The Upper Sacramento River was again at risk of devastation after a Union Pacific train derailed recently at Cantara Loop, reminding many of the disastrous spill over 30 years ago in the same location. Luckily this time, no spills of any kind occurred, but this further strengthens the argument that this pristine stretch of river requires protection.
In July 1991, a 97-car Southern Pacific train derailed at the Cantara Loop near Mt. Shasta and dumped 19,000 gallons of herbicide metam sodium into the Sacramento River. Within two days, the spill had reached Shasta Lake, leaving in its wake hundreds of thousands of dead fish and 45 miles of river so scoured of life that not even algae remained.
Later that summer, it appeared that the California Department of Fish and Game would comply with demands from the town of Dunsmuir to open the river to anglers and plant massive amounts of hatchery fish into the river. Southern Pacific also supported this short-sighted proposal.
CalTrout’s Action Plan
In response, CalTrout vigorously opposed stocking since the planted trout would crowd out the trophy-quality fish that naturally spawn in the upper Sacramento River. We also advocated for an interim fishing closure on the tributaries that were untouched by the poison and filled with juvenile wild rainbow trout. Working with Southern Pacific, CalTrout proposed a nine-point recovery plan to restore the fishery within three years. Though the plan was met with some local opposition, it proved to be successful. Thanks to these efforts, the Upper Sacramento is now a thriving state-designated Wild Trout fishery and blue-ribbon trout stream.
Birth of Trout Camp
A couple years after the spill in 1993, CalTrout purchased a 40-acre parcel of land between Dunsmuir and Cantara Loop in an effort to protect the open space along the river corridor. In 2001, CalTrout established the Shasta Springs Trout Camp on the Upper Sacramento River for CalTrout supporters to visit and learn about our conservation activities statewide and to raise public awareness of our efforts to protect wild trout, steelhead, salmon, and their threatened habitat.
Protect the Best
One of CalTrout’s Key Initiatives is to “protect the best.” For over 50 years, we’ve been focused on keeping strongholds and wild trout waters intact and protected. There are still places in California with abundant wild fish, like the Upper Sacramento River- and we intend to keep them that way.
Top cover photo: “Cantara Loop railway bridge over Sacramento River, California, United States. Guardrail structure on left was installed after 1991 chemical spill” by user, MostlyDeserts, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cantara_Loop_1.jpg.