- Excerpted from USGS and Wikipedia Publications
Located in Siskiyou County - about 50 miles south of the Oregon border, Weed has an estimated population of about 3,000. Photo by Carol Highsmith, Library of Congress.
As memorable place-names go, the City of Weed, California must rank near the top!
Founded in 1897 by Abner Weed, this old-west lumber town rests at the junction between the Sierra Nevada Range to the south and the Cascade Range to the north. Located in extreme northern California, just 50 minutes south of the the Oregon border, the City of Weed will be a wonderful host for the National Speleological Society's annual convention from June 28-July 2, 2021.
And, just 10 miles away, the majestic 14-thousand foot Mount Shasta Volcano stands guard over this beautiful city.
Although the roots of Weed span over a century of lumber harvesting, the modern era has delivered a thriving tourism economy. The town's central location to numerous parks and outdoor attractions present countless opportunities to explore upstate California - both above ground, and below. This historic town rests at the intersection of California's mountainous limestone ridges and mysterious lava tubes. Hundreds of caves in the nearby hills can provide challenges for a lifetime of explorers!
NSS caver and convention vice-chair of services, Kevin Lorms, just had to pose in front of this sign. By the end of convention, we predict there will be a lot more photos of this! Photo by Matt Bowers, NSS
The convention team is particularly excited that all of our convention activities will be centralized in one location at College of the Siskiyous (say: Sisk-yous). Their beautiful campus offers ample meeting spaces, including dorm lodging, on-site camping, social event space and a 560-seat theater for our large sessions and photo salon. The local microbrewery is only 3 blocks from campus, and in-town hotels and restaurants are only a few minutes away.
The town is almost exactly 10 miles west-northwest of Mount Shasta, a prominent northern California landmark, and the second-tallest volcano in the Cascade Volcanic Arc.
Weed is at 41.42° by -122.38° with an elevation of only 3,425 feet. It is off Interstate 5, about 50 miles south of the California-Oregon border. The next large town to the north on I-5 is Yreka, California; to the south is the City of Mount Shasta. U.S. Route 97 runs to the northeast and Klamath Falls, Oregon. The closest cities with a population greater than 50,000 are Redding, California (69 miles south) and Medford, Oregon (91 miles north).
Black Butte, located immediately south of Weed, offers a challenging day hike on a real volcanic cinder cone. Photo by Matt Bowers, NSS
The town of Weed derives its name from the founder of the local lumber mill and pioneer, Abner Weed, who discovered that the area's climate was helpful in drying lumber. In 1897, Abner Weed bought the Siskiyou Lumber and Mercantile Mill and 280 acres of land in what is now the City of Weed, for $400.
Weed is at the intersection of Interstate 5 and U.S. Route 97. Interstate 5 is the primary north-south transportation corridor for the west coast of the United States running from the Mexico-US border to the Canada-US border. U.S. Route 97 is a major north-south U.S. highway continuing from Weed in a northeasterly direction toward Klamath Falls, Oregon, thence through Oregon and Washington to the Canada-US border. California State Route 265 also runs through the town of Weed, locally known as North Weed Boulevard. Only two blocks long, it is the second-shortest state highway in California.
The Weed Shop in Weed, California sells a wide range of souvenirs that play on the town's unusual name. Photo by Matt Bowers, NSS
Weed is served by Siskiyou County's public transportation bus lines, Siskiyou Transit and General Express, commonly called "The STAGE". We'll post routes and schedules from the hotels to the college campus on this website in the next few months.
The closest airports for commercial air travel are Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport in Oregon and Redding Municipal Airport in California. The Weed Airport serves general aviation and as a base of operations for search and rescue operations on Mount Shasta. Corporate visitors or geological researchers typically use this facility, but there is no commercial service to the airport.
Amtrak trains pass through Weed, but do not stop there. The Amtrak bus/shuttle has one stop in South Weed. The nearest depot for Amtrak train travel is in Dunsmuir, California, approximately 15 miles to the south. Greyhound Bus Lines has a bus station, with both north and southbound buses making stops.
