Ahjumawi Lava Springs


To experience Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park takes determination.

To get there, find the tiny town called McArthur in northeastern California, turn left at the “Fairgrounds” sign; drive a three-mile dirt road and launch your boat at the end (you can only access the park via water).

As you paddle along Big Lake, the mosquitoes catch you. This minor distraction pales when one foot away in the cattails, stands an American bittern (a tall bird in the heron family), blending perfectly against the greenery—and Mount Shasta looms straight ahead.

You enter Horr Pond as a shadow appears. An American bald eagle spirals above. Mount Lassen breaks the horizon; at the shoreline, two river otters clamber into the water as Shasta crayfish scramble beneath you. A common merganser pair of large diving ducks skittles along the surface, their spotted offspring following behind.

This is a place of slow time, heat, cold, mosquitoes, primeval basaltic lava flows, ticks, bears and pristine water. At JaShe Springs, enormous trout can be seen twelve feet down in the springs. The Native American Achumawi tribe members still use their basalt fish traps.

Time to land, set up camp, and check the trail map. Determination? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely.