Tahoe National Forest
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park encompasses the historic town site of North Bloomfield and a large portion of the Malakoff Diggins hydraulic mining area. Many of the town's buildings are still standing and some have been restored to reflect the era of the hydraulic digging. The park also includes a museum, interpretive talks and displays throughout the town.
Malakoff Diggins is the remains of one of the largest and richest hydraulic mining areas in California. The Diggins was named by French miners in celebration the capture of Fort Malakoff during the Crimean War in Europe in 1855. The Diggins is 600 feet deep, 7,000 feet in length, and 3,000 feet wide. Hydraulic mining reached its peak in the 1870s. Mountainsides were washed away by the pressure of water bursting from huge monitors (a giant nozzle similar to those used on fire hoses). Malakoff Diggins was mined by the North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company from 1855 until 1884 when Federal Judge Lorenzo Sawyer ruled against any dumping of debris, mud, sand, or gravel into the Yuba River or any of its tributaries. The debris from hydraulic mining operations clogged the rivers and streams and caused floods in the Sacramento Valley. The North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company extracted close to four million dollars worth of gold from Malakoff Diggins.
The park is 23 miles east of Nevada City. Take Highway 49 east for 11 miles; right on Tyler Foote Crossing Road for 8 miles to North Columbia; right on Lake City Road 4 miles to Malakoff State Park. Camping and picnicking are available at the park. On the hill above Diggins, Chute Campground is a particularly scenic place to pitch a tent. For information and fees call (916) 265-2740.
Oregon Creek Covered Bridge
The Oregon Creek Covered Bridge, originally known as Freeman's Crossing Bridge, was built by Thomas Freeman sometime between 1858 and 1871 of hand-hewn Ponderosa pine beams 16 inches square. Most historians agree on the year of 1862 for construction making it the oldest covered bridge in continuous service in California. It was an important crossing on the Middle Yuba road for the mining settlements to obtain supplies from Sacramento Valley towns. In 1883 a dam break at the headwaters of the Middle Yuba River caused flooding all the way down the river. An enormous amount of logs and debris created a dam below the mouth of Oregon Creek causing the river waters to flow upstream, up Oregon Creek. The bridge was washed upstream 100 feet. When the water receded the bridge floated downstream 150 feet. With a team of oxen Freeman moved the bridge back to its original location, however, the flood turned the bridge end for end, the east end is now the west; the west end is now the east.
The Oregon Creek Covered Bridge can be reached by taking Highway 49 east from Nevada City 23 miles, turn right at Oregon Creek. The U.S. Forest Service Oregon Creek Day Use Area has picnic tables, vault toilets and is a popular area for river activities.
J. Joubert discovered gold near Camptonville in 1852. He ran Joubert's Diggins hydraulic mine until his death. His son, Fred J. Joubert, a graduate from the University of California School of Engineering, then carried on the mining operations until its closure in 1927. Joubert's Diggins was the oldest continuous hydraulic mining operation at the time of its closure.
Joubert's Diggins is located approximately 18 miles east of Nevada City on Highway 49. Camping is available in U.S. Forest Service campgrounds along the Yuba River at Carlton Flat, Fiddle Creek, Indian Valley, Rocky Rest, Ramshorn, and Union Flat.
Downieville, county seat of Sierra County, is located on Highway 49 at the fork of the North Yuba River and the Downie River. Gold was discovered in the summer of 1849. John Potter built the first cabin here in December of 1849 at the mouth of the ravine on the north side of town. By January of 1850 two cabins existed there. The town site was laid out in February of 1850 by James Vineyard. The town was known as The Forks when first settled, then named Downieville in 1850 after William Downie, a prominent miner in the area. By May 1850, Downieville had 15 hotels and gambling houses, 4 bakeries, 4 butcher shops, and all the flat land was occupied. The south side of town was christened Washingtonville and the flat above the south side was called Murraysville. In 1850 James Durgan built a sawmill on the flat on the south side of town so the area became known as Durgan's Flat and Murraysville became known as Jersey Flat. Miners came to the area by the hundreds that spring. As the population of the area grew Downieville served as a trading center for the Northern Mines. In 1851 the population of Downieville reached 5,000.
