Beat the heat with a houseboat vacation on Lake Shasta

Located about 200 miles from Reno, Lake Shasta is just north of Redding, California on Interstate 5. It is the largest man-made reservoir in the state, with 365 miles of rugged shoreline and a 602-foot concrete dam that impounds the Sacramento, McCloud and Pit rivers. The lake is divided into several areas, which include Gilman Road, Lakehead, Jones Valley, O'Brien, Salt Creek and Shasta Dam. Each area offers its own unique appeal, and recreational opportunities abound.

Activities such as hiking, picnicking, boating, fishing and kayaking are readily accessible and popular for locals and visitors alike. Although there are no areas specifically designated for swimming, it is permitted everywhere except at boat ramps. Visitors are urged to use caution and avoid areas with heavy boat traffic.

For those looking for an extended stay, the lake offers tent and trailer camps, motel and cabin accommodations and bed and breakfasts.

However, Lake Shasta is well known as the "Houseboat Mecca of the World." With 10 commercial marinas and over 400 houseboat rentals available, there is something for everyone.

Recently, my neighbors Dave and Debbie McNeil, along with their kids Kelly and Logan and dog Abby, went house boating on Lake Shasta. They were there for Dave's folks' 50th wedding anniversary and were also joined by Dave's brother and his family. Everyone agreed that it was a fun and relaxing way to spend the week.

The Web site mentions that people driving by on Interstate 5 may get the impression that they are seeing several lakes, when in fact, it is all part of Lake Shasta.

"I had this vision of lots and lots of boats," said Debbie. "But it wasn't like that at all. There were plenty of secluded areas."

The McNeil's enjoyed exploring by houseboat and spotted osprey, bald eagles and deer. Dave added that the lake was pretty much wide open in the early morning and late afternoon hours.

As part of their package, the family opted to rent a ski boat and was glad they did. They brought along skis, an inner tube, knee and wakeboards and everybody on the houseboat gave it a go.

"It really made the trip fun," said Debbie."

Dave added, "Scouting for places (to park the houseboat) and going for ice runs were a lot easier, too."

The family agrees that it was a great escape.

"There was plenty of elbow room on the boat, but being in that close proximity encouraged lots of talks and game playing," said Dave.

"We sure laughed a lot," said Debbie with a smile.

Coincidentally, my husband, Scott, and a bunch of his childhood buddies just returned from a houseboat trip on Lake Shasta and also enjoyed an easygoing, restful vacation. Scott says there was lots of "card playing, talking, diving off the roof, drifting in the middle of the lake and swimming" in the surprisingly warm water. He also mentioned the wide variety of water "toys" at the lake, referring to the fancy ski boats, houseboats and jet skis that were being enjoyed by other vacationers.

For more information about Lake Shasta, go to the very informative Web site or call the Shasta Lake Visitor Information line run by the U.S. Forest Service at (530) 275-1589.

n Amy Roby can be reached by e-mail at


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