If you live in Lake Wildwood, Rough & Ready, Smartsville, Penn Valley, on Beale Air Force Base or off McCourtney or Lime Kiln Roads, you’re on ground zero for the Nisenan People of Nevada County, the land of broken promises.
Long before houses and roads were built, this land was designated in a treaty between the local tribes and the United States Government.
Tribal Headmen gave careful consideration to where the boundary lines would be drawn. Their decisions were based on changing elevations and food sources. The traditional Native way of life depended on moving with the seasons according to when plants were ready for harvest or when game was available.
Village sites with significant populations along Deer Creek in Nevada City were released in good faith for the promised lands.
Approximation of treaty land made between the United States and Indian Headmen.
The Nisenan way of life changed drastically during the Gold Rush era.
In his book, The Conflict between the California Indian and White Civilization (1976), Sherburne F. Cook, states, “He was driven from his home by the thousands, starved, beaten, raped, and murdered with impunity. He was not only given no assistance in the struggle against foreign diseases, but was prevented from adopting even the most elementary measures to secure his food, clothing, and shelter.”
“The utter devastation caused by the white man was literally incredible, and not until the population figures are examined does the extent of the havoc become evident.”
Due process. The Native People trusted it. Yet the treaties they worked so diligently to form remained in a drawer, unratified by the other party. It was a colossal ‘gotcha’ that remains an unresolved wound on the face of the Nation.
Before the white man came, the Anthony House / Rose Corral area of Penn Valley was home to Nisenan Headman Pamelo. The village, Cocosa, was once a vibrant trading site.
“The very earliest settlement of which we can obtain a trace in the territory now known as Nevada County, was in the summer of 1848, at a place known as Rose’s Corral, between what is now the Anthony House and Bridgeport. A man named Rose here built an adobe house, in which he traded with the Indians of the neighborhood, and a corral.” – A. A. Sargent, Nevada, Grass Valley and Rough and Ready Citizens Directory 1856
Historic Property Listing – May 8 & 15, 1852 – NEVADA JOURNAL A Rare Chance.
FOR SALE – The Anthony House, together with a splendid Ranch of 160 acres of the best sort of land, situated in Spring Valley, Deer Creek. Four yoke of oxen, wagon, timber, carriage, a quantity of poultry, hogs, etc. A garden, spring house, water in abundance all season. The house is capable of accommodating fifty boarders and in full trade at present. The team earns twenty-five dollars daily, by contract. As the subscriber wishes to return to the Atlantic States, in consequence of the ill health of his wife, there will be a good chance for the purchase to realize a fortune in a short time. Apply on the premises or to J. WARREN, Star Bakery, Grass Valley
Penn Valley Chamber of Commerce – Long-Time Rancher Looks Back (Anthony House), Marianne McKnight 1999
“Before Lake Wildwood was built, the road meandered alongside the Creek, on what is now the other side of the lake. …There was a one-way bridge across Deer Creek.”
Found nowhere else in the world,
Aesculus Californica is a true California Native.
Photo Credit: Halava – Distribution map for California Buckeye
In late winter and early spring, the California Buckeye blooms with long strands of sweet smelling flowers. This early blooming season is a unique adaptation of the plant to its environment.
Another unique adaptation is when it goes dormant, during the arid summer months.
In Nevada County, (Calif.), Buckeye bushes are found at lower elevations, in grasslands, and growing near oak trees and Ponderosa Pines.
Some beekeepers transport their bees to the valley when the Buckeye blooms because the flower pollen and nectar contain alkaloids. Alkaloids are toxic to honey bees. It’s not only the flowers that contain toxins, but the fruit, leaves, and shoots too.
Nisenan Tribal Member Processing Buckeye Nuts
Native American Uses for Buckeye
Native Americans used the plant’s poison to their advantage. They ground nuts or hulls into a powder, throwing it into pools in the creek. Fish in those pools, stunned by the water additive, floated to the surface where they could be scooped out. (Toxins didn’t transfer to the person eating the fish.)
