Annie Adelson: Day Trip to the Shasta Dam

Author: Annie Adelson
Fellow Type: California Sea Grant State Fellow
Year(s) of Fellowship: 2016
Host Agency: Delta Science Program

Armed with a roadside geology book and fun facts about some of the places we would pass along the way, I piled in the back of the van with a few of my fellow fellows and coworkers at the Delta Stewardship Council. Our destination: Shasta Dam

Shasta Dam is well outside of the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, but we happily made the trek because of the valuable learning experience upstream in our watershed.

As we walked along the top of the dam, with a valley to our left, and the reservoir to our right, Mount Shasta peeked through the clouds.

We piled in the elevator, and I found my favorite set of elevator buttons I have encountered to date: In addition to floor number, each button was marked with its elevation. Our tour guide pressed the button marked “750,” and we descended 428 feet into the dam.

Inside the dam, our tour guide stopped us at the end of a long hallway, lined with tiles that were a shade of green of a bygone era. On her count of three, we clapped as a group and listened as our sound wave traveled down the hall and echoed back to us, a ‘zip pop!’ to my ear.

The grandeur of Shasta is clear when you step outside at the base. The dam itself looms. It seemed big before, but it now seemed to be a behemoth. Operations produce electricity, and the engineer in me marveled at the sheer amount of concrete reinforcement on the pipes that was needed combat the momentum of the water. The biologist in me watched as an osprey soared overhead. And now, well into my fellowship, I considered the policy challenges that try to balance the competing interests for California’s water.

Written by Annie Adelson




Annie Adelson and State Fellows at the Shasta Dam

Fun Facts

  • Shasta is not the tallest dam in California. That honor belongs to Oroville Dam, an earthen dam on the Feather River that stands taller than even Hoover, earning its place as the tallest dam in the United States.
  • Shasta Dam serves many functions: flood control, water supply management, wildlife habitat maintenance, power generation, and recreation.
  • Mount Shasta is the fifth tallest mountain in California. The four taller? Mount Whitney, Mount Williamson, White Mountain Peak, and North Palisade
  • Shasta is 602 feet high.
  • Our claps in the dam hall traveled at about 768 mph.

State Fellows at the Shasta Dam