December 7 (1985, 1986, 1987, 2002, 2005)
The White Pigeons of Big Waterfall ~ “Eric Peach Day” ~ Gold Run Mines, 1867

December 7, 1985

Rain, rain, rain, and polyhedra, polyhedra, polyhedra, and goddamned dihedral angles, dihedral angles, dihedral angles.


I should go do laundry today, but, but… I need a shower, but too stormy to make outside fire, and my stove system, in a word, doesn't work.

It occurred to me recently that it might have made a profound difference in the evolution of human science if the moon were not phase-locked to the earth so that only one side is presented to our view; its period of rotation is identical to its period of revolution; so, although we have always had the idea of a spherical body in space presented to us: the moon is clearly spherical, the sun at least discoid, we would have had the crucial clue to our own position in the scheme of things if the moon had only visibly rotated upon its axis, as most other planetary satellites do in our solar system. This simple arbitrary coincidence slowed human intellectual progress by thousands of years, probably.

So, the apparent non-rotation of the moon deprived us of a crucial clue to the nature of things, and allowed all kinds of earth-centered reasoning and even religious sentiments to prevail. Since the Copernican revolution there has been an inexorable shift in the human perspective on life and the eternal verities… It has taken centuries for this shift in perspective to effect as much of an emancipation from religious superstition as it has. The ancient Greeks set the stage for the Copernican revolution and its attendant revolution in philosophy, logic, and science; they came so close; but without the concept of axial rotation in addition to orbital revolution, we were hamstrung, and without telescopes could not observe the axial rotation of other planets, etc., so we had to wait, wait so long. While if only the moon were not phase-locked (and how long has it been so?), we would've had the model necessary to understand the earth itself.

It's possible that we would've settled upon the true state of affairs, the orbit of the sun by earth and the other planets, the orbit of the moon around earth, thousands of years ago, before recorded history.

I've been playing with an icosahedron, sticking pins in opposing faces and vertices and then spinning it and studying its surfaces of revolution. Perhaps that's what got me thinking about the moon and its role in human intellectual progress.

Sunset. After an afternoon of thundershowers with hail, an orange blush has suffused the fog and Giant Gap for the past half-hour heralding day's end and the clearing of the storm to the west. A few rays of direct light made their way through the gap at one point, but for the most part the light was exceedingly scattered, very orange, but washed out, lighting all the canyon in Giant Gap, rocks, trees, pinnacles, all orange, all washed out, with blue-grey masses of fog the ceiling overhead, rimmed with orange. This particular scattered washed-out orange is something I have rarely seen; more commonly, direct light will itself penetrate in some quantity. Today all was mystery, impossible colors in the canyon; if I'd had a camera, which I dearly wish for, no one would've believed the pictures. At times like these I wish so much that someone was here to share them with me. It really is intolerable that I should not have a lover, that I should be so lonely. There must be and in fact is a way to change this, and I will…

Maybe I should take my polyhedra and move to New York City or Los Angeles.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/7/86   Morning, before dawn, Venus high and bright, North wind gusting powerfully. Fire chuckles. Hope the fire at the Big Oak isn't “chuckling” right now; the ground is still wet, fortunately, because these gusts could swirl sparks from under the ashes…

Today is Eric Peach day; today is Pickering Bar day; and I will meet Eric (with his son) at the Gold Run Café in a few hours. Eric is one of the most active members of “PARC,” Protect the American River Canyon. He is tall, with black hair, and a beautiful wife who makes dolls for a living—and has his own upholstery business. Eric seems a man who has been moved by a deep religious conviction, not to proselytize or cry vainglory, but simply to be kind, gentle, truthful, and hard-working in the service of his community. He once had much to do with Dutch Flat in its glory days, when Ronni Ferguson & Cindy Lester & Carl Cassady & Neil & all that scene was happening, around 1974, I think. But Eric—Eric is religious like a modern Quaker—1 chafe at the bit and wish for an Eric unreasonable, selfish, insensitive, not an Eric who stands patiently in the traces, ready to haul any load, anywhere, even though once he was an Arabian galloping free over the desert, he gave all that up for The Cause, and his family; now a humble draft horse—oh, those that have eyes to see might discern the ripple of powerful muscles beneath a hide so sleek and glossy that, well, clearly it could not belong to a draft horse by birth, but to a Prince—still, this prince stands there, and seems dumbly to accept the rein, the halter, the endless grind, cheerfully to undertake any sacrifice—