Although historically reliant on logging, wood processing and forest-related products, Weed's economy has become more reliant on tourism as a source of economic activity. Weed's microbrewery, Mt. Shasta Brewing Company, relies on tourists for 92 percent of its business, according to co-owner Vaune Dillman.
Today, most of the wood-product-related industry has been scaled back or ceased altogether, and new retail and light industrial activity is concentrated in the southeast corner of Weed. Retail at the south end of town, in the form of restaurants and hotels, caters primarily to tourist travel on the Interstate 5 corridor. Light manufacturing of bottled water from Crystal Geyser Water Company has also added economic stability to the area.
Mt. Shasta Brewing Company is a family-owned micro-brewery located about 3 blocks from the convention site. Photo courtesy of weedales.com
Recreation and tourism
Visitors use Weed as a base to engage in trout fishing in the nearby Klamath, Sacramento, and McCloud Rivers, or come to see and climb Mount Shasta, Castle Crags State Park or the Trinity Alps. Visitors also engage in nearby skiing (both alpine and cross-country) and biking, or hike to the waterfalls, streams and lakes in the area, including nearby Mossbrae Falls, Lake Siskiyou, Castle Lake and Shasta Lake.
Weed is near Castle Crags State Park, Lava Beds National Monument, and Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge. In addition to these state and federal parks, there are numerous local recreation opportunities. Weed is on the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, and is a short distance from the Pacific Crest Trail. Nearby Mount Shasta Ski Park offers alpine and Nordic skiing in winter, as well as summertime mountain biking, rock climbing, and a concert series.
As with most of the arid west, the City of Weed is susceptible to seasonal wildfires.
Wildfire in the west is serious business. In 2014, the Boles Fire destroyed over 165 houses and businesses in Weed. It took a month and a response team of 453 firefighters from 13 different agencies to get the fire contained. Photo courtesy of the US Forest Service.
On September 15, 2014, the Boles Fire spread through the town, driven by 40-mph winds. The fire started in the central part of Weed at approximately 1:30 p.m., and within four hours quickly spread to over 200 acres. Evacuations were immediately ordered, and a shelter was first set up at College of the Siskiyous. As fire headed towards the college, the evacuation center was relocated first to the Siskiyou Golden Fairgrounds in Yreka, California, then to Yreka and Mount Shasta High Schools, then to the armory in Mount Shasta, California.
Over 200 structures were damaged or destroyed, including two churches, the elementary school, Weed High School, and Roseburg mill. About 7,678 Pacific Power customers in both Weed and Mt. Shasta lost power as a result of the fire.
This fire risk is the reason we cannot allow open fires in the campground - it's just too dangerous! Camp stoves are ok, as long as you're nearby to watch them. Fire is something we take quiet seriously out here. The same holds true for carbide cannons, fireworks or other incendiary devices - leave them at home! Using such devices in California will definitely get you arrested. There will be no hot tub at the 2021 convention.
Weed's historic lumber industry and manufacturing facilities made it a magnet for ethnic minority migration, that may not have otherwise been the case in this region of the country. A large number of Italian immigrants migrated to Weed, and other towns in southern Siskiyou County at the turn of the 20th century. While immigrants were a source of labor for the region, they were not always well treated, in fact in 1909 complaints from workers in the lumber industry reached the Italian consul. However, in time the Italian population came to be a cornerstone of Weed civic life. Many streets in the early Italian neighborhood bear names of Italian cities, such as Rome, Genoa, Como, and Venice. Annually since 1954, the town has held the Weed Italian Carnevale in June or July, although recently dropping "Italian" from its name while maintaining the Italian spelling of carnival and the traditional bocce ball tournaments.
A large number of black-Americans migrated to Weed as well, to work in Long-Bell Lumber Company's Weed facility after the company closed two mills in Louisiana in 1922. The company promised to advance travel expenses and provide housing for workers relocating to Weed. Immigrants locating in Weed since the 1980s have come primarily from Mexico and Laos. As a result of these migrations, Weed has a much more ethnically diverse population than the surrounding Siskiyou County as a whole.
In popular Culture
John Steinbeck's novella-play "Of Mice and Men" begins with George and Lennie running away from Weed, where they got into trouble. Weed is also the setting of a large subplot in Harry Turtledove's alternate history, "The Hot War".