Most rivers in California have been changed by mining, water control, and the introduction of new species. Professor Erika Zavaleta of UC Santa Cruz explains the history and biology of California’s watersheds. She also presents current watershed management issues.
First published April 27, 2018
In Nevada County, we are mostly unaware of the small solitary wild cats that control rodent populations.
Their stumpy tails inspired the common name – bobcat. Rufus, the scientific species name, is derived from its brown coat.
Bobcats are adaptable. They live in deserts, forests, and urban areas throughout North America. They live as far south as Northern Mexico and as far north as Southern Canada.
In California, home ranges (territories) vary between 1/4 to 1/2 square miles. The range of a male is twice the size of the female. Male territories may overlap. Female home ranges do not.
Bobcats will select home ranges based on food availability, cover, protection from elements and human activity. Farms and recently logged areas attract prey animals; bobcats naturally follow.
Obligate Carnivores, bobcats only eat meat. Their diet consists of; rabbits, mice, ground squirrels, woodrats, and gophers. They have also been known to eat birds, lizards, insects, and deer if a carcass is available. Bobcat prey usually weighs between 1 1/2 to 12 pounds.
Opportunists, they are adaptable to living in urban environments. If their territory encompasses farm animals, they will prey on lambs, chickens and young pigs.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife stresses, “that aggressive behavior by bobcats toward humans is extremely rare. Most bobcats are elusive in nature and rarely seen.”
Solitary creatures, they avoid human contact. Bobcats are most active between dusk and dawn and hunt in open grassy areas.
Females will have between 2-4 kittens per litter. They give birth between February and June.
The bobcat mother raises her offspring alone. Natal den sites are located in thick vegetation, hollow logs, inside abandoned woodrat nests, or within rock outcroppings – any place the female feels is concealed and safe for her young. Several additional shelter dens inside her home range can be in stumps, brush piles and on rock ledges.
Owls, foxes, coyote, mountain lion, adult male bobcats, and humans are predators of bobcat kittens. When the kittens are between 8 – 11 months old, they are forced out to find territories of their own.
The average lifespan for a bobcat is approximately 5 years, but some study subjects have made it to 15 years.
Exposure to Disease & Toxins
Just like house cats, bobcats are susceptible to the same diseases. Both types of cat can transmit pathogens to each other.
The most dangerous environmental threat to bobcats is rat poison. With affected mothers, bobcats can have life-long exposure.
California Department of Fish and Wildlife – Rodenticides can harm wildlife
Placer County protection (2015) Auburn Journal
US Forest Service – Index of Species – Lynx rufus
Wikipedia – Bobcat
Tectonic Plates & Continent Formation
The story of Deer Creek begins with the formation of the continent. It was during this phase of geologic time that gold was created.
About 160 million years ago, the ocean floor of the Farallon oceanic plate began sinking below the North American Plate. Tremendous subduction forces heated and drove mineral-rich water through cracks where the two land masses folded. Gold and other minerals cooled in the Smartville Complex, the heart of the Gold Rush in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Donner Summit rides at the top of the Smartville batholith, a twenty-five thousand square mile section of solid granite that is mostly under the surface of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
AAPG – Smartville Terrain
Assembling California, John McPhee
Book: Crow’s Range; An Environmental History of the Sierra Nevada by David Beesley
California in 10 Million Years Lecture – Graham Kent, Scripps Institution of Oceanography
Live Science – ‘Lost’ Tectonic Plate Found Beneath California (2013)
Sci News – Scientists Find Remains of Ancient Tectonic Plate Beneath California (2013)
Smartville Complex – Northern California Geologic Society field trip video series led by Dr. Eldridge M. Moores, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of California, Davis
Geological Society of America Abstract
The Smartville Complex comprises a north-trending submarine intrusive-extrusive (ophiolitic) complex, approximately 100km long by 40km wide in the northwestern Sierra Nevada Foothills. Generally, from bottom to top, rocks comprise serpentinite (a few exposures), olivine gabbro, and layered gabbro, varitextured massive pyroxene and hornblende gabbro, plagiogranite, massive diabase, sheeted diabase, pillow lava, and volcaniclastic sediments. A few massive sulfide deposits are present in the volcaniclastic sediments. Rocks range from nearly undeformed–perhaps the best-preserved sheeted dikes and pillow lavas in North America–to highly schistose. Structure is complex, but rocks describe approximately a north-trending antiform that structurally overlies mélange and associated sediments of the Central Belt of the Sierra Nevada. Dikes intrude both igneous rocks and here and there Central Belt sedimentary rocks. Dikes are mostly north-trending, but curve to NE-trending towards the N. In places (Stanfield Hill, Marysville Road) the dikes are nearly undeformed, trending NNW and dipping steeply E. In other places, e.g. in Auburn, Oroville Dam south abutment, and along the E. side of the complex, dikes and other rocks are highly foliated.