But I hardly know Eric. How can I wish he would bust his traces, bolt, get drunk, scream? Just because I'm mad he didn't pry himself loose a few weeks ago to visit the Mystery Ledge below Sugar Pine Point? He spoke of family, work, obligations, a wife out at some craft show or another, certain parents trying out a new camera—when the Mystery Ledge was at stake? He said, not 'til after Thanksgiving—this was weeks before said date—and I said snow will likely fall by then, and Mystery Ledge will be placed beyond our reach. And of course I was right; snow did fall, and now, today, it will be Pickering Bar, which should be quite interesting. So fine. Gusting strongly an hour ago, the north wind has subsided. Today promises to be quite nice and sunny and warm.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/7/87 morning; sun-roiled fog surrounds the cabin, fills the canyon.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Sat, 7 Dec 2002 16:25:25 -0800
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Visit to Canyon Creek

Hi all,

This morning I met Tim Lasko at the Monte Vista Inn, around 9 a.m., and we drove down to Heistercamp's and snuck into the Gold Run Diggings. After the dreaded storm-without-rain-or-snow, the sky had cleared cold and starry overnight, and today the sun was bright.

Tim is involved with Friends of the River and suggested that perhaps additional support for BLM land acquisition in and around the Gold Run Diggings might be obtained from that organization; but with the caveat, that such support would come at the cost of many more people "discovering" the Canyon Creek Trail. For my own part, I am a little shocked at how many people seem to have discovered this precious trail, already. I admitted my stupid fantasy to Tim: that the BLM would, somehow, some way, find the money to purchase the private inholdings along Canyon Creek and in the Diggings, and then, not breathe a word about it. No signs; no brochures; no nothing. And this extraordinary place would retain the unusual solitude and priceless virginal mystery it has had, for so long.

We drove in to the head of the Canyon Creek Trail in Potato Ravine, and hiked quickly down the trail to the great tunnel. Tim had a Christmas party to attend later in the day, and the idea was, cover all the bases, with all due haste, and return up top by two o'clock.

So we pushed on immediately, crossed the bridge, and at Waterfall View took the side trail up to the Overlook of the Blasted Digger. The canyon was still full of shade, although Lovers Leap crested up into the sunshine, to the east. We looked around and then scampered back to the main trail. The next section of the trail is very dramatic, cut into steep cliffs; I picked up a new-looking Budweiser can, thrown off the trail, and as we passed Gorge Point, a Bald Eagle soared by, disappearing out of view to the west and above.

“Big Waterfall” of Canyon Creek, December 7, 2002.
Note the birds, tiny white specks, perched on cliff, upper right.
We took the Six-Inch Trail to the close-up-and-personal view of the Inner Gorge, and talked about rappeling down the waterfalls into that twisted tomb of polished stone, with its hidden chambers and long-lost pools. Then it was back to the main trail and down, down, down, to Upper Terraces Trail, then on the side trail to the Big Waterfall, where, quite strangely, a group of five pure white birds were perched on a ledge high on the cliff. They looked like pigeons but were holding their necks tucked down into their chests and had a funny puffed-up appearance. For a while I entertained the notion that they might be five young Barn Owls. Eventually one stretched its neck out and I was forced to concede their pigeon-hood. These were not our native Band-Tailed Pigeons. I'm not sure what they were. Perhaps they were released in lieu of doves in some ceremony, like living balloons, and hove up here in the Sierra.

We then visited the Terraces, where the miners who constructed and tended the sluice boxes once lived, and took Lower Terraces Trail back to the main trail, and dropped on down to the river. A chill had settled into the canyon depths during the night, and the sun had still not risen high enough to light the river at the confluence of Canyon Creek. We did not stay long, but took the Up-River Trail to the first big pool, where the sun was bright and the air was warm and the fresh footprints of deer covered the little patches of sand and gravel near the river. After checking for Foothill Yellow-Legged Frogs, and finding none—perhaps it was cold enough, overnight, to drive them into hiding—we started back up and out.

