March 5 (1976, 1986, 2003, 2006)
Flowering Oak. Hopeful News.

3/5/76   sunny, clear, still snow on the ground, so cold at night, i wear a sweater to bed over my long underwear. reading Hudson's ‘Deformation of Sierra Nevada since middle Eocene time’ in which he demonstrates that the rigid-block theory is incompatible with the measurements of the gradients of the channel of the Eocene south yuba river; and proposes five zones of deformation along the west slope, two of which he has found evidence of in the field. One of the zones is related to the serpentine belt my canyonlands lies on…*

*serpentine belt may be the zone; i had a hard time deciding. wish i had the geologic map of this area.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

“March 5, 1986   a while after dawn on a day that promises to be yet another summer-like rapture of heat and birdsong and bursting buds. I saw a Kellogg's Black Oak just west of Gold Run yesterday that was already flowering and unfolding its first leaves; certainly the earliest I've ever seen at that elevation.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

Date: Wed. 5 March 2003
To: North_Fork_Trails
From: Russell Towle
Subject: News

Hi all,

There's a little news to report.

In accord with Deane Swickard's (Area Manager, BLM, Folsom Resource Area) recent posting to the list, the BLM is exploring new funding opportunities for land acquisitions in the Gold Run area and elsewhere. I have emailed various write-ups of Gold Run and land acquisition there to Deane and his staff, which may be of use.

To recapitulate what is at stake in Gold Run: in 1978 Congress designated the North Fork American a Wild & Scenic River. Congress also formed a special Gold Run Addition to the W&SR "corridor." The Addition involves a mixture of BLM and private lands in the southern reach of the Diggings, and includes almost all of the historic Canyon Creek Trail. Currently, the most reasonable access to this trail is by way of the so-called Paleobotanist Trail, from Garrett Road, east across the Diggings. This trail, however, veers north out of the Addition boundary. There is also a significant petrified wood resource in this area.

Therefore most of us familiar with the area have thought it important for the BLM to seek to acquire not only those lands within the Addition, but also, at the very least, those lands adjacent to the Addition to the north. At a minimum, around 360 acres.

It so happens that all these private lands are for sale, 800 acres in all, and the owners are reluctant to sell it off piecemeal. It is also true that the 800 acres includes most all of the Diggings, and two miles of Canyon Creek, not just the lower mile of the Canyon Creek Trail. To me it seems important to try to acquire the entire 800 acres.

The Gold Run Diggings is, I think, an excellent candidate for the National Register of Historic Places. It has a wealth of history, old trails, many many discrete gold mines, tunnels, and was the locus of one of the most important legal battles in California history, State of California vs. the Gold Run Ditch & Mining Company (1881-62). There is an extraordinary body of historical materials which bear upon this one area, including the 27 volumes of testimony taken in the famous 1881 court case, and many dozens of newspaper and magazine articles, and sections of books, from the 19th century.

I imagine the Diggings managed as a Primitive Area, with equestrian and bicycle use allowed on most but not all roads, and the trails restricted to foot use. There is a tremendous opportunity, also, for an almost eternal succession of school field trips, to examine the geology, mining history, paleobotany, and ecology of the area. It is possible an Interpretive Center could be established, conceivably, with access direct from the eastbound Rest Area on I-80.

So much for Gold Run. Jim Eicher of Folsom BLM called and mentioned that they are also looking at acquiring trail easements through properties on the rim of the canyon in Giant Gap. There are very substantial BLM holdings at Lovers Leap on the east, and near Bogus Point on the west, but around ten 10- and 20-acre parcels of private land intervene. Any one of these parcels could suddenly sprout a gigantic "million-dollar-view" house, as has happened already east of Lovers Leap. An old mining ditch winds along the canyon rim for part of the distance between Lovers Leap and Bogus Point. I have always envisioned a Giant Gap Trail along this ditch, and elsewhere along the rim of the canyon, connecting Lovers Leap to BLM lands in the Gold Run Diggings. Easements could make this dream a reality. A trail could lend support for preserving the viewshed in Giant Gap. So, this is a good thing.

I believe that the BLM is also interested in acquiring a 40-acre parcel in the west end of Green Valley. This is surely a very important goal. There are five or six private parcels along the north side of the river, old patented mining claims, and although there is no road access, I believe the pressure to get away from it all is mounting steadily in California, and I see no reason why wealthy landowners might not helicopter large log cabins down there, and then fight for, and win, permission to use OHV's to go down the historic trails into Green Valley. There is a very suspicious run of red flagging at the east end of Green Valley right now, where one of the private parcels goes to the summit of East Knoll, with its spectacular view of Giant Gap. Tahoe National Forest (TNF) has already been approached with inquiries as to building a road into the east end of Green Valley. So, do not underestimate the power of Progress!

TNF tried, several years ago, to purchase all these parcels except for the 40-acre one in Green Valley West—that one is within the BLM management domain—but failed to purchase even one parcel. We need to continue to encourage TNF to try to pick up these inholdings, which are all partly or entirely within the W&SR corridor.

The BLM is also looking at other properties within the W&SR corridor farther west. They have done a truly excellent job in years past to acquire the private inholdings along the North Fork American. Now they are renewing their efforts, and I think we all owe a vote of thanks to Deane Swickard, Dean Decker, Jim Eicher, and others there at Folsom. You may wish to give Deane a call and thank him, and let him know that you appreciate his efforts to protect Gold Run and Green Valley and Giant Gap from development, and keep the historic trails open.


Russell Towle

[Note: Deane Swickard is now retired from the BLM. Russell always very much appreciated his commitment and zeal as a manager of public lands. He has received a Lifetime Service Award from the Public Lands Foundation. Thank you, Deane Swickard.]

March 5, 2006:
A rendering by Russell Towle of the landscape of the North Fork American River watershed

The most deeply incised canyon is the N. Fk. American canyon; note Canyon Creek (lower center),
defining Moody Ridge between it and the N. Fk., then making its turn to the south, dropping steeply 

into the river, and creating the succession of waterfalls accessed by the Canyon Creek Trail.

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