Volcanic rocks compositionally are mostly island-arc tholeiites and oceanic andesites, although MORB compositions have been reported in a few places. Tectonic relations with underlying rocks include a tectonic window near Higgins Corner, a half-window north of Lake Oroville and the high-angle Wolf Creek Fault zone and continuations on the eastern side. On the west, the Smartville and associated rocks are covered by Great Valley deposits and/or intruded by subsequent granitic plutons. Associated ophiolitic rocks include the older Lake Combie Complex, east of SR 49, and the approximately 200 Ma Jarbo Gap and Slate Creek Complexes N and NE of the Smartville complex.
The Smartville complex and associated ophiolites may have been emplaced by collision of one or more west-dipping subduction zones with the North American Continental Margin (or with the western margin of the “Rubia” ribbon continent” of Hildebrand, 2009 GSA Sp. Pap. 457.
Rock & Mineral Identification
Following is part of an Introduction to Physical Geology video course from the City College of San Francisco (Katryn Wiese). Videos below discuss how to identify minerals (formed by organic debris or volcanic glass) igneous (formed by lava), sedimentary (formed by compaction), and metamorphic (formed by pressure & temperature) rocks.
More About Minerals
Identifying Igneous Rock
Identifying Sedimentary Rock
Identifying Metamorphic Rock
The Total Length of Deer Creek is Approximately 34 Miles
At 3100 feet elevation, the North and South Forks of Deer Creek meet. It flows into Scotts Flat Reservoir at 3069 feet. Deer Creek travels through Nevada City, (2300′) then drops down into Lake Wildwood (1200′). From there, it descends 1100 feet where it converges with the Yuba River below Englebright Dam.
Sixteen Locations Along Deer Creek
- North & South Forks Deer Creek – PDF
- Scotts Flat Reservoir & Spillway – PDF
- Lower Scotts Flat Lake & Spillway – PDF
- Below Lower Scotts Flat Lake – (private land not open to the public) – PDF
- Willow Valley Road – PDF
- Pine Street Bridge in Nevada City – PDF
- Tribute Trail – PDF
- Champion Mine / Newtown Ditch area – PDF
- Little Deer Creek Lane (creek banks are private land not open to the public) – PDF
- Bitney Springs Road and Newtown Road (private land not open to the public) – PDF
- Deer Creek Falls (private land not open to the public) – PDF
- Below Deer Creek Falls (private land not open to the public) – PDF
- Deer Creek entrance to Lake Wildwood (community membership required for access) – PDF
- Lakewildwood Spillway – PDF
- Mooney Flat Road below Lakewildood (private land not open to the public) – PDF
- Mooney Flat Road Bridge & Black Swan Preserve – PDF
Entire length of Deer Creek – PDF
First published June 1, 2018
From the time the Gold Rushers arrived, entertainment became a part of life in the mining town.