After a certain amount of huffing and puffing and sweating we reached the bridge, and I put my shirt back on, for the last, shady climb past the tunnel to the pass. We reached the truck and got back to Tim's rig at the Monte Vista parking lot at about 1:15 p.m.

Such was a visit to the North Fork American by way of the Canyon Creek Trail.


Russell Towle

Mining History at Gold Run
[North Fork Trails blogpost, December 7, 2005:]
The 1884 Sawyer Decision more or less ended hydraulic mining in the Sierra.

With respect to the patented claim on Canyon Creek known as the Canyon Creek Placer Mine (CCPM), part of the 800-acres-now-for-sale at Gold Run, we obtain a snapshot of the CCPM in 1867, when the discerning eye of J. Ross Browne was cast over the mines of the area [Resources of the Pacific Slope, 1869, New York, D. Appleton].

At that time the CCPM was owned by "Kinder and White." Soon it would pass to the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Company; much later, it would belong to James Stewart the Younger, the son of the man twice mentioned below, the son whose name is forever attached to the Gold Run Diggings (labeled the "Stewart Gravel Mine" on the USGS Dutch Flat quadrangle). But no one lives forever, and the Stewart lands passed to the Pohleys of Auburn, and thence to a group of investors sometimes called Gold Run Properties.

And now it is all for sale.

Browne's essay would benefit much from a map of the area, and a detailed map of the mines; I have such maps, and know the long-forgotten names of the ravines leading into Canyon Creek across the Gold Run Diggings—from north to south, Rock Creek, Goosling Ravine, Gold Run Ravine, Potato Ravine, and Judd Ravine.

Judd Ravine is crossed by the Canyon Creek Trail just south of the great tunnel of the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Company.

The Blue Lead was the gold-rich stratum of deepest Eocene sediments, lying on the bedrock floor of the ancient river channel. "Lead" is pronounced to rhyme with "feed" or "mead" and is closely related to the word "lode."

So. Here are the Gold Run. Mines, in 1867:
GOLD RUN.-On the Railroad divide, between Bear river and the north fork of the American, the Blue lead appears at Dutch Flat, Gold Run, and Indiana Hill. The width of the lead here is nearly half a mile, and there are 200 or 300 feet of pay gravel, with no overlying barren stratum. Squire's canyon, which empties into Bear river, separates Dutch Flat from Gold Run. The latter did not obtain a large supply of water until lately, and therefore its best claims have not been exhausted, and it is the most prosperous hydraulic camp in California. Nine thousand inches of water are used here, requiring a payment of $1,000 a day or more in gold. The gravel is peculiarly soft and there is great depth, so that high power is obtained, and more dirt is washed in proportion to the quantity of water used than in any other large hydraulic district.

GRAVEL AT GOLD RUN.-The bed of auriferous gravel at Gold Run is about 350 feet deep, of which only about 150 feet have been worked so far. The sluices are therefore 200 feet above the bed rock. A shaft was sunk 185 feet deep in Potato ravine to the bed rock, and the bottom of that ravine is below the level of most of the sluices. It is to be presumed that the bed rock in that shaft is no lower than elsewhere in the channel. Pay gravel was found all the way down, and it was soft until within six or eight feet of the bottom. This vast bed of gravel two miles long, half a mile wide, and 250 feet deep, cannot be washed away for many years.

OUTLET.-Although the canyon of the north fork of the American river is at least 2,500 feet deep, yet it is two miles distant from Gold Run, and the tailings must run into Canyon Creek, which near the claims is only 150 or 175 feet below their levels. Several claims have been compelled to stop work because they no longer have any outlet. An outlet must be obtained 200 feet deeper than Canyon creek, and it must be had without waiting for the gradual washing out of the Blue Lead channel from the canyon of the north fork of the American river. That outlet will be through a tunnel about a mile long, and from this tunnel shafts will run up to the various claims. It will be very costly, but on the other hand it will yield an immense return.

