A good 45-minute drive down I-5 south from Mount Shasta , Shasta Lake sits shining and serene behind Shasta Dam . As you drive, you’ll cross the lake twice. How is that possible? Rather than one big bowl, Shasta Lake is actually a series of fingers that connect at big, deep spots, then collect at the dam.
Several of the fingers are actually incoming rivers that feed the reservoir. To create this mammoth spread-out lake, not one but five towns were drowned. The remains are still down there, most sunk so deep that even scuba divers cannot explore them.
Surrounding many fingers of the lake and some of the bigger pools are marinas, campgrounds, resorts, cabins, restaurants, and all the paraphernalia necessary for hundreds of people to enjoy lakeside vacations. Full powerboat access is permitted on Shasta Lake, and native Californians know that its size and variety of views make it a prime spot for weekend houseboating.
Not shockingly, most of the recreation at Shasta Lake centers around… the lake. Whether you want to paddle a kayak, tear it up on a wakeboard , or enjoy all the comforts of home on a houseboat , Shasta’s got the water activities for you.
Marinas dot the shores of the lake’s fingers, offering boat rentals, gas, snacks, water, ice, and more. For those few folks who don’t want to spend all day, every day on the water, hiking trails and four-wheel-drive roads thread through the forested wilderness areas surrounding the lake.
New to the Shasta Lake area? Stop in at the Shasta Lake Visitor Information Center (Holiday Rd., Mountain Gate, 530/275-1589, Memorial Day–Labor Day Wed.–Sun. 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.). This small ranger station can provide you with information and local guidance, plus information on this year’s hot fishing spots.
The nearest full-service airport to Shasta Lake is Redding Municipal. (See the Redding  section for more information). From there, you can rent a car at the airport to drive out to the lake.
Most folks come to Shasta Lake by car or RV via I-5, which runs right over the lake in two different places. Bridge Bay is one of the more popular (and populous) spots on the lake, due to its proximity and easy access to I-5. The Sacramento Arm to the north is also easily accessible from the freeway.
Shasta Lake is big and spread out. As big as it might look from the bridge, you’re seeing only a small part of the lake. A network of smaller (but mostly paved) roads encircle most of the other arms of the lake, allowing access to the marinas and resorts and campgrounds.
Parking isn’t generally a problem around Shasta Lake, except possibly on holiday weekends in the summertime. Parking at the resorts is usually free.
Many people bring their own boats to Shasta Lake rather than paying the high fees to rent from the marinas. Check the Shasta Lake Marinas  section and local maps to find the public launch nearest to your accommodations. (Expect to pay a small launching fee.) Before launching, your boat may be inspected both for proper state licensing and for pernicious mussels.
No special license is required to pilot a boat in California. All drivers of boats over 15 horsepower must be age 16 or over (that includes personal watercraft). Youth ages 12–15 can drive if directly supervised by an adult. All children under 12 must wear a life jacket at all times when on board a boat.
Drunk boating laws are the same as drunk driving laws. The legal limit is BAC 0.08. Penalties for drunk boating can be severe. For more information about boating rules, visit www.co.shasta.ca.us/departments/sheriff/boatingsafety.htm .