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Lake Shasta or Shasta Lake?

The great Shasta Debate.  When a lake isn’t a lake, what do we call it?  When I’ve asked some of my colleagues and neighbors here in Redding, the response is almost always emphatically stated, “SHASTA LAKE!”  When we see someone refer to the reservoir (more on that in a moment) as ‘Lake Shasta’ most of us don’t bother to correct the person, instead permitting them to continue in their ignorance.

The following is an email from a former employee that explains this further, “Several years ago when the boom town communities of Central Valley, Project City and Summit City consolidated to form the city of Shasta Lake, our local newspaper, the Record Searchlight, found it all too confusing. Their ingenious solution? Unilateral lake name dyslexia.

While I believed Shasta Lake was correct, I had never proven it to myself. This time, I could not let a sleeping houseboating lake lie. So off I went to Google which lead me to the holy grail of geographical place names: the United States Geographical Survey (USGS), or more specifically, the US Board on Geographic Names, established to maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the Federal Government.

So, what does the Board have to say? SHASTA LAKE! The interesting rationale? The body of water is a Reservoir. The word “lake” is just part of the name – it’s not a classification. In the same way the word Bally in the nearby mountain range named Shasta Bally is just part of the name. So if you were to include a class when referring to it we should say ‘Shasta Lake Reservoir’. The term reservoir is optional (and no one exercises the option). Just as City of is optional for Redding or (city of) Shasta Lake.

So next time someone asks you, is it Lake Shasta or Shasta Lake? Look them dead in the eye, smile and confidently say: SHASTA LAKE!”

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