FACILITIES FOR PIPING.-There is no prettier hydraulic washing than that at Gold Run. The gravel is very soft, it is deep, water is abundant with a high pressure, the claims are large, and there is no superincumbent layer of barren matter. In proportion to the amount of work done fewer men are employed at Gold Run than at any other camp in the State. At Smartsville much time is spent in blasting; at La Porte, in puddling; at Dutch Flat, in attending to large boulders; but none here. Two men are sufficient here to do all the work in a claim that uses 300 inches of water. As an inch of water is equal to a supply of 145 pounds per minute, or 8,700 pounds per hour, or 102,900 pounds (51 tons) in 12 hours, so it follows that 300 inches supplies 15,000 tons in a day; and as the water carries off at least one-tenth-the ordinary calculation is one-fifth-of its bulk of earthy matter, it follows that two men wash 1,500 tons at Gold Run in 12 hours, or 750 tons each. It is a common saying at Dutch Flat that there three pipes are required to break down as much gravel as the water of one can wash away, but in Gold Run one pipe will break down as much as three can wash away. This is an exaggeration when stated as a general principle, though it has been true in some instances.

CANYON CREEK.-Canyon Creek runs from Gold Run along the eastern border of the Blue Lead 3 1/2 miles down to Indiana Hill, where it empties into the north fork of the American river. This creek furnishes the outlet for many of the claims. The original bed of the creek was in general 350 feet below the surface of the lead, or "gravel range," as it is also called, but the bed has been in some places filled up as much as fifty feet with gravel.

WATER.- Piping was commenced at Indiana Hill on a small scale in 1857, with 400 inches, supplied in the late winter and early spring by a ditch from Canyon creek. Four years later the Dutch Flat ditch brought to Gold Run 800 inches, which ran for six or seven months, and have since been doubled; and the Bear River ditch brought in 800 more; and in 1864 [1865-RT] the South Yuba ditch brought in 2,500 inches. The demand for water has always exceeded the supply, and as the supply increased so did the amount of work and of production. (Gold Run produced $150,000, in 1865; $300,000 in 1866; and the yield for 1867 is estimated at $500,000. The customary price for water is 12 cents per inch for 12 hours, and 20 cents for 24 hours.)

SQUIRE'S CAÑON CLAIMS. -On the southern lode of Squire's Canyon , in the Gold Run district, are the following claims, commencing at the east: Frost & Co. began work in 1865, wash through an open cut, use 300 inches of water, and usually run in day-time only, though they have run night and day at times. W. H. Kinder began work in 1866, uses 300 inches of water, washes through an open cut, and runs in day-time only. Wentworth & Co. began work in 1866, use 300 inches of water night and day, and wash through an open cut. A. Bell & Co. are running a bed rock tunnel, and have not commenced washing. Wolcott & Co. began work in 1867, and the claim was sold in June for $3,500. They use 300 inches of water in daylight only, and wash through an open cut, but intend to cut a tunnel. The Bailey claim, consisting of 21 claims, each 100 by 200 feet, has not seen opened, and no work is being done. Crader & Co. began in 1867, and use 175 inches day and night.

CAÑON CREEK CLAIMS.-The claims which have their outlet into Canyon creek are the following, near the head of Squire's Canyon : The Rock Company opened their claim in 1866, and used 250 inches of water, running day and night. They are not piping now, but are preparing to lay a long pipe so as to have a heavy pressure for 1868. Hughes & Co. opened their claim in 1866, but are not at work now. A. S. Benton opened his claim in 1867, and uses 300 inches of water by day light only. The Harkness claim has been worked by sluice and pipe for 10 years, is now taking 650 inches of water day and night, and draining through an open cut. Behind Harkness is the claim of Halsey & Co., 900 feet long by 500 wide, which cannot be worked until an outlet is obtained through the claim in front. A fourth interest was offered for sale in last February for $2,000, but no buyer appeared. It would have found ready sale if there had been an outlet. Next to Harkness, on Canyon Creek, is the claim of Goding & Co., who have worked off the top of their claim as low as they can go, and are now waiting for a deeper outlet. The claim of Benton & Co., adjoining, is in a similar condition. The Bay State claim was opened in 1857, and has been worked steadily since whenever water could be had. In 1866 it used 750 inches day and night; this year it used 350. The profit never has been large, though the gross yield has been $150,000, and the yield for 1866 $37,000. The claim of Abeel is in the same condition as that of Goding.