In seasons where acorns were not plentiful, Native Californians ate Buckeye nuts. Processed like acorns, bitterness and harmful substances are leached out before eating.
Once the minerals were exhausted, many hastily built mining towns were abandoned. Grass Valley and Nevada City persisted after the Gold Rush because San Francisco investors gambled on hard rock mining, water rights, and power generation.
Large cattle ranches had become established. Lumber mills continued to operate, supplying timber for the railroad (mid-1860’s through 1870’s). Railroads moved goods and people between coasts.
The age of the automobile, beginning in the early 1900’s, led to road development. By the end of WWII, in the 1940’s, travel and outdoor recreation had become a trend that middle-class America embraced.
1950: Freeway Proposal
Traffic problems between Nevada City and Grass Valley were documented by the California Division of Highways. Logging trucks jammed narrow roads. Some residents remember it taking between 30-45 minutes to drive between towns, a distance of 4.2 miles.
1951: Choosing Sides – Historical Preservation vs. Commerce Development
If there was a historic rivalry before, the coming of the freeway strengthened it. Folks were divided about where the road should go. Some merchants thought that downtown offramps would stimulate business while others lamented about the loss of historic buildings.
1960’s: Freeway Construction Begins
In the early 1960’s right-of-ways had been obtained, structures were removed and dirt work commenced. When the building contractor declared bankruptcy, it took the Highway Department nearly a year to secure a replacement.
Nevada City residents, disturbed by the altered landscape, called the Broad Street area a ‘Calamity Cut.’
Courtesy Searles Library
1965: Beryl Robinson came in as Nevada City Manager. Downtown was in trouble. He inherited ‘a mess.’
Nov. 15, 1966. Unfinished bridge on the Broad Street freeway crossing collapses. Eleven men injured, no fatalities. Photo courtesy Searles Library.
1968: The controversy and upset over the freeway project may have garnered public support for Nevada City Historical Ordinance 338, written by Bill Wetherall, Nevada City’s Attorney. (The ordinance governs preservation of Mother Lode architecture. It was the first one written in the State of California.)
“Nevada City’s future is in the preservation of its past,”
is a quote from former City Council member and mayor, Bob Paine, that hung in City Hall for many years during that time.
1969: Freeway is Complete
In December, twenty-two two years after the first traffic survey, the Golden Center Freeway opened for traffic.
City Freeway Expenditures
$7,000,000 spent by the City of Grass Valley
$5,000,000 spent by the City of Nevada City
1972: Nevada City received a grant to move utilities underground. Gaslights were installed. Neon signs removed.
Page 16 from Nevada City building Design Guidelines
Thanks to keen observers, county civic organizations, and city leaders the historic Mother Lode charm of Grass Valley and Nevada City remains. Since their beginnings, the towns along the Deer Creek watershed have been community gathering places, a hub of entertainment and a place to enjoy nature.
Nevada City’s Mission Statement – The City of Nevada City is dedicated to preserving and enhancing its small-town character and historical architecture while providing quality public services for our current and future residents, businesses, and visitors.
Grass Valley Mission Statement – The City of Grass Valley’s Public Works Department is committed to providing essential municipal infrastructure maintenance and improvement services that preserve and enhance the quality of life in our community for residents, businesses and visitors alike, while providing a safe and productive work environment for Department employees.
Moving forward, if lessons learned are heeded, the area will continue to thrive while remembering and honoring its past.
Nevada City – Housing element 2014-2019 [PDF]
The focus on preservation of a strong sense of community, coupled with geographic, topographic, and infrastructure constraints has limited growth to a slow, manageable pace.
The Oak Woodland Forest ecosystem is prevalent in California. It contains both evergreen (live oaks) and deciduous types of oak trees. Oaks are considered foundation species because of their role in the web of life.
Identifying California Oak Trees
Acorns – One of the Most Important Protein Sources for Native Americans
When you hear a plaintive, high-pitched call, it’s probably an anxious lone quail searching for its flock.
