstate 5, linking Yreka and Oregon to the north, and Redding and Sacramento to the south. Dunsmuir Municipal-Mott Airport is the city-owned public-use airport, located 3 nautical miles (5.6 km; 3.5 mi) north of the central business district.

Notable residents[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • Gerrold, David (September–October 2016). "The Dunsmuir Horror". Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine. 131: 136. The central conceit of the story is that the town of Dunsmuir is comparable to Brigadoon in that it exists only intermittently.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "California Cities by Incorporation Date". California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Archived from the original (Word) on November 3, 2014. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  2. ^ "Dunsmuir mayor Matthew Bryan looks forward to 2021".
  3. ^ "2020 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 30, 2021.
  4. ^ "Dunsmuir". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  5. ^ [1] Archived July 31, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Cantara Trustee Council 2007 "Final Report on the Recovery of the Upper Sacramento River"
  7. ^ "In 1991, This Pesticide Killed a River. We're Still Using It". 2017-04-06.
  8. ^ "Facilities at Dunsmuir Recreation & Parks". Archived from the original on 2 September 2013. Retrieved 29 January 2013.
  9. ^ "The History of Dunsmuir Recreation & Parks". Dunsmuir California: Dunsmuir Recreation & Park District. Archived from the original on 2016-02-04. Retrieved 2016-01-02.
  10. ^ "Dunsmuir Graden Club". Tauhindauli Park. Retrieved 13 October 2014.
  11. ^ "Hikes & Waterfalls". Hedge Creek Falls. Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce. August 2012. Retrieved 11 March 2013.
  12. ^ "Hedge Creek Falls Trail". Archived from the original on 24 April 2014. Retrieved 30 January 2016.
  13. ^ a b c d e "NOW Data: NOAA Online Weather Data". National Weather Service, Medford, Oregon.
  14. ^ "Dunsmuir Trtmnt Plt, California – Climate Summary". Retrieved 2016-01-02.
  15. ^ "DUNSMUIR RS, CALIFORNIA - Climate Summary". Retrieved 2016-01-02.
  16. ^ "Dunsmuir, CA Weather". Retrieved 2016-01-02.
  17. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  18. ^ "Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce -- Quality of Life". Dunsmuir, California: Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Center. Archived from the original on 2010-08-22. Retrieved 2010-09-01.
  19. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  20. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Dunsmuir city". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  21. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  22. ^ "Senators". State of California. Retrieved March 10, 2013.
  23. ^ "Members Assembly". State of California. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  24. ^ "California's 1st Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 2, 2013.
  25. ^ Matoer, Phil (13 July 2016). "Little town of Dunsmuir is big on trains". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  26. ^ "Dunsmuir Museum". 2013-08-14.
  27. ^ "Ray Coleman". Baseball in Wartime. Retrieved 9 January 2016.
  28. ^ Hansen, Eric (January 2005). Notre Dame: Where Have You Gone?. Sports Publishing LLC. ISBN 978-1-58261-151-8.
  29. ^ A Night of Awards planned in Dunsmuir,, April 10, 2019
  30. ^ "Robert Williams Bio" (PDF).

External links[edit]