“A theatre was erected by C. Lovell and others over Deer Creek, on the lower line of Main Street.” – Nevada, Grass Valley and Rough and Ready Citizens Directory 1856, A. A. Sargent
“The storm changed from snow to rain in Nevada, creating an immense rise of the water in Deer Creek. On Friday evening it was ascertained that the theatre, called the Jenny Lind, was in danger; and during the night a heavy drift log came in contact with the pillars on which it stood, taking some of them away, and materially disturbing the others. Early the next morning the Broad street bridge was carried off by the rushing waters. all the forenoon a large crowd were in waiting, expecting every moment to see the other bridge, the theatre and adjacent houses go downstream.”
“At 12 0’clock a heavy log came in contact with the Main Street bridge, which was immediately above the theatre, and took it from its foundation.”
“The accumulated mass took the remaining props from under the theatre, and the building settled into the current, becoming almost instantly a total wreck, going down the foaming stream in fragments.”
“The Illinois Boarding House adjoined the theatre and shared its fates. The loss to the town and individuals was about $10,000.”
“The peaceful character of the Creek the year before encouraged people to build over it, but the lots have been unoccupied since this catastrophe.”
While the first Nevada City theaters suffered from fire and flood, one theater remains.
Brick ruins from the burned Bailey House Hotel (1863) were resurrected to become the Nevada Theater. It first opened its doors in 1865.
Forever Swedish – Jenny Lind
History.com – 1850 P.T. Barnum Brings Jenny Lind to New York
National Geographic Sierra Nevada Getotourism – Nevada Theater, a California Historical Landmark
First published November 12, 2017 | updated & edited September 28, 2018
Nevada City, CA September 21, 2017
During the first weekend in October, when 44 studios open their doors across Nevada County for the Fall Colors Open Studios Art Tour, artist Lisa Redfern will be showing a range of her artwork while spotlighting local watershed awareness with her Life on the Creek art series. Focusing on Deer Creek, the series features plants and animals that live there.
Redfern will be accepting donations for Sierra Streams Institute.
“Deer Creek is a sweet little waterway that runs through our backyard,” says Redfern. It became a passion and focus of the art series last winter when storms turned the creek into a powerful, churning force that threatened homes and businesses.
Redfern began blogging about it after photographing high water levels and comparing them to images she’d taken in 2011. Having recently read The Diary of a Forty-Niner by Chauncey L. Canfield, she was drawn to the Deer Creek references. As a writer as well as an artist, Redfern was inspired to use her blog, Following Deer Creek, to tell a bigger story about how the creek was formed, what plants and animals live around and within it, who are the native people that inhabited the area, how the gold rush and contemporary living habits have affected it.
“Research for every blog post consistently led to the Sierra Streams Institute website. I knew about their programs for school children, but until I started working on the Deer Creek project, I hadn’t fully appreciated everything that they do to study and care for our local watershed,” says Redfern.
“What became apparent very quickly,” she continues, “is that even though Deer Creek is smaller than the Yuba River and other rivers in the news, it shares the same problems as watersheds across the globe.”
“Once I had enough information on the blog to show where I was going with the idea, I contacted Sierra Streams Institute,” said Redfern.
“Art and science are natural allies, and this project is a terrific example of how art and science can come together to inspire us to appreciate and protect the natural world,” said Joanne Hild, biologist and SSI’s executive director. “We were delighted to discover that the science background and data on the Sierra Streams website was so helpful to Lisa in developing this innovative project, and are excited to expand the collaboration as the project develops.”
Postcards with information on ordering custom Life on the Creek items online will also be available at Redfern’s booth.
First published August 8, 2018
Art Creation for Events
Events where I plan to show art provides motivation to create new pieces.
‘Deer Creek Bridges’ was created for the 2018 Nevada County Fair photography competition.
The ‘Pine Street Historic Bridge’ piece was made for display and sale during the 2018 Fall Colors Open Studio Tour.
Video Productions doing Double Duty
This video was created for the blog post, Native Plants for Healing the Land After Fire. It was produced a few weeks before the Redbud Chapter of the California Native Plant Society conducted their annual Native Plant Sale. It helped tell the story about the importance of native plants in the Deer Creek Watershed and promote the event.