Callipepla californica, the California Quail, is a social animal who lives in coveys ranging from 10 to 200 birds (depending on the time of year).
click on image to see more Life on the Creek art
As long as they have enough cover, food, and space this animal can live successfully among humans. Each bird requires at least one acre of land to support it – this land needs to be continuous since they prefer running to flying.
When startled, quail will make a fast, short flight known as ‘flushing.’
Often quail can often be observed scratching the ground like chickens in their quest for food. While the flock is feeding, the male leader perches in a high spot, keeping watch.
The male makes different calls, informing covey about what is going on.
An adaptation that quail have for living in dry environments is that they can get adequate moisture from insects and succulents. In sustained periods of drought, however, they do need a water source.
Quail remain in their habitats year-round, staying within 10 miles of where they were hatched.
To keep themselves looking good, quail take dust baths. This abolition usually takes place in a sunny location with loose soil. Squatting in the dirt, they burrow in, one to two inches deep. Ruffling, flapping wings, and wiggling, they send a plume of particles into the air. The dust bath helps maintain oil on their feathers.
Coveys feed early in the morning. Their diet includes;
some berries (including poison oak berries)
acorns (if they’ve been cracked)
Quail have protozoans in their intestines that help digest plant materials. (Chicks get the protozoans by pecking adult feces).
Pit-pit call alerting the covey of possible danger.
Mating & Reproduction
California quail form breeding pairs. Ratios are such that there are more males than females, so males must compete for partners. The male’s topknot, consisting of six overlapping feathers, and his, ‘I’m available call,’ help differentiate from others.
When it is time to nest, the female lays between 12 to 16 brown speckled eggs – perfectly camouflaged for their environment.
Especially large broods (as many as 28 chicks!) occur when a female does egg-dumping, laying her eggs in an already occupied nest.
Females sit on eggs for about three weeks. Both males and females take turns caring for the chicks once they are hatched.
It takes approximately six weeks for chicks to reach maturity.
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Dragonflies have been around longer than dinosaurs. Except for size, they’ve changed little through time. They’ve gone from a wingspan about the size of an adult shin (between knee and ankle), to palm-sized (stretching between a fully extended thumb and pinky).
Evolutionary biologists believe that size reduction is connected with decreased oxygen levels in the atmosphere.
Dragonflies are fierce hunters, expert flyers, and the subject of artificial intelligence and robot developers.
Recent dragonfly brain studies can now explain the mechanisms behind the aerial acrobatics. Like the human brain, dragonflies have target-detecting neurons that track moving objects and predict where it will go.
Dragonfly Super Skills
Approximately 80% of the dragonfly brain devoted to the visual processing
Some species can see prey up to 30 feet away
Movement detection up to 60 feet away
Almost 360⁰ range of vision
Hunt capture rate in the high 90% range
Seizes prey with feet and eats while flying
Swarm Behavior Studies
Swarm behavior is still not fully understood, but puzzle pieces are falling into place as scientists amass data.
Biologists know there are static (food source) and migratory swarms. The two types may be related.
Generally, both swarm types follow these patterns;
They occur more in the midwestern states
Take place before a storm that follows a hot, dry spell
Happen between July – October with September being the peak
They follow coastlines and lakeshores
Dragonfly migrations appear to match bird migration patterns
Life Cycle – Up to 5 Years – Most of it Under Water
Mating – Mid to late summer.
Egg laying – Females lay eggs in still waters on submerged aquatic plants or in shallow areas. In cooler zones, like Nevada County, dragonfly eggs wait until spring to hatch.
Nymph – Molts up to twelve times and can live for as many as four years in the water.
Nymphs are voracious eaters, happily dining on;
All dragonflies must have clean, fresh water to live.
Adult – The final molt is completed above the water’s surface in late spring or early summer. They live only two to four months before dying.
Adult Dragonfly Diet
Features for Dragonfly Friendly Water Gardens
Dragonflies breed in water. To encourage dragonflies and damselflies, include these features in your pond, trough, or marsh area;
water free of pesticides & fertilizers
protected from wind
receives 5-6 hours of midday sun
flat rocks near pond edges for sunbathing
shallow areas (but not so shallow it dries up)
aquatic vegetation, especially reeds and lilies
cover for final molting safety
tall above water plants for perching
Websites devoted to dragonfly symbolism are diverse! The meaning that cultures apply to dragonflies seems to be as diverse as the people who observe them. Below are a few examples.
Change, Transformation & Adaptability – Worldwide
Swiftness, Activity & Purity – Native Americans
Good Luck, Harmony & Prosperity |Instability & Weakness – Chinese
Light & New Joy| Irresponsibility & Unreliability – Japanese
A dragonfly will lead you to fairies – Ireland & Europe
Horse possessed by the devil – Romania
Eye Pokers – Norway
California and Sierra Newts are native to California.
In winter and spring, Sierra Newts in Nevada County respond to an over-powering urge – to return to the pond or stream where they were born.
Hormones cause this migratory breeding behavior, known as water drive. (The hormone, prolactin, is also responsible for human breast milk production.)The migration begins with travel and ends in a submerged ball-like embrace with a female (amplexus).
Predators & Toxins
On its mating journey and throughout its twenty-year life, the only form of defense that the newt possesses is its skin. The skin contains tetrodotoxin, a neurotoxin.
“This neurotoxin is strong enough to kill most vertebrates, including humans,” – Wikipedia.
When threatened, the newt arches its back, flashing its colorful underbelly, offering the predator a warning and a choice (unken reflex). [See Worlds Weirdest video below.]
Newts are one of the most toxic animals in the world. But the toxicity of the Sierra Newt is nothing to worry about when handling this interesting and delicate creature. It’s only dangerous if you eat it!
“Scientists have tested 30 potential predators of newts, from belted kingfishers to great blue herons to bullfrogs and fish, finding in every case that the newt killed them,” writes Lynda V. Mapes, Seattle Times staff reporter.
photo credit: Bill Bouton from San Luis Obispo, CA, USA
Dead and dying trees in the Tahoe National Forest and Nevada County is a fact of contemporary life. Being aware of hazards that dead trees cause and hyperconscious of fire starting activities will help keep families and neighbors safer.
From 66 million dead trees in 2010 to 129 million in 2017, the State of California is losing trees at a rate that no one has previously seen.
An effective response is beyond what the US Forest Service and CalFire can handle.
Keeping populated areas safe from wildfires and falling trees, as well as aiding in forest recovery will take cooperation between homeowners, PG&E, NID, recreation facility managers, environmental, nonprofit, and government agencies.”
“The Tree Mortality Taskforce has provided an essential venue for coordination of response efforts, exchange of ideas, reporting, and accountability for the ongoing statewide response to this incident,” says Supervisor Nathan Magsig of Fresno County. – News Release 12/12/17 Tree Mortality Taskforce.
In Executive Order B-42-17,Governor Brown relaxed regulations so that anyone licensed for timber and tree service operations can perform tree removal in high-risk areas.
California’s ‘New Normal’ Fire Safety Strategies
“Approximately 95% of all wildfires in California are caused by people,” says the California Wildland Fire Coordinating Group (CWCG).
Roadway, Burn Pile, and Camping Safety
Sparks Along Roadways
Burn Pile Safety
Putting out Campfires
stay clear of large stands of dead trees, especially if it is windy
look up and around before parking near dead trees, don’t park in the potential path of a tree fall
if traveling to remote areas, keep a chainsaw or ax in your vehicle in case a tree fall blocks the road
“The importance of removing dead and diseased trees cannot be overstated. Addressing widespread tree mortality is a crucial first step to not only safeguarding our forest communities but also in creating a healthier and more resilient Sierra Nevada forest – which provides more than 60 percent of the state’s water supply.” – Tom Berryhill, Tree Mortality Update – 3/2016