Downieville is 45 miles north east of Nevada City on Highway 49. Ramshorn and Union Flat Campgrounds operated by the U.S. Forest Service are located nearby.
The historic mining community of Sierra City was established in 1850 when P.A. Haven and Joseph Zumwalt came to this area to mine gold. By 1852 there were several tunnels for mining gold from the Sierra Buttes. At this time Sierra City had two large buildings, a bakery shop, and several gambling houses and saloons. The following winter the buildings were crushed under heavy snow and the area was abandoned. In 1858 rich deposits of gold were discovered on the flat near Sierra City. Again the area was alive with mining activity. In 1865 a post office was established and in 1868 a public school was opened.
Sierra City is 12 miles east of Downieville on Highway 49. Camping is available at several U.S. Forest Service campgrounds. Loganville Campground is located two miles west of Sierra City; Wild Plum, Sierra, Chapman Creek and Yuba Pass Campgrounds are between one and 11 miles east of Sierra City.
Kentucky Mine and Museum
The Kentucky mine was opened in the late 1850s and worked until the late 1940s. Sometime between the late 1870s and the early 1880s a five stamp mill was constructed at the mine to crush gold bearing ore. Another five stamps were added to the mill in 1888 to keep up with production.
Located in the Sierra County Historical Park, the museum depicts the gold rush era of Sierra County and life in a mining camp. Tools, mineral samples, photographs, and documents are on display in the museum. Tours are conducted of the mine tunnel, blacksmith shop, and stampmill. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wed-Sun, Memorial Day through September, and weekends in October.
The Kentucky Mine Museum is located at the east end of Sierra City on Highway 49.
The Sierra Valley ranches were settled in the 1850s. The ranches provided dairy products, hay, and cattle for Truckee and the mining towns of Downieville and Sierra City. Lumber was another important industry of Sierra Valley. In the 1860s lumber, butter, and cheese were transported by wagon to Truckee. From there the products were shipped on the new Central Pacific Railroad. The Boca Loyalton Railroad was built in 1901 to ship lumber from the Sierra Valley to the Central Pacific Railroad.
Sierraville was first settled in 1854 by John Lipscomb and John Mullen. They began a ranch on the site of Sierraville. In the late 1850s William Arms established a dry goods store and trading post. By the 1860s Arms had built a hotel, blacksmith shop, and a public house. The post office was established in 1858. The business section of town burned in 1881. The population at that time was 150.
Sierraville is located 19 miles east of Sierra City at the junction of Highways 49 and 89. From Truckee take Highway 89 north 25 miles. Camping is available in U.S. Forest Service campgrounds at Cottonwood, Cold Creek, Bear Valley, Upper Little Truckee, and lower Little Truckee. They are located from 4 1/2 miles to 12 miles south of Sierraville off of Highway 89.
Donner Camp Picnic Area
At this site on Alder Creek near Prosser Reservoir the George and Jacob Donner families were snowbound during the winter of 1846. The Donner Party had earlier decided to take a shortcut through the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, which Lansford Hastings had written about in his guidebook "Emigrants Guide to Oregon and California." The trail was rocky and portions were impassable for their wagons. The "Hasting's Cutoff" caused the Donner Party to become three weeks behind the rest of the wagon train they had originally started west with. When they finally reached Truckee Meadows (Reno), the party made the fatal mistake of resting for a week before going over the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The Donner families were forced to stay behind at what is now known as Donner Camps Day Use Area to repair a wagon axle while the others in the Donner Party went ahead. Both groups of emigrants were caught in early winter snows. The party that went ahead made it six miles farther to the site of the Donner Memorial State Historic Park before the snow stopped them.
Three U.S. Forest Service campgrounds are nearby. Annie McCloud Campground, Lakeside Campground, and Prosser Campground are located on the west shore of Prosser Reservoir.
The Donner Camp Picnic Area is located 2.5 miles north of Truckee on Highway 89.