GOOSLING RAVINE CLAIMS.-Goosling & Co. have been at work since 1854. A ravine runs down through the middle of the claim, and they are piping on each side, using 300 inches day and night on one side, and 300 inches in daytime only on the other. Goosling ravine is in this claim. Prindle & Co. opened their claim in 1864, and used 275 inches of water day and night. Work has been closed for this season because the pipe has advanced to within 50 feet of a ditch, the proprietors of which have warned the claim owners that they will be held responsible for any damage to the ditch. Four ditches cross this claim. The outlet is through Goosling's ravine.. The Uncle Abe claim, behind Goosling, is irregular in shape, but is about 1,000 feet long by 850 feet wide. It was opened in 1867, and in April, May, and June, yielded $12,000. It was sold in May for $6,000. The consumption of water is 275 inches day and night.

LOWER CAÑON CREEK CLAIMS.-The claim of Winters & Co. has been worked three years, and is in the same condition as Goding's. The Bay State No. 2 is unopened. An offer of $3,000 for the claim was refused. The Hall claim was worked for two years, but is idle this season for want of an outlet. The claim of Taylor, Moore & Co. is about 1,000 feet square, was worked on a small scale from 1853 till 1865, and for the last two years has been piping on a large scale. It was sold this year for $11,000. The yield in "a run of 22 days," as a run of 11 days day and night is termed, is usually between $4,000 and $5,000. The Church claim was opened in 1860, and the yield in 1866 was $27,000. Three-fifths of the claim were sold in 1865 for $7,000. Of water, 275 inches are used in the day-time only. The Golden Gate claim began work in 1858, uses 300 inches of water in daytime only, pays well, and is the last claim that tails immediately into Canyon Creek.

GOLD RUN CAÑON.-The Gold Run claim began work in 1859, uses 300 inches of water in the day-time only, has paid well, and tails into Gold Run canyon, which is on the southern side of the claim. An offer of $10,000 for the claim has been refused. The Fitzpatrick claim, fronting on Gold Run canyon , has lately been sold for $2,100, and is now preparing to work with 300 inches of water. On the south side of Gold Run canyon, and opposite to the Fitzpatrick claim, is the Sheldon claim, owned by the Dutch Flat Water Company. It has been worked several years, but is idle now. The Huyck and Hubbard claim, fronting on Gold Run canyon, has a sluice tunnel, but is waiting for cheaper water, and doing nothing. The Home Ticket has been worked four years, and uses 350 inches in day time. The gross yield in May and June, 1867, was about $100 per day. The Newark was opened in 1863, uses 300 inches in the day-time, and yielded about $75 gross in June, 1867.

POTATO RAVINE.-The following companies tail into Potato ravine, a tributary of Canyon Creek: Baldwin and Bailey have been at work three years, using 275 inches of water in the day-time, and obtaining about $70 gross per day. The Harris claim is large and unopened. The Fitzpatrick claim yields about $75 gross per day, was opened in 1866, and consumes 330 inches of water in day-time. The Cedar Company have 900 by 800 feet, began work in 1861, run 300 inches day and night, and obtain about $230 in 24 hours. The yield in 1866 was $35,000, one-half of it profit. Stewart and Kinder have 500 feet square, fronting on both Canyon Creek and Potato ravine, but are not at work. Along Canyon Creek there is a rim rock, so they will tail into Potato ravine. They refused an offer of $1,500 for the claim. The Judd and Griffin claim, 1,000 feet square, has been worked since 1854, and was sold in 1866 for $3,500. The yield is about $75 per day, with 270 inches running twelve hours out of the twenty-four. To get drainage an open cut was made 600 or 700 feet long in the rim-rock, and in one place 40 feet deep. Huyck and Judd have one of the most profitable claims of the district on the eastern side of Indiana Hill canyon, which empties into the north fork of the American river. They have been at work since 1854, use 275 inches of water in the day-time, and cleared $7,000 in 1866. The Hoskin claim adjoining is open, but is not worked.

