One of California’s most exceptional and exclusive state parks is Ahjumawi Lava Springs. The park is so secluded that it is very likely that you won’t encounter anyone. Less than 3000 people visit there a year. The 6,000 acre park is intertwined by a matrix of waterways that lead to some of the most beautiful fresh water springs in the world.
Big Lake, four other creeks and rivers all come together (Ja She, Lava, Tule and Fall) at Ahjumawi, which is said to be the self-describing word used by the band of Pit River-Achomawi Native Americans who inhabit the area. The Achomawi are one of nine bands comprising the Pit River tribe, who have lived in the area for thousands of years. Achomawi ﬁshermen constructed stone ﬁsh traps in the shallows since prehistoric times. The tribe still maintains traps along the park's shoreline.
Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park is considered one of the most unfamiliar and less frequented parks in the California system because it is very challenging to reach. One of the primary reasons this park is so appealing to kayakers is that the only way to reach it is by kayak or canoe. There are no public roads to Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park and all private motor vehicles are prohibited within the park.
Paddlers usually launch from the Rat Farm public boat ramp. The launch area can be reached from McArthur by turning north off Highway 299 on to Main Street, continuing past the Intermountain Fairgrounds, crossing over a canal and proceeding 3-miles north on a dirt road.
The launch access road is a relatively flat drive through a grassy prairie on a dirt road, which would be extremely difficult to drive on after a recent rain. There is a small parking lot with vault toilet facilities by the launch access. Boats with propellers are not advised due to the thick water vegetation. The launch ramp is unpaved and only suitable for shallow-draft boats.
Big Lake and Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park appeal to kayakers, who enjoy paddling a place of exceptional, even primeval, beauty. You can paddle through the many waterways that run through the park by canoe or kayak. The park is a wilderness area and over two thirds of the area is covered by recent lava flows including vast areas of jagged black basalt.
Paddlers will be rewarded with breathtaking views of Mt Shasta, and Mt. Lassen and other nearby peaks, as they glide along the winding interconnecting waterways that flow towards the west, which eventually turns into Horr Pond. There isn’t any running water, so be sure to bring plenty of your own because it can get extremely hot in this area during the summer months.
Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park and Big Lake are located in northeastern Shasta County, in the Fall River Valley basin, set in a golden pastoral setting with spectacular views of picturesque foothills far in the distance. They lie in a huge valley bordered on the east and west by mountains and in the north by a volcanic plateau.
Slopes of rabbit brush and sagebrush are part of the great variety of vegetation in the area. Brilliant aqua bays and tree studded islets only a few yards long dot the shoreline of Ja-She Creek, Crystal Springs, and Horr Pond. The waterways are lined with colorful water reeds, intermixed clusters of oak, pine, and juniper. Due to its remote nature, it is advisable to paddle with a companion.