Donner Memorial State Historic Park
This 353-acre State Historic Park is located on the east side of Donner Lake on the site where most of the ill fated Donner Party spent the winter of 1846. When the party began its trek over the mountains the George and Jacob Donner families camped near Alder Creek to make wagon repairs while the rest of the party traveled on. The remainder of the party made camp at the Donner State Historic Park site. On October 28 the first winter snowstorm hit the camp. The snow was too deep for the wagons to continue. The party made makeshift shelters for the winter. Fifteen of the strongest people left to seek help from Sutter's Fort (Sacramento) for the starving emigrants. On February 19 the first rescue party reached the lake camp. Forty five of the original 89 emigrants survived the journey.
The park museum interprets artifacts of early travel, the railroad, mining, and logging in the area. There is also a slide show offered in the museum complex. A nature trail, camping, picnic area, and swimming are also available. The park is open daily 8 a.m. until dusk, June 1 through October 1. The Museum is open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; closed New Years Day, Christmas Day and Thanksgiving. Call (916) 587-3841 for fees and information.
Donner State Historic Park is one mile west of Truckee on Donner Pass Road.
In 1844 the first wagon train to California over Donner Pass was guided by a Paiute Indian from the Humbolt sink in Nevada to a river that flowed from one lake high in the mountains to another lake in the basin of Nevada. The emigrants were so thankful to the Indian, they named the river for him. He was known as Captain Truckee to the emigrants. When the Dutch Flat and Donner Lake wagon road were being built in 1863, Joseph Gray moved his family to a site on the Truckee River and built a log cabin near the corner of present Bridge and East Main Streets. Mr. Coburn built a log cabin and stage stop in 1864 to accommodate travelers and teamsters on their way to the silver mines of Nevada. By 1868, Coburn's Station, as it was known, contained five saloons, a boarding house, three or four stores, and a few houses. The entire town burned in July of 1868. The new town of Truckee was built just east of the Coburn's Station site.
When the Central Pacific Railroad was constructing the line through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, a roundhouse was constructed in Truckee. Truckee was the main town on the railroad line between Sacramento and Ogden in 1868. The new town suffered from a series of fires in 1871. The last fire destroyed the business district except for three brick buildings. Sixty-eight buildings were burned and 63 families were homeless.
Lumber and ice were the primary industries of Truckee. Lumber and cord wood were shipped by rail to markets throughout the west. The ice industry supplied ice to cities all over California. The tourist business began for Truckee in 1878 and by the 1880's the population of Truckee was about 3,000.
Truckee is 71 miles east of Auburn on I-80.
The springs of Soda Springs were developed by Mark Hopkins and Leland Stanford, two of the "Big Four" who built the Central Pacific Railroad through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The springs are down the American River canyon from the present town of Soda Springs. The present town site was called Tinker's Station between 1867 and 1873. The stage stop was named after J.A. Tinker, a teamster who hauled freight between Soda Springs and Foresthill Divide. A post office was established on March 8, 1875, at the present town site. The train stopped here for tourists to go down the canyon to the Soda Springs Resort, where private homes are now located.
The Soda Springs Hotel was built in 1937 by Oscar Jones. His son, Dennis, started the ski lift, then called a "pull back." During the 1940's Soda Springs had three large hotels along old Highway 40 that were always full during the ski season.
Soda Springs is located off I-80. Take the Soda Springs exit 10 miles west of Truckee, 60 miles east of Auburn.
Western Skisport Museum
The Western Skisport Museum is located in the Boreal Ridge Ski Area. The museum houses displays of the development of the sport of skiing in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains. Films are shown on request. The hours are Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the ski season. Wednesday through Sunday during the summer. There is no charge.
The Western Skisport Museum is located on the south side of I-80 62 miles east of Auburn, 9 miles west of Truckee. Take the Castle Peak exit, turn south. The museum is located near the Boreal Ridge Ski Area parking lot.
Overland Emigrant Trail/Big Bend Visitor Information Center
The Overland Emigrant Trail was one of the main wagon roads used by the emigrants from the eastern states to California. The trail was first used by wagons in 1844 when the Stevens-Townsend-Murphy party crossed Donner Summit on their way to the Sacramento Valley. After the discovery of gold in Coloma in 1848 the wagon road was used by the forty-niners and their families to get to the gold fields of California.
The Big Bend Visitor Center houses interpretive displays on local Indians, the Overland Emigrant Trail, and logging history of the area.
