February 6 (1976, 1981, 1997, 2003)
45 Days Past the Winter Solstice

2/6/76 ... ~ just after sunset on the west slope of the northern sierra, some forty-five days past the winter solstice. skies have cleared except for the low cumulus clinging to portions of the sierra crest. the desolation wilderness peaks visible as a soft white mass through the pines. a quick scan of the high country with binoculars revealed no snow plumes ~ the winds have quieted considerably. the four day old moon hangs high in the west ~ last night in close conjunction with jupiter, from what i could see through small rents in the clouds, though sirius is also very bright in the early night sky. a ceaseless dripping as snow melts off the roof, though it should freeze soon tonight.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

2/6/81 A nostalgic morning ~ should write in all lower-case letters, as in the hoary past. Ruffled waves of cloud progress across the sky, the sunrise colors painted in streets along cloudy avenues, a thoughtful dawn, a quiet neighborhood, a cheery fire, a guitar-playing man.

Yesterday, a glimpse of Tinker Knob beneath a deck of clouds. The Royal Gorge's snow-white cliffs stained a soft yellow by the filtered light beneath the clouds. Very nice heart-feelings; look up canyon, think, ‘I'll look up this canyon thirty years from now... and remember.’ Perhaps I'll read this page, and strain to remember, and wish I had been taking more time to write. Or, read this page and think, 'you poor fool ~ little did you know the collapse of civilization would occur in 1982' ~ or some such scornful judgment.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Upper North Fork American River Canyon
Shaded Topo Map Rendering, centered on New York Canyon

Russell Towle, February 7, 1997
Click to enlarge

Date: Thu, 6 Feb 2003 17:08:43 -0800
To: NorthForkTrails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: Canyon Creek Trail

Hi all,

Brad C. wrote:
... On a different subject, my wife and I found our way to the Canyon Creek trail for the first time a few weeks ago. WOW! As you drive by on the freeway you'd never guess something so impressive is right down the hill in such an unassuming looking drainage. Actually I wasn't sure I had gone the right way into the diggings (behind the auto shop), but Tim Lasko confirmed to me later that was the way you'd gone in. There aren't any signs, but are we trespassing being out there? Just curious.
I'm a little surprised about Brad's trespassing question, because so much about the Gold Run Diggings has been posted to this email list over the past two or three years. Sometimes I forget that Gold Run is in my own backyard, and forget that, despite its proximity, it was many years before I became aware of where the property lines fall, and what is public land, and what is private.

Click to enlarge
Briefly, Brad was trespassing from the instant he turned off the frontage road, until he reached the North Fork of the American River, at the base of the trail. Except that, over about a quarter or a third of a mile, from the crossing of Potato Ravine down to the Old Wagon Road, he was on BLM land.

Almost all the land Brad trespassed on is part of 800 acres owned by Gold Run Properties, and now for sale. From Potato Ravine down to the river, the private land is within the special Gold Run Addition to the North Fork American Wild & Scenic River. It was the intent of Congress, in 1978, that the private lands within this Gold Run Addition be purchased. So far they have not. The BLM is entrusted with administering this part of the W&SR, but the BLM has no funds to purchase lands.

The 800 acres, roughly, extends from the Gold Run to the Dutch Flat exits on I-80, and from there south through the Diggings. In the southernmost part of the Diggings there is a lot of BLM land. However, one disjunct parcel of the 800 acres includes almost the entirety of the Canyon Creek Trail itself.

Many people support BLM acquisition of the entire 800 acres, which comprises most of the Gold Run Diggings, rather than just the roughly 200 acres within the Gold Run Addition to the W&SR.

Just how to find the money for BLM to purchase this startling beautiful property, with its so very exceptional Canyon Creek Trail, with its outstanding and significant history, with its rich botany and equally rich paleobotany, with its maze of old roads and trails—just how to really pull this off, remains a mystery.


Russell Towle

The acquisition of this property by the BLM or a conservation organization, to secure it for the public interest, and to protect it from exploitative development is complicated by the presence of contaminating mercury from the former extensive gold mining, which, as I understand it, by law PREVENTS the BLM from acquiring it, even though at one point a land exchange deal had been worked out to all land owners' satisfaction.
Two years after the above missive, on 7 February 2005, Russ had formed his thinking on the matter into specific recommendations that he submitted to the BLM during a public comment period. In 2016, it all still remains a worthy goal.

– Gay


  1. I'm pretty sure that the American River Conservancy had got all the funding in place to purchase the property. Contamination is probably the big issue with getting the land to the BLM. There is a bit of BLM lands adjacent to the Gold Run Properties that likely also have the same contamination issues, and over 90% of the drain tunnel is on BLM land. So the BLM already has contaminated land that is part of the Gold Run Diggings.

  2. Sadly, not so. I just inquired of ALC about it and got this response:
    Hello Gay,

    Most recent conversations with some funding agencies and management agencies (most notably BLM) have indicated that this project is not feasible at this time due to the mercury contamination and lack of funding to purchase and conduct a clean-up. Thanks for your inquiry.


    Elena DeLacy
    Conservation Project Coordinator
    American River Conservancy

    So, I guess it's back in limboland.