Dunsmuir is a city in Siskiyou County, California, United States. The population was 1,923 at the 2000 census. It is currently a hub of tourism in Northern California as visitors enjoy fishing, skiing, climbing, or sight-seeing. During steam engine days, it was notable for being the site of an important Central Pacific (and later Southern Pacific) railroad yard, where extra steam locomotives were added to assist trains on the grade to the north.
Sites in and near Dunsmuir have been inhabited for over 5000 years. At least three waves of early peoples swept through area, establishing residence. At the time of the first European-American contact in the 1820s, the site of Dunsmuir was within the range of the Okwanuchu tribe of Native Americans.
During the 1820s, early European-American hunters and trappers passed through Dunsmuir's site, following the Siskiyou Trail. In the mid-1830s, pioneer horse and cattle drives came up the Sacramento Canyon, delivering livestock from Mexican California to the new settlements in the Oregon Country to the north. In 1841, an overland party of the famous United States Exploring Expedition passed through the area.
The California Gold Rush led to increased traffic along the Siskiyou Trail through Dunsmuir's site, leading to the first non-Native American settlers at Upper Soda Springs in north Dunsmuir in the early 1850s. The discovery of gold at Yreka, California dramatically increased movement through the site of Dunsmuir, and a toll bridge and stagecoach hotel were built at Upper Soda Springs.
In 1887, the completion of the Central Pacific Railroad along the line of the Siskiyou Trail led to the creation of the modern town of Dunsmuir. The railroad developed a division point on the flats south of Upper Soda Springs, where railroad steam engines would be serviced, and added to trains to push them up the steep grades north of town. A roundhouse and turntable were built. All this activity required the creation of a town, initially known as 'Cedar Flat' or 'Pusher'.
In 1888, British Columbian coal baron Alexander Dunsmuir was passing through the little development, and according to contemporary accounts, was so taken with the beauty of the area that he offered to donate a fountain to the new town, if they would name the town in his honor. The offer was accepted, and Dunsmuir's fountain remains near the City Park.
By the early 1900s, Dunsmuir was the largest town in Siskiyou County. The construction of the Pacific Highway along the Siskiyou Trail in the mid-1910s brought more tourists. By the mid-1950s, the railroad transitioned from steam to diesel locomotives, and the substantial workforce in Dunsmuir was not needed, resulting in the town's contraction.
As a result, Dunsmuir retains today much of the charm and scale of the 1920s and 1930s, and has been designated on the National Register of Historic Places.
In July of 1935 2 criminals were in town. Police Chief F.R. 'Jack' Daw, and California Highway Patrol Officer C. 'Doc' Malone went to catch them. The criminals ambushed the officers wounding Officer Malone and killing Chief Daw. One of the criminals, Clyde Johnson, was caught and put in jail up in Yreka to await trial. A group of vigilantes from Dunsmuir went up to Yreka, broke Johnson out of jail and lynched him. To this day no one knows the identity of those vigilantes — or at least they are not talking. It is said to have been the last public lynching in California. Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce
On the night of July 14, 1991, a derailment on a horseshoe curve of the nearby railroad (then owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad) resulted in the release of approximately 19,500 gallons of biocide into the Sacramento River just above Dunsmuir (Map). The biocide killed every living thing in the river for a distance of some 38 miles (61.15 km), devastating a popular fly fishing area -- one of the most severe toxic spills in U.S. history.
The Upper Sacramento River has long since healed itself, and is now largely recovered from the spill. The watershed is carefully stewarded by The Upper Sacramento River Exchange The once-popular fishery is again healthy. Recent changes to angling regulations have opened the Upper Sacramento River to catch-and-release fishing all year round.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.8 square miles (4.7 km²), all of it land.
Elevation: 2347 ft
There were 867 households out of which 23.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.3% were non-families. 35.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.22 and the average family size was 2.84.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.4% under the age of 18, 6.8% from 18 to 24, 23.2% from 25 to 44, 28.8% from 45 to 64, and 18.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 44 years. For every 100 females there were 97.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $23,191, and the median income for a family was $27,420. Males had a median income of $27,393 versus $19,148 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,982. About 13.4% of families and 19.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.7% of those under age 18 and 3.2% of those age 65 or over.