The Big Bend Visitor Information Center is located on old Highway 40 (Rainbow Road) off of I-80 about 45 miles east of Auburn. Take the Big Bend turn-off, then left on Rainbow Road. The Visitor Center is 1/4 mile on the left. Big Bend Campground is located on the South Fork of the Yuba River behind the Visitor Center.
Dutch Flat was first settled in 1851 by two German brothers, Charles and Joseph Dornbach. The area became known as Dutch Charlie's Flat, which was shortened to Dutch Flat. A post office was established in 1855. By 1860 Dutch Flat was the most populated town in Placer County with a voting roll of 500. Hydraulic mining was the primary industry for Dutch Flat. In 1860, construction began on the wagon road from Dutch Flat to Donner Lake for travel between California and the Nevada silver mines. In 1880 the town had three churches, one school, a grocery and dry goods stores, drug store, hotel, livery stable, fire company, and brewery. Many of the old buildings remain today in this quiet mountain community.
Dutch Flat is 30 miles east of Auburn on I-80.
James and M. Fannan and R.S. Johnson established a trading post for miners in 1850 on the site of the present day Foresthill. The trading post was expanded to a hotel called the Forest House as it was situated in dense forest. By 1880 the town had hotels, saloons, banks, stores, and a newspaper. The population was 688, one of the largest towns in Placer County. Lumber was an important industry and continues in Foresthill today.
Foresthill is 18 miles northeast of Auburn. From I-80 in Auburn take the Foresthill exit.
Foresthill Divide Museum
The Foresthill Divide Museum houses a variety of exhibits reflecting land use on the Divide. Native American artifacts, the Gold Rush, a history of Foresthill, Foresthill in 1857, a 1915-20 parlor, and a 1920s kitchen are depicted in some of the exhibits. Other exhibits include: geology, transportation, the lumber industry, recreation, business, and fire fighting. The museum is open from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday spring through summer. The address and phone number for the museum is P.O. Box 646, Foresthill, CA, 95631, (916) 367-3988.
The Foresthill Divide Historical Society Museum is located in Foresthill on Harrison Road. On the main road from Auburn turn left on Cold Road then right on Harrison. The museum is on the left in the Leroy E. Botts Memorial Park, next to the Veterans Memorial Park.
Michigan Bluff is one of the earliest mining towns in Placer County. Michigan City, as it was originally called, was settled in 1850. It is believed that a group of miners from Michigan gave it the name. In 1857 there was a devastating fire that burned the entire town. The town was rebuilt and two brick or stone buildings were constructed. By 1861 the hillside below the town was undercut by hydraulic mining, which caused the buildings to slide downhill. The townspeople began relocating to more stable ground to the north of Michigan City. This area was called Michigan Bluff. The town boasted two clothing stores, five grocery stores, three hotels, two restaurants, two express companies, four barbers, two lawyers, three doctors, fourteen saloons, two bakers, six blacksmiths, two tailors, one watchmaker, five gaming and billiard saloons, two livery stables, two tinsmiths, and two druggists. Two justices, a sheriff and two constables upheld the law.
Michigan Bluff is approximately seven miles from Foresthill. From Foresthill continue on the Foresthill Divide Road to Baker Ranch. Turn right on Michigan Bluff Road.
Michigan Bluff to Last Chance Trail
The rugged Michigan Bluff to Last Chance Trail was built in the early 1850s, connecting the mining camps of Michigan Bluff, Deadwood and Last Chance. Since wagons could not navigate the twisting narrow trail, access was limited to pack trains and foot travelers. This trail was one of the few toll trails in California. The trail remains much the same as it did in the gold rush days and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A trail brochure is available at the Forest Service Ranger Station in Foresthill.
Placer County Big Trees
Placer County Big Trees is the northernmost grove of Giant Sequoia, Sequoiadendron giganteum. The grove was first recorded by Joe Matlock in 1855. The grove has been protected since 1892 when it was feared that the trees would be cut and used for timber in the mines. A self-guided nature trail provides more information about the area. Trail brochures are available at the trailhead or at the Foresthill Ranger Station.
Placer County Big Trees is located 22 miles east of Foresthill off Mosquito Ridge Road and 1 mile south on the Big Trees Road. There are three picnic sites and flush toilets at the Big Tree grove.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication