Exploring the rich history of McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park

Author: Jeremy Tuggle – Education and Community Engagement Manager – Shasta Historical Society

If you’re ever in Northern California one of the premier destinations in Shasta County to visit is a natural wonder called Burney Falls. This magnificent water fall was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1984 by the National Park Service.

Yet, long before it was developed into a state park in 1930 it was President Theodore Roosevelt who supposedly labeled this natural landmark as the “eighth wonder of the world” during his presidency. Thousands of tourists come from all over the world to visit Burney Falls which is situated in the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park along Highway 89.


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This state park was established by Frank McArthur on one hundred sixty acres of land. He donated its land to the National Park Service and dedicated its donation in memory of his parents John McArthur and Catherine McArthur for the purpose of preservation.

McArthur didn’t want the site of the falls to be destroyed or to be utilized for hydroelectric power, and three years later the State of California added an additional one hundred seventy-five acres of land to the property. Since then the park has grown in size and is currently at 910 acres of land according to their website.

Above: is Burney Falls. The falls height is approximately 129 feet from Burney Creek,  a tributary of the Pit River, while the depth of its pool is 22 feet, it’s water temperature reaches a chilling forty-two degrees to forty-eight degrees and it’s daily flow is 100 million gallons of water. This video was filmed by Jeremy Tuggle on October 21, 2020.

Above: this cabin is original to the park and it was constructed in 1935 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The cabin was restored by the Friends of the Falls between 1984 and 1986. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 21, 2020.

Above: a general store remains on site as well and is often open for business within the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park. Yes, that is a payphone in front of this building. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 21, 2020.

The town of Burney, Burney Falls, Burney Mountain, Burney Valley and the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, are all named for Samuel Burney, a Scotsman, who arrived and settled in the area during November of 1858. His occupation was that of a caretaker, guide and trapper. However, Native Americans broke into his cabin and murdered Burney; striking him to the back of his head with a hatchet in March of 1859. A Native American boy who had helped caretake for Burney was also murdered during the attack. During the time of his death Burney was living at the Brook Farm which was homesteaded by James Preadmore.

It’s been documented that Samuel Burney had a love for the land he lived on and that it was possible another neighbor named William Cayton may have conspired with the Native Americans to have him killed for his land. Either way, Cayton eventually acquired the land which belonged to Samuel Burney.

Samuel Burney’s body was found a short distance from his cabin covered with rocks. Burney is buried in the Burney Cemetery at Burney.    


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Above: the headstone of Shasta County pioneer, Samuel Burney at the Burney Cemetery in Burney. An error on his headstone at the cemetery states, “Killed by Indians 1857”, and that is incorrect. He was killed in 1859. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on July 7, 2018.    

The pioneer Burney Falls Cemetery was also laid out on spacious ground and established in 1890. It is included in the boundaries of the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park.

My maternal great-great-great aunt, Laura May Felch, is buried in this cemetery. She was the daughter of John Richard Felch and Lettetia Jane (Joiner) Felch, who were married at Pittville, in Shasta County, on July 24, 1889 by the Clergyman, M.H. Vineyard.

Their daughter, Laura, died in August of 1891 during the diphtheria epidemic that swept through the Burney area. Laura’s father, John, was a farmer who also leased a local sawmill from Isaac Ray and Felch began operating it as well. Laura’s parents are buried in the Burney Cemetery at Burney.  

Above: this park also features cabins which you can rent and spacious camp grounds, hiking trails, and access to Lake Britton. This photograph was taken by Jeremy Tuggle on October 21, 2020.

Above: Jeremy M. Tuggle appears kneeling at the monument erected for the Burney Falls Cemetery. The first name on the marker is his maternal great-great-great aunt, Laura May Felch. Laura never had a headstone yet her plot was purchased for by her family. A selfie. This photograph was taken by Jeremy M. Tuggle on October 21, 2020.  

Above: tour the historic pioneer Burney Falls Cemetery with Jeremy Tuggle. This video was filmed on location by Jeremy Tuggle on October 21, 2020.        


Meet the writer: Jeremy M. Tuggle
Education and Community Engagement Manager – Shasta Historical Society

Jeremy M. Tuggle, born in Redding, is a descendant of 11 pioneer families who settled Shasta County between 1849-1889. Jeremy attended Shasta College and is the author of two published books, Rooted in Shasta County (2003), and A Journey Through Time: Ono and the Bald Hills (2008), as well as various articles on local history.

In 2017 Mr. Tuggle was awarded a Community Service Award, a prestigious national award for community service in historic preservation, by the Major Pierson B. Reading Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Jeremy is a member of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, and an Eagle Scout.

Tuggle has been employed at the Shasta Historical Society since November of 2009.   In his present role as Education & Community Engagement Manager, Jeremy conducts research for the historical society’s programs and events, contributes to the Society’s social media presence, and ensures the highest quality guest and patron experience at our programs and community events.

Mr. Tuggle enjoys sharing his knowledge of local history and events, and is available to community organizations to present programs about Shasta County history.  

This article sponsored by:

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Want to be featured in a future “Guest Writer Spotlight” article? Contact the editor: [email protected]

Trevor Montgomery, 49, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, (the now defunct) Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.