INDIANA CEMENT MILL.-Mallory, Gaylord & Co. are working with an eight stamp cement mill, driven by a hurdygurdy wheel. Their claim is the only one in the district in which the bed-rock has been reached. Their mode of getting out dirt is to cut a tunnel 60 or 70 feet on the bed-rock, let off a blast of 200 kegs of powder, sluice off the top dirt, and run the cement through the mill.

INDIANA CANYON CLAIMS.-The following claims tail into Indiana Hill canyon. The Hawkins claim was opened this year, uses 350 inches night and day, and yields $200 in 24 hours. The Brink claim was opened in 1864, but is not worked now on account of disturbance of the telegraph or flume from which the pipe is fed. The yield was about $75 per day, and the quantity of water 300 inches. Work will be resumed next year. Stewart and Prindle opened their claim in 1867, use 200 inches day and night, and take out about $100 per day.

MOODY'S TAIL SLUICE.-In Canyon Creek Moody & Co. have a double tail sluice 2,000 feet long, consisting of two flumes, each eight feet wide and about four feet deep. This sluice cost $25,000. The lower part was carried away in 1862, and the upper part was buried and had to be replaced. The yield was $10,000 in 1865, $7,000 in 1866, and $3,000 in the first half of 1867. An offer of $11,000 for a third interest was refused. The estimated receipts for 1867 are $10,000. Most of the cleaning up is done in September and October, when there is not much water for piping.

KINDER'S TAIL SLUICE.-Kinder and White have a tail sluice in Canyon Creek and claim the creek for a mile and a half below Moody & Co. In the upper part of their claim they have two sluices eight feet wide and 700 feet long. Half of the sluice was sold in 1865 for $3,000, but since then it has become more valuable. The grade is three inches to 12 feet. This sluice was carried away in 1865. The following companies tail into the two tail sluices in Canyon Creek:

Company      Inches
Rock Creek...... 275
Benton & Co.... 350
Harkness......... 600
Bay State......... 350
Bell.................. 300
German........... 600
Uncle Abe....... 275
Taylor & Co..... 400
Church............ 275
Golden Gate..... 3OO
Home Ticket.... 350
Newark............ 300
Bailey & Bro..... 275
Fitzpatrick........ 300
Brogan............. 300

Total 5,250

The Gold Run tail sluice, in Gold Run Canyon, is 1,500 feet long, six feet wide, and yields $6,000 or $7,000 a year. It tails into Canyon Creek. Goosling & Co. have a tail sluice 3,000 feet long in Goosling ravine, and four companies tail into it. Two tail sluices are buried 20 or 30 feet deep in this mine. Huyck and Judd have 1,000 feet of tail sluice in Indiana Hill canyon.

HOSKINS TAIL SLUICE.-The Hoskins tail sluice is in Indiana Hill ravine, which is so steep that the sluice is in short sections, the longest 24 feet, and between the sections the water pitches down over steep rocks. There are in all fifteen boxes of main tail sluice, six or eight feet wide and two or two and a half feet deep, with a grade of eight inches to 12 feet. Besides the main sluice boxes there are a number of undercurrent boxes, from six to nine feet wide, 14 inches deep, with a grade of 12 or 13 inches to 12 feet. Not more than one-fifth of the matter in the main sluice gets into the undercurrent, passing through a cast grating of white iron, with openings an inch wide, eight inches and a half long, separated by bars an inch and a half thick on top. There are usually from 600 to 1,200 inches of water running in the main sluice and 120 in the undercurrent, which latter catches three times as much gold as the former, because the current is slower and shallower. There are second undercurrents, or secondaries, as they are usually called. Their grade is 14 or 15 inches to the box, their width 30 inches, and their depth 12. They take one-fifteenth of the water of the undercurrent, and catch one-eighth as much gold. They are especially serviceable for catching quicksilver. The spaces in the grating are five inches long and three-eighths of an inch wide. There are three boxes of 12 feet to each undercurrent, and two to each secondary. The undercurrents always pay where the gold is fine, and the secondaries are especially serviceable in steep canyons.

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