20 20 World Cup 2016 Final Last Over The Northern Sierra: Plumas Country

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The Northern Sierra: Plumas Country

Today’s travelers will find the Plumas National Forest and its surrounding area full of fishing, hiking and memories of the gold rush era.

All of California’s Southern Sierras are known for treasures like Yosemite National Park, the northern end of this famous mountain range also has a lot to offer. Northern California and their counterparts across the border in Nevada find this particularly attractive. And where is the northern end of this 400 mile mountain range? Probably the words that say it best are Plumas National Forest.

Ranging in elevation from 1,000 feet to 8,372 feet, this national forest of more than a million acres also includes nearly the entire Feather River drainage. Uplift of the Sierras and erosion from the Feather River have resulted in a mountainous, deeply incised landscape. Geologists believe that the river eroded through the Sierras to claim the eastern flows for itself.

The most accessible part of the Plumas is a forest neighbor along the Feather River, Lake Oroville State Recreation Area, 75 miles north of Sacramento. From Oroville, on State Highway 70, you can reach the visitor center by heading east on State Highway 160 and left at the end of Kelly Ridge Road. It has a small movie theater and extensive exhibits covering the natural and cultural history of the Sierra foothills area around it and at the dam.

You can find that Oroville Dam is a State Water Project multi-purpose dam operated by the California Department of Water Resources, that it is the tallest and one of the largest earthen dams in the United States at 770 feet. It’s more than 80 million cubic yards of material, consisting of an inner core of impermeable clay surrounded by tailings left over from early 20th century gold mining along the Feather River. That’s enough material to build a two-lane highway around the Earth.

The highlight of the visitor center is its 47-foot-tall observation tower, which gives you impressive views of the lake, dam and surrounding foothills, and highlights major landmarks with interpretive signs. The center also includes an educational trail with its own guide.

Another nature trail focuses on Indian use of native plants at the nearby Loafer Creek Campground (no hookups). At Bidwell Canyon Campground (with hookups), just down the hill from the visitor center, RVers can enjoy another trail. At both campgrounds, state park rangers conduct evening camp programs from June through September on Wednesdays and weekends. Loafer Creek is closed during the winter months, but Bidwell Canyon is open year-round. Bidwell Canyon Marina, (801 Bidwell Canyon Rd, Oroville, CA 95966) offers many services for boaters, as well as a seven lane boat launch. For information, call 530-589-9175.

If you’re a boater, you can camp at one of the 109 primitive lake sites in the area. On your way to one of the boat camps, try your luck at fishing for rainbow and German trout, perch or silver and kokanee salmon, or pull a few wheels of a rooster tail water skier. Campsite and boat reservations are accepted from April 27th to September 3rd. For information, contact Lake Oroville State Recreation Area, 917 Kelly Ridge Road, Oroville, CA 95966 (530) 538-2219, also Northern Buttes District Headquarters, 400 Glen Dr., Oroville, CA 95966 (530) 538-2200.

You can also visit several other attractions in the southwest part of the Plumas National Forest. To access the Feather Falls National Scenic Area from the Oroville Visitor Center, take Kelly Ridge Road back to State Highway 162 eastbound, then turn right onto Forbestown Road and then left onto Lumpkin Road toward the village of Feather Falls. Just before reaching the village you will see a dirt road heading left to the start of the trail.

The 15,000-acre Feather Falls National Scenic Area includes portions of the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Feather River and three of its tributaries, including the Fall River. The area features massive granite domes and deeply incised canyons, but the main attraction is Feather Falls, the sixth tallest waterfall in the continental United States. It plunges 640 feet over a steep granite cliff. Snow-free most of the year, the National Recreation Trail leads 3-1/2 miles to a sturdily constructed observation deck that provides the best vantage point from which to view the thundering waters. Actually, from the viewpoint, you can continue along the trail to the falls themselves. About 1/4 mile past the falls are several backpacking campsites along the Fall River.

Also, from the Oroville Visitor Center, take Highway 162 and Forbestown Road to Forbestown, then continue on the “T” Highway. Turn left toward the town of Challenge, where you’ll find the US Forest Service ranger station, and continue to La Porte and the Little Grass Valley Recreation Area, about 50 miles from Oroville.

The area has been well developed for recreation and its 290 campsites can accommodate RVs up to 22 feet long. Other activities include picnicking, trout, rainbow and catfish fishing, water skiing, swimming at two beaches, boating, hiking and winter sports such as snowmobiling and cross-country skiing. In 1867, the Alturas Ski Club in nearby La Porte held the first competitive ski races in the United States. Summer season facilities are usually open from June 1st to October 31st. During May, June, and July, watch for the bright red snow plant, which grows between 4,000 and 8,000 feet. Although a flowering plant, the red snowdrop lacks chlorophyll and grows from decaying organic matter, much like mushrooms.

To get to the rest of Plumas country, get back on State Route 70 and head north. Eventually, this highway turns east and climbs to the foothills, then follows the scenic canyon of the North Fork of the Feather River. The river alternates between free-flowing sections and small reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams that are part of the “staircase of power” operated by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

Near the head of the canyon, state highways 70 and 89 intersect. North and east of these two roads you can visit three reservoirs collectively called the upper Feather River Lakes, which are the beginning of the State Water Project. All offer fishing, mostly for trout, bass and catfish (both in lakes and streams), boating, camping, picnicking and other recreation.

From this intersection, take State Highway 89 north to Arlington to the first of these lakes, then County Road A22 East to Taylorsville. From there, follow signs to Antelope Lake Recreation Area. Drive east on Route 70 to Portola and then north on Lake Davis Road to the largest of the three lakes, Lake Davis, or continue east on Route 70 to Chilcoot and then north on State Route 284 through scenic, volcanic walls . Little Last Chance Canyon to Frenchmen Lake.

While you’re in Portola, be sure to visit the Portola Railroad Museum. The museum is run by the Feather River Rail Society, which with its collection of 20 diesel locomotives preserves not only local railroad history, but also Western Pacific railroad history. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day and on weekends during the winter months. On the last weekend of each month from June to September and on holidays, several diesel engines drive visitors.

Heading back west on Highway 70, you’ll find Quincy, the county seat of Plumas County, which is also home to the Plumas National Forest. Heading west from Quincy on Bucks Lake Road you can visit the PG&E Reservoir, Bucks Lake and its resorts and campgrounds. This is one of several reservoirs fed by PG&E’s “staircase of power.” The lake is adjacent to the 20,000-acre Buck’s Lake Wilderness Area, the only official wilderness in the national forest.

Near the intersection of Highway 70-89, the old logging town of Graegle has evolved into an idyllic vacation and retirement community filled with an 18-hole championship golf course, condominiums, several rustic resorts, RV campgrounds, unique shops and restaurants. It can also serve as a base for exploring the southern end of Plumas.

Southwest of Graegle, along the Gold Lake Highway, the Lakes Basin Recreation Area includes more than 30 lakes and several waterfalls. Most of these lakes are only accessible by a good network of trails, so the lake basin is a popular area for hiking. One trail leads to the summit of Mount Elwell (elevation 7,812 feet), which provides the best overall view of the basin.

Five miles west of Graegle, on County Road A-14, high on the eastern slopes of the Sierra lies the 5,000-acre Plumas-Eureka State Park. The park surrounds the historic mining town of Johnsville and protects the ruins of at least two hard rock gold mines. The partially restored Plumas-Eureka Press near the visitor center was once the area’s busiest mine. In 1872, an English company called the Sierra Buttes Mining Company Limited bought most of the mines that mined the vast ore body below 7,447 feet of Eureka Peak. The company has operated highly efficient and highly profitable hard rock mining for approximately 20 years. Three trams were built to bring the ore down to a central mill near Johnsville, named for local superintendent William Johns. After 1890, when the productivity of the mines decreased, the company was eventually sold. When mining finally ended in 1943, about 70 miles of shafts and tunnels had been dug. The Plumas-Eureka mill alone processed $8 million worth of gold, and more than $80 million was mined from the area. Johnsville is still a vibrant town, and many buildings from the Plumas-Eureka and Jamison mines can still be found in the state park.

Now the most popular summer activities are camping, hiking, fishing and sightseeing. The Upper Jamison Campground at the south end of the park is not only a place to camp, but also has a number of trails, including one to the Jamison Mines and on to the Lakes Basin Recreation Area, where hiking is allowed in Wade. , Jamison, Rock, Grass and Smith lakes. The trail you should hike is the Madora Lake Loop Trail near the park entrance. A magical stretch along this trail features a narrow old mine ditch lined with leopard lilies, cow parsnips, crimson columbine and other wildflowers.

During the winter, the park’s high elevation, 4,000 to 8,000 feet, means a lot of snow, which closes the campground by October 1st, but park headquarters remains open year-round. Winter is an important season for this park. The old tramway was the world’s first ski lift, where the early miners assisted the racing ski races using what were then called Norwegian-style “snowshoes” that were 12 to 14 feet long. Currently, the non-profit Plumas County Ski Club operates a ski lift at the Eureka Bowl grounds on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays during the ski season.

For more information about the park, contact Plumas-Eureka State Park, 310 Johnsville Road, Blairsden, California 96103 (530)836-2380. For more information about the forest, contact Plumas National Forest, Box 1500, Quincy, California 95971 (530)283-2050.

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