Paul Bunyan and Babe

Fredonyer Pass (SR 36)


ALONG THE WAY: Chester, Lake Almanor, Keddie Ridge, Susanville


Some Favorites From Our Expeditions

  • Connector.

    Experience the thrill of driving the divide between two major mountain ranges.

  • Connector.

    Stop along the eastern shore of Lake Almanor on Highway 147 for views of Lassen, the southernmost active volcano in the Cascades.

  • Connector.

    This area is the homeland of the Mountain Maidu Indians. Follow the Maidu Auto Tour by the Indian Valley Chamber of Commerce to learn about their legends, especially Worldmaker.

  • Connector.

    If you already read our Northern Sierra Expedition Tips, Westwood is also in this neck of the woods. Stop in to see Paul Bunyan & Babe and a terrific museum.

Northern Boundary with a Controversial Name

Fredonyer Pass is the northernmost Sierra crossing point, situated between it and the Cascade Mountains. Don’t expect a dramatic break between the two ranges. The spot was determined based on geological differences, not a defined gap.

The Fredonyer’s name is somewhat controversial because it honors Atlas Fredonyer, the man credited with discovering the route in 1850, but later sent to prison on incest charges for victimizing his daughter. In the 1990s, there were legislative moves to change the name and instead pay tribute to Larry Griffith, a Lassen County Deputy Sheriff killed in the line of duty when responding to a 1995 domestic dispute. But thus far, an official rechristening hasn’t materialized.

The Lassen Gateway

Chester is a popular base for those visiting Lassen. It has several lodging options for park visitors and is also situated near the north shore of Lake Almanor, which further boosts its tourism appeal (See below.)

Lumber has also been important to the history of Chester, which isn’t surprising given that Plumas County is blanketed with trees. Much of it is now protected national forest land, but Collins Pine has had a sawmill in Chester since 1943 and been a top employer for many years.

Lake Almanor: Major & Man-Made Lake

Lake Almanor is a large reservoir, one of the biggest man-made lakes in California, with more than 50 miles of shoreline. It’s a popular recreation area for swimming, fishing, hiking and camping. Views of Lassen Peak are another draw. Along with Mount St. Helens, Rainier and Shasta, Lassen is one of the best-known volcanos in the Cascades.

When Great Western Power Company dammed the North Fork of the Feather River and created Lake Almanor for its hydroelectric plant in 1914, one of its honchos came up with the name. Guy C. Earl’s daughters were Alice, Martha and Elinore.

Where Paul Bunyan’s Story Grew

Like Chester, California’s lumber industry played an important role in the history of Westwood to the east. In fact, it created the town. Before winding down in 1956, Red River Lumber had been recognized as the largest pine lumber company in the world, and Westwood was its company town. The community grew around it with all of the businesses needed to support Red River’s operations and workers.

Red River also played an important role in popularizing Paul Bunyan. As part of its marketing efforts, it turned logging camp folktales about the mythical logger and his blue ox into popular promotional pamphlets.

The Red River-published Paul Bunyan stories created by ad man William Laughead are said to be the first to give Babe a name, and they also embellished on Paul Bunyan lore to add new characters like cook Sourdough Sam. Though Red River Lumber Company is gone, Westwood does have a large Paul Bunyan statue (carved from a redwood) as well as one of Babe standing alongside him.

You’ll find Paul Bunyan stuff in various parts of the country, and elsewhere in the Sierra, too, like Placerville and Three Rivers. But Westwood is where his story grew well beyond the popular folktales.

Worldmaker: The Sleeping Indian Who’ll Announce End Times

Venturing further along Fredonyer Pass, the Keddie Ridge eventually comes into view. This is where Worldmaker lies, along the ridgeline that resembles a sleeping man. (If you want to spot him, try to pick out his brow, nose and chin first.)

The Mountain Maidu tribe have a legend that what you see in repose here is a giant Indian who was responsible for all creation. What led him here was a journey between Chester and Susanvanville to see the mountains, trees and valleys that were his doing. (His path later became an important Indian Trail.) But his travels tired him so much that he laid down at the Keddie Ridge and fell into a deep sleep.

The story goes that when he awakens, it will signal the end of the world. His resting place also marks more exactly the accepted spot where the Sierra ends and the Cascades begin.

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