Susan River - California Watchable Wildlife Trail #34
The Susan River Canyon is ecologically unique as it traverses three distinct bioregions - the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range, and Great Basin Desert. The varied scenery with pine and cedar forest, grassland, oak woodlands, high desert, and canyon lands makes it ideal for birdwatching and wildlife viewing, especially along the Bizz Johnson Trail. This multi-use trail links Susanville and Westwood, follows an old railroad grade through two tunnels and across 12 bridges and skirts the Susan River for 16 miles. It passes from east to west through Great Basin high desert habitat, through south-facing slopes dominated by grasses, shrubs and oak woodlands, past north-facing firs and pines and ends in a dense pine and cedar forest.
Along the historic trail, riverside riparian vegetation shelters many birds, from belted kingfishers and hooded orioles to calliope hummingbirds and canyon wrens. Ducks are occasionally seen including common mergansers that often raise their young along the river. Brushy dams and grassy mounds along the river are evidence of beavers and muskrats. Watch for turkey vultures, American kestrels, great horned owls, red tailed hawks and other birds of prey. Patient observers may see bats, raccoons, porcupines, coyotes, even black bears. Bobcats and mountain lions live in the area but are seldom seen. The Bizz Johnson Trail/Susan River is a designated California Watchable Wildlife Site # 34. For more details, click here.
The Bizz Johnson Trail is a "Rails to Trails" conversion of the western end of the old Fernley and Lassen Branch Line of the Southern Pacific Railroad, a logging line that operated from 1914 to 1955. The Bizz Johnson Trail winds 25.4 miles from Susanville to Mason Station, 4.6 miles north of Westwood.
The trail has four distinct seasons because of the high elevation location. The trail begins at 4200' on the east side of the Sierra and Cascade Ranges in Susanville, climbs 1300' to a high point of 5500' at Westwood Junction then drops 400' to its terminus in Westwood at elevation 5100'. Check current conditions before planning a trip on the trail by calling (530) 257-0456.
The trails main visitor center is located in the old depot in Susanville where a number of interpretive exhibits tell the history of the area. A second visitor center is located in Westwood in a replica of the Westwood railroad depot.
From Main St. in Susanville turn South on Weatherlow Street (becomes Richmond Road) and continue 1/2 mile to Susanville Railroad Depot Trailhead Visitor Center. The trail begins at the Depot.The trail can also be accessed from the Devil's Corral trailhead located about seven miles west of Susanville just before (directly east of) the Susan River on the south side of Highway 36. This trailhead provides the closest access to the two railroad tunnels and affords visitors with an easy and very scenic 7 mile downhill hike back to Susanville.
Best Time for Viewing: Mornings and evenings
Best Months and Seasons for Viewing: Songbirds best seen in spring and fall, though summer is also good. Look for birds of prey, deer, predators and aquatic mammals year-round.
The trail is ADA accessible from Devil's Corral trailhead (seven miles west of Susanville on Highway 36) to Hobo Camp, near Susanville. This six-mile segment is the most scenic, and includes two tunnels and eight bridges.