RoadTrip to Northern California's McArthur-Burney Falls State Park
by Del Albright
About an hour east of Redding, California on state highway 299 is a wonderful watery road trip destination. Burney Falls is a set of waterfalls like none other I've ever seen. I can still feel the mist on my face and see the cascading beauty of two side-by-side waterfalls.
Officially known as the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, the site has two huge cataracts of water falls plunging nearly 130 feet into a wonderfully inviting pond. To add beauty to this already awesome sight, the falls are framed by thousands of rivulets of water pouring out from the basaltic porous rock alongside the two main falls.
President Teddy Roosevelt called Burney Falls the eighth wonder of the world. When we were there the falls were lit up with the addition of a rainbow in the bottom pond, apparently not an uncommon sight. Visitors will never be disappointed by a road trip visit to this marvelous park.
Rich in California history, the Burney Falls were named after Samuel Burney, a drifter from South Carolina who lived in the area in the 1850s. In an unfortunate misunderstanding, he was killed by local Native Americans for a crime of which he was actually innocent. Later, the McArthur family later owned ranches in the area and helped to preserve Burney Falls for our enjoyment today. From the two names, the park gets its name.
The climate around the falls is dictated by the surrounding mountainous topography. The highest elevation is 3100 feet, with temperatures ranging from 20 degrees in winter to 80+ degrees in summer. November to March is the rainy season and you should layer your clothing during these times. I recommend visiting in summer or fall for a pleasant road trip. June through September is shorts and t-shirt time.
At the park, you can find camping, RV parking/camping, fishing, hiking, waterfall walking, fishing, and even boating at Lake Britton, which is in another part of the park. Fall is the best time for fishing for the wily rainbow trout and "brookies" that live in Burney Creek. Bass and bluegill can be caught all summer and fall in Lake Britton, which is about a mile wide (at its widest point) and nine miles long.
Burney Creek is actually a tributary of the Pit River, one of California's large rivers feeding Shasta Lake and central California. Several Native American groups occupied this area, now known as the Pit River Nation. The term "pit" refers to their hunting method of digging pits to trap large game animals such as antelope, deer and elk.
During our visit, we could clearly imagine the early settlers and Native Americans eking out a living around these beautiful and bountiful water sources. Fed by several springs and natural water courses coursing through lava like tubes and fissures, Burney Creek runs all year and makes these waterfalls very special to us today.
Falls Memorial State Park
To get there, drive 65 miles East of Redding on State Highway 299 to State Highway 89 and turn north for six miles to find the entrance to the Park. At this writing, the entrance fee for day use is $6.00 per vehicle. It is well worth it.
The park has 128 camping sites (no hookups). The access and parking areas are all paved and well maintained. Hiking trails are moderate and equipped with hand rails and concrete footing for the most part. There's fun to be had for the whole family!
McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial Park
24898 Highway 89
Burney CA 96013