McCloud River

The McCloud River Basin is part of the Sacramento River Watershed. The McCloud River Basin encompasses 681 square miles.

The river runs approximately 50 miles from the spring-fed headwaters southeast of Mount Shasta into the Shasta Reservoir. The McCloud River is a spring-fed system that derives a significant proportion of its annual discharge from springs.

Before Shasta Dam (completed in 1944) blocked the return of anadromous fish, the McCloud River was one of the most productive salmon and steelhead waters in the Sacramento Watershed.

In the late 1800’s, McCloud River rainbow trout were some of the first to be shipped to New Zealand, South America and Europe–establishing them as trout of the world.

But threats exist:

  1. Water quality in the river has the potential to be impaired by fine glacial silt originating from Mount Shasta
  2. The McCloud Dam diverts over 80% of baseflows to the Pit River for hydroelectric generation
  3. Water bottling plant development (in 2009, Nestle Corporation canceled plans to build a million square foot plant on the McCloud)

The collaborative McCloud River Coordinated Resource Management Plan guides watershed management. The McCloud River Basin is part of the to-be-developed Upper Sac Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.


The McCloud Dam — which controls flows on the lower McCloud River — is undergoing a relicensing, and CalTrout has actively participated in the process, ensuring quality fishing on one of California’s most-loved rivers.

After extensive study of the river and its flows, CalTrout discovered three problem areas, and fought hard to correct them:

  • Reduce the large flow fluctuations in the winter that impact spawning rainbow trout and habitat
  • Eliminate abrupt decreases in flow during spring months that strand newly emerged rainbow trout fry
  • Protect the quality angling experience in the McCloud River

We summarized the data and how we reacted to it in a five-minute video screencast (below) and longer article (posted here).


The McCloud relicensing will control flows on one of California’s most iconic rivers for the next 40-50 years, so it’s important we get it right — and that CalTrout’s members stay informed.

Related Projects: Mount Shasta Spring Water Management, McCloud River Projects