2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

California's Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park

In the shadow of magnificent Mt. Shasta lies a relic of ancient times.

by: Jane Little

PAGE 1 2

Little Known Fact: Ahjumawi ("where the waters come together") is one of the largest freshwater springs in the world.

A fine dawn mist hangs over the Tule River and our campsite in the shore grass under an aged juniper. Crystal Springs looms in the distance, an inlet so unchanged by time that the Ahjumawi Indians who once thrived here would feel at home crouching on the lava-strewn banks while spearing fish in the shallow spring waters.

We arrived at Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park yesterday, trading our car, hiking boots, and civilization for sport sandals, kayaks, and a watery wilderness. Fewer than 2,000 people a year visit this isolated gem accessible only by boat and dominated by 14,162-foot Mt. Shasta. Waiting for us on the northern shore were 6,000 acres of primeval beauty with nine primitive campsites.

Paddling out Crystal Springs into Big Lake, we passed bronze tule bulrushes lining the banks while a pair of bald eagles circled overhead, their white tails flashing silver in the autumn afternoon sun. We pulled silently across the waters to the point where Big Lake, Tule and Fall rivers, and Ja She and Lava creeks converge at one of the largest freshwater springs in the world. This is Ahjumawi, which translates to "where the waters come together."

Ahjumawi Lava Springs, the ancestral homeland of the Pit River Indians, is one of California's newer parks. It was deeded to the state in 1975 by Ivy Horr, whose family logged and raised cattle in the area after they bought it in 1944. An occasional weathered ranch building emerges along nearly 10 miles of shoreline. Bedrock mortars, village and ceremonial sites, and prehistoric fish traps still used today are signs of the area's Native American cultural richness.

The next morning, we hiked away from the lake on a 6-mile loop trail that breaks out of the trees and into a desert of jagged black basalt that stretches north to the Modoc Plateau. This is one of several loops that lets paddlers stretch their legs. About 15 miles of trail wind through Ahjumawi, crisscrossing and overlapping for plenty of dayhiking options.

Picking our way over the porous rocks, it is easy to believe, as hydrologists do, that we are following the route of an underground river that drains Tule Lake, located nearly 50 miles to the north. Our destination is a spatter cone, a volcanic vent whose "recent" frothy outbursts ~ 5,000 years ago ~ left a layer of lava clinging to the steep sides of a 20-yard depression.

On the hike back, we are rewarded with views of Mt. Shasta, Mt. Lassen and the southern Cascades. Two anglers casting from the rocks near our camp are the only other people we encounter during the weekend, testifying to the solitude that waits at Ahjumawi.

PAGE 1 2

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

What Should I Do About A Table And Chairs?
Posted On: Aug 30, 2014
Submitted By: hikerjer
Trailhead Register
Who's Working this weekend...?
Posted On: Aug 30, 2014
Submitted By: hikerjer
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions