January 14 (1976, 1983, 1985, 2003)
The Spring Song! And, a Dam; and a Ditch

1/14/76   sunny morning in wren shack, a wren sings outside: the spring song! i have not heard it for months.

manzanita is starting to bloom around here. ... think i'll drive down to auburn today and visit the dam-site, try to verify the elevation of the future reservoir. and visit the library, see if i can find anything out about the history of the alta/green valley/moody ridge area...”

[Russell Towle's journal]

About the Winter Wren—
“The Winter Wren is well-known for being hard to see but easy to hear. ... these tiny birds breed most commonly in moist, conifer-dominated forests, where the exuberant songs of male Winter Wrens seem to celebrate the onset of spring. Closely related forms breed across Asia and Europe; Shakespeare and his descendants in the British Isles have known these birds simply as “the wren,” because this is the only type of wren that has ever colonized beyond the Americas.”

The rest of that short article about Winter Wrens and their songs, with a photo, is here:

 A recording of the winter wren's song may be found at:

Information about the on-again, off-again (as of 2015 it's off-again) Auburn Dam is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auburn_Dam.

1/14/1983   An interesting dawn: the sky is as bright and metallic as after any sunset—volcanic dust?”

January 14, 1985


Yesterday I ventured out to Auburn, and had the good fortune to see a bald eagle circling over the center of town, at a low altitude, for several minutes. [...]”

Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 08:56:29 -0800
To: "Bill Slater/USDAFS"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: TNF history
Cc: North Fork Trails

Bill Slater
Tahoe National Forest Service

Hi Bill,

I was talking to [...] the other day about the "Blue Canyon Fuel Reduction" project, and mentioned to him some of the historic trails etc. in the area, and was surprised that he didn't seem to be familiar with the historic Bradley & Gardner ditch; he thought of it as the Lost Camp ditch. It used to be known as the Placer County Canal. In later years (1872-~1882) it belonged to the Cedar Creek Co., and then to the Towle Brothers. I believe they in turn sold the ditch/reservoir system to PG&E, and thus it happens that to this day water is diverted from the North Fork of the North Fork American at Lake Valley, and sent through Drum Powerhouse into the Bear River and on to points west.

This was the first big mining ditch to reach Dutch Flat, in 1859. It drew principally from the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork American, just upstream from the confluence of Monumental Creek. (Elisha) Bradley & (Melvin) Gardner also had the water right to the main North Fork of the North Fork, which the ditch crossed, and the reservoir at Lake Valley, in its first incarnation, was part of their system.

I have always thought that this ditch would make an interesting trail. It winds in out of that maze of canyons between Texas Hill and Blue Canyon. It crossed the line of the railroad at Blue Canyon. Part of this ditch has been bladed out flat to make a logging road. Its course is shown fairly accurately on the 1870-era General Land Office maps of T16N R11E and T16N R12E.

Of course, there are many historic/archaeological sites in this area. The hydraulic mining town of Lost Camp became the principal point of supply to the remote mining camps at Texas Hill/Burnett Canyon and Monumental Creek. The trail from Lost Camp, down to the North Fork of the North Fork, and then back up the other side, to join the Burnett Canyon Trail, is still perfectly intact on the Lost Camp side of the canyon. This is a wonderful trail and Tahoe National Forest ought to try to acquire the private lands at the head of the trail, including the site of Lost Camp. There was also a trail from Lost Camp, which I have never found on the ground, which led east across the canyon of Fulda Creek and somehow on across the maze of canyons to Monumental Creek.

This maze of canyons, with its many waterfalls, cliffs, and gorges, is a very beautiful area. I would like to see Tahoe National Forest treat it very gently, so far as timber harvests and fuel reductions go, and also, to make every effort to acquire many of the private inholdings, including the lands at Lost Camp, and Sierra Pacific Industries lands out on Sawtooth Ridge, and on the ridge between Blue Canyon itself and the North Fork of the North Fork.

The Bradley & Gardner ditch, over some or all of its course through the maze of canyons, from its source to the town of Blue Canyon, might be adopted as a working boundary, dividing those lands which are left entirely alone—below the line of the ditch—and those areas which can, with all due gentleness and consideration for wildlife, scenic quality, riparian corridors, etc., be subject to fuel load reductions and timber harvests—above the line of the ditch.

You probably already knew about the Bradley & Gardner ditch, but, well, I just thought it should be on the TNF radar, as the Blue Canyon Fuel Reduction project is considered.


Russell Towle

Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2003 12:55:25 -0800
To: "Bill Slater"
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Re: TNF history
Cc: North Fork Trails

Hi Bill, you wrote,
>Hey Russell
>Good to hear from you.  Happy New Year!!
>I am very familiar with the Bradley's Ditch.  It is depicted in Carmel's
>Historic Mining Ditches... publication.  We have recorded the ditch as FS
>05-17-55-142.  I have proposed interpretive trail development involving the
>ditch segment along Monumental Creek where there is some amazing elevated
>rock work and interesting geological formations.  Have also proposed an
Yes, the rock pinnacles in Monumental Creek are quite amazing; have you seen the inscriptions on the base of the highest skinniest? The Bradley & Gardner ditch crossed right there, and just upstream is the rock work you refer to. This would make a really neat trail. But I imagine carrying the trail all the way from the source, near the rockwork, west to Blue Canyon.

>interpretive loop trail involving a Bradley Ditch segment and Towle RR
>segments near the former Northfork Campground overflow  that you see from
>Texas Hill Road before crossing the NFNFAmer near the campground.  There is
>a very nice ditch tender's cabin celler along that stretch of the ditch.
Yes, on the General Land Office map there is a house near there labeled "Bradley's Ranch."
>For the Blue Cyn project we have recorded additional segments of the ditch.
>I'd like more information on Lost Camp and Lost Camp Trail.  Isn't Lost
>Camp on private land.  Also could have overlooked historic trails.  If you
>have info on these let me know.
Yes, Lost Camp is private, in Section 23, I believe, and part at least is, I think, SPI lands. I saw a cabin under construction, a couple years ago, along the road down to Lost Camp from the railroad; so some of the land within Section 23 must be not-SPI. The road is a historic public road, in my opinion, and the trail from Lost Camp down to the North Fork of the North Fork likewise. This trail is one of the ~62 trails declared to be public trails in a 1953 Placer County BOS ordinance. It begins on the private land and then crosses into TNF lands.

As for other trails, well, there's the Sawtooth Ridge side of this Lost Camp Trail, but unfortunately it has been more or less obliterated by timber harvests. Then from near Lost Camp there was a trail crossing Blue Canyon. And the one I mentioned crossing Fulda, labeled "trail to Monumental Camp" on the GLO map. And there is I.T. Coffin's old ditch, paralleling the Texas Hill Road from Texas Hill east to around Dawson's Spring.
>As to bigger issues re. no touch below Bradley Ditch....that's over my
>Bill Slater
>Nevada City RD
>Tahoe National Forest
Thanks, Bill!

All the best, and Happy New Year,

Russell Towle

Sawtooth Ridge, in center. The main North Fork American canyon is on the
right of
Sawtooth Ridge; the North Fork of the North Fork American is on the left.

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