Public benefits from transfer of Castle Lake parcel to Forest Service

Mike Chapman
Mount Shasta Herald
This photo overlooking Castle Lake with Mt. Shasta in the distance was taken from a parcel of land that recently was acquired by the U.S. Forest Service from the Wilderness Land Trust.

The Castle Crags Wilderness just got a little larger with a land acquisition that preserves hiking access to Heart Lake.

The Shasta-Trinity National Forest announced Thursday that it has acquired a 637-acre parcel of land next to Castle Lake from the Washington-based Wilderness Land Trust.

The move, in the works since 1968, adds Castle Lake and Heart Lake to the western part of the 10,500-acre Castle Crags Wilderness.

"The land acquisition includes newly constructed trail connecting Castle Lake to Heart Lake, a portion of Castle Lake itself, and adds approximately 400 acres to the Castle Crags Wilderness," Forest Service officials said on Facebook.

Prior to the Wilderness Land Trust purchasing the property in 2019, hikers on the Heart Lake trail used to have to cut through private land en route to the lake.

According to an August 2019 article on mtshastanews.com, the land trust took out a low interest, $1.9 million loan with the David and Lucille Packard Foundation to buy the property from private holders.

The parcel was the largest remaining private property in the designated Castle Crags Wilderness, the article said. Under the land trust, the old-growth property was protected from logging and development.

The federal government used Land and Water Conservation Funds to pay the land trust. 

Plowing by the Siskiyou County Department of Public Works allows year-round access to the Castle Lake area and its spectacular views.

Visitors use the forested area for fair-weather and ice fishing, swimming, hiking, backpacking, camping, hunting, cross-country skiing, snow shoeing and ice skating.

Mike Chapman is an award-winning reporter and photographer for the Record Searchlight in Redding, Calif. His newspaper career spans Yreka and Eureka in Northern California and Bellingham, Wash. Support local journalism by subscribing today.