Ney Springs and Faery Falls
04/26/2017 11:00AM ● Published by Gary VanDeWalker
The Enchanted Forest
By Gary VanDeWalker
Photos by Taryn Burkleo
The hidden treasure of flowing rivers and cascading waterfalls in Northern California presents a siren’s call, drawing people to explore the deep woods. In 1887, railroad worker John Ney followed the melody of the forest into the thick foliage near Mount Shasta, uncertain of what he might discover. His hunting trip became a treasure hunt. In the evergreen canyon, the sound of rushing water plunged down the mountainside. Springs of mineral water bubbled from the ground. The man purchased 800 acres and soon constructed the Ney Springs Resort, next to the enchantment of the 50-foot-high Faery Falls.
Years before, Ney left his native home in North Carolina and traveled with his wife to California, passing Donner Lake. He came with a group of 100 wagons on a nine-month journey. Reaching the West Coast, he traveled often as an employee of the Southern Pacific Railroad and as a stagecoach driver. Upon founding the resort, he would winter in Oakland, spending his summers at the Springs in Mount Shasta.
Ney’s resort thrived, as did Shasta Springs and Soda Springs, nearby cousins which boasted their own beauty. Testing the spring waters, Ney discovered a high mineral content. The waters claimed medicinal powers. From one spring, the resort sold “Aqua de Ney,” which purported to cure blood and stomach ailments. A second spring produced beauty water, said to improve the skin and hair. The waters had a foul odor, which faded after a few minutes of being collected.
Tourists gathered at Ney’s resort, not only for its waters, but its beauty. Visitors enjoyed the rich hunting and fishing on the surrounding grounds. Ney and his wife, Catherine, were gracious hosts. After their deaths, their daughter Clara continued the success until the Great Depression came, and the attraction faded from history.
Nature is reclaiming Ney’s property. The buildings are gone. Moss-covered ruins preserve stairs, a retaining wall, cisterns and broken pipes of mineral water. The falls and Ney Springs Creek tumble along, passing a fading history. Once a myriad of buildings rose here. A carriage house, a hotel, barn and bathhouse welcomed guests. Wooden walkways snaked through the trees.
The shadows play across the forest. Hikers experience a middle earth euphoria. The name of the resort and its founding date etched on a crumbling wall whisper of a time where people crowded here.
The vanishing roadway continues past the ruins to Faery Falls. A rock face acts as host to the river as it pours and divides during descent, turning into a watery ribbon and waterfall. The view is timeless, remaining much as Ney’s first view and the endless gaze of his future guests.
The historic ruins of the resort and waters Ney stumbled upon still call travelers, a mere half-mile from Ney Springs Road. The trail is what is left of the road to the resort. The way is unmarked. For the curious, a trip to Mount Shasta and Lake Siskiyou will lead across Box Canyon Dam, a left up Castle Lake Road, to the first left, the unpaved Ney Springs Road. After going 1.4 miles, a faint path splits to the right, forming the trail to the lost enterprise.
The short hike opens another world. Here where Ney found the unexpected, the words of J.R.R. Tolkien can be heard, “Not all of those who wander are lost.”