The denizens of the Shasta Lake PR agencies have named the lake “the houseboating capital of the world.” That bold statement may or may not be true, but Shasta Lake certainly is California’s most popular houseboating lake.
Most of the houseboats rented on Shasta Lake run in size from “silly” to “absurd” — it’s quite difficult to find a houseboat that sleeps fewer than 10 people, and most sleep 14–18, with a few true leviathans that can hold more than 20 partying people. Granted, the beds aren’t big and the private bedrooms few, so for true comfort, pile in no more than half to two-thirds the number of recommended overnight guests.
You can rent a houseboat at almost any marina on the lake. No special boating knowledge is required to rent a houseboat, though you may be required to provide a valid driver’s license upon rental. The www.houseboats.com website makes it a little bit easier to shop for the houseboat rental of your dreams and it works with three of the lake’s marinas: Jones Valley, Sugarloaf, and Lakeview.
Whichever marina you rent from, expect to pay anywhere from $850 per weekend for a minimal smaller craft to $8,500 per weekend for a huge luxurious new boat. Weekly rates (which include one weekend) are often a bargain at double or less the cost of a single weekend.
Expect to find a fair amount of luxury; many Shasta houseboats come with upper-deck hot tubs, waterslides, barbecues, satellite TVs, and high-end entertainment systems. Your houseboat will also come with some necessities — most have fully equipped kitchens, basic cleaning supplies, and basic sanitary supplies (please read here: toilet paper). But you’ll need to bring a bunch of your own stuff too, such as pillows, towels, sheets, paper towels, folding chairs, ski-quality life jackets, and first-aid kits. (And food and booze, of course.) See your renter for a full list of supplies they recommend bringing with you.
Piloting a mammoth houseboat on the waters of Shasta Lake is a bit like driving a big rental RV up I-5. Take it slow and careful, follow all the instructions you’re given at your marina, and you’ll do fine. Most Shasta houseboaters pull their craft into small inlets and moor them for the night. Your marina staff can advise you on how to safely maneuver your houseboat in toward shore in the evening and back out again the next morning.
Many Shasta houseboats have the equipment to tow smaller watercraft along behind them. If you choose, you can rent a ski boat, personal watercraft, or fishing boat and bring it along with you as you explore Shasta Lake.
© Liz Hamill Scott from Moon California, 2nd Edition