The Visitor Center has exhibits about the building of the dam, a video, and a small gift shop. The three major purposes of the dam are flood control, water storage for irrigation of thousands of California crops, and hydroelectricity. Built between 1938 and 1945, it is an engineering marvel.
One-hour tours are conducted at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. Tickets (no charge) for the tour are obtained at the Visitor Center. Strict security is enforced and you may only bring your keys, wallet, phone, camera, and clear plastic bottle of water with you on the tour (no purses, backpacks, camera cases, etc.). The security screening occurs at the beginning of the tour in the dam.
While waiting for our tour to begin, we walked around the area to enjoy the beautiful views in the area. Sadie, our doggy, was very interested in checking out the valley below.
An osprey had a nest in the parking lot and was beautiful to see in flight. She was very protective of her young in the nest! Shasta Lake and the river provide plenty of fish for their diet making this a popular nesting area for them.
We walked onto the dam where there are fantastic view of Shasta Lake (the largest reservoir in California) and the Sacramento River below the dam. The pipes that carry water to the hydroelectric power plant are so large a Greyhound bus could drive through one!
The spillway is the largest man-made waterfall in the world.
The tour begins in the second tower at the security checkpoint. Our tour guide (who was fantastic!) took us by elevator over 428' down to the interior of the dam. We walked through this long tunnel that led to the face of the dam. Workers in the late 1930s were paid $.25/hour to build this structure. When WWII broke out, women, high school students, others who previously would not have been considered for the jobs, were hired to complete the massive project.
There are 5 turbines in the powerhouse. The dam began providing much needed electricity to factories supporting the war effort even before it was completed in 1945. The railroad tunnel was cleared and the river was diverted through it to continue construction on the middle part of the damn. Today it is used as a storage area.
Our tour guide can be seen in this photo (wish I had gotten a better one!) explaining the construction and history of this engineering marvel. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and highly recommend it for visitors to the area. It was both informative and interesting. Due to the continued water shortages in California, plans are underway to increase the height of the dam so more water can be stored in the reservoir.
We walked back across the dam to the Visitor Center. There are also several (dog-friendly) hiking and bike trails in the area.
For additional information about the dam and tours, check out their website.