Roy Ramsey’s lifelong love of Lake Shasta was launched at an early age.
“Years ago, my family had a rustic cabin at the end of Squaw Creek,” Ramsey explained, referring to a rugged, remote arm of the lake, east of Interstate 5. “We used to come up every summer. I thought that if I could make a living up there, I’d love to live there.”
As if by fate, in the mid-1960s, Ramsey had the opportunity to purchase a U.S. Forest Service permit to put houseboats on Lake Shasta – a novel concept at the time.
“Houseboats were popular between Minnesota and Wisconsin,” Ramsey said. “I just did a little research on it, and it was a good way for people to utilize Shasta Lake. It really lent itself to houseboating.”
Banking on the hope that folks would love his beloved Lake Shasta as much as he did, he bought six houseboats from Boatel Industries in Minnesota. “They were small ones – four- and six-sleepers,” Ramsey said. “They were just a little camper shell on pontoons, with beds and a kitchenette.”
With that, Holiday Harbor was born. But Ramsey and his wife, Betty, soon discovered that they might also have a future in building houseboats.
“The boats were sent over in rail cars, and they got so beaten up along the way that we had to rebuild them,” said Ramsey, who also owned Lakeshore Resort before retiring. “I thought, why, we might as well start from scratch. In 1968, we started building them.”
Today, it’s hard to imagine Lake Shasta without houseboats. At daybreak, early-rising anglers cast their lines into the still waters. By midday, the lake is filled with waterskiers, wakeboarders and folks relaxing on rafts in secluded coves. Nature lovers enjoy great odds of spotting deer, osprey, otters, bears and even the occasional bald eagle. When night falls, vacationers enjoy campfires on the shore or stargazing from their houseboat’s deck.
Today’s houseboats look nothing like those of yesteryear, when they rented for “a couple hundred dollars per week” but also didn’t have amenities like high-definition TVs, wine coolers and hot tubs. “New houseboats are so much different – they have so many modern things,” Ramsey said.
But as the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The Ramseys have retired, but his favorite spot on his beloved lake remains the Squaw Creek arm. That said, however, after decades of living and working on the lake, Ramsey knows that visitors have little trouble finding their ideal landing place on that crystal-blue water.
“The lake is so big and it has so many little inlets that even when there are a lot of people, you can find a place off by yourself,” he said. “It’s a great family camping experience.”