Responsible Art Production
Since most of my work is digital, time and hydroelectric generated power (as well as computing hardware) are the main production resources involved in making these creations.
Historical Research Inspires New Design Concepts
As I do background research for posts, I also generate an art piece. At the time of this writing, 62 designs are in the Life on the Creek collection.
While I started with graphic designs involving text, Latin names, and waves, several recent posts inspired a new layout direction.
‘Pony Express Riders’ is a blending of a public domain map and a help wanted advertisement. This came about after discovering that Joaquin Miller, Poet of the Sierras (and a mining camp cook who developed scurvy for the post Scurvy in California’s Food Capital) was also a Pony Express rider.
The extinct and disrupted Life on the Creek designs are from the posts Grizzly Entertainment and California Bear Extinction, and Dammed Disrupted Salmon.
*In the newer designs, you may notice an absence in the ” wording at the bottom of the Following Deer Creek logo. These pieces were created after I moved the website from a free site to a paid site in an attempt to reduce unwanted advertising clutter.
Made-to-Order Art Reduces Environmental Impacts
FineArtAmerica.com hosts my artwork online and produces made-to-order prints and household items.
At my Open Studios Tour booth (#30) October 13th and 14th, I will have a number of these pieces on display.
Display Pieces Donated after Show
SSI will be using them as incentive gifts for community Scotch Broom pulls that they will be organizing in the fall.
Art for a cause…while attempting to lessen resource use…is very satisfying!
First published on April 30, 2018
Though Timbuctoo and Smartsville are in Yuba County, we are including them in our creek history because water from the Yuba River and Deer Creek watersheds flowed through them causing one of the first land use limit laws to be written in the country.
In the 1850s, Timbuctoo and Smartsville were centers of activity. The population was between 1,000 to 4,000, many of them were Irish immigrants. With the invention of hydraulic mining, it became one of the wealthiest regions in California. Estimates say that millions of dollars of gold dust were moved through local business and the Wells Fargo headquarters in Smartsville.
Gold attracted more than miners. Famous robbers such as ‘the Timbuctoo Terror,’ Jim Webster and Black Bart prowled the roads.
Profits from hydraulic mining encouraged boomtown growth, enriched mining corporations, and filled state coffers.
Between 1850 and 1878, the Excelsior Company sent approximately eight million cubic yards of debris and plant matter into the Yuba River at Smartsville.
Silt and debris washed out of the steep mountains and settled, changing the course of waterways and making channels shallow.
Riverboat traffic conducting trade between Sacramento and San Francisco was threatened.
Alarmed by the danger of downstream flooding, farmers and townspeople created costly levee systems.
A lawsuit against the North Bloomfield Gravel and Mining Company and others was filed. In 1884, the United States District Court in San Francisco ruled in favor of the farmers, putting an end to hydraulic mining.
Commentary from Yuba Trails and Tales blog by Hank Meals
“In the late 1870’s, the annual value of the dry-farmed wheat crop alone had reached $40,000,000, more than double that of the dwindling gold output. According to geographer David Larsen, “The trend was clear and irreversible the pivot of prosperity had shifted permanently toward the fields.”
“Obviously, by outlawing the dumping of tailings there was improved water quality and fish habitat and there would be less toxins inadvertently released but this particular environmental remediation was incidental to the intent of the law. Except in a very general way there were no environmental considerations addressed in the 24 volumes of testimony that were collected for Woodruff vs. North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company. This law was not created out of respect for Gaia, or any consideration whatsoever for stream ecology. Simply put, the issue was business interests in the Sacramento Valley (agriculture) were losing income to the wasteful procedures of a powerful upslope industry (hydraulic mining). Specifically agricultural lands were being covered with choking mud, towns were periodically flooded and steamboat operations were hampered by the decreased navigability of the rivers. I can’t see how the Sawyer Decision exhibits environmental activism but it does represent the beginning of regulations in the public interest. The Sawyer Decision effectively limits the ideology of laissez-faire, which legitimized the single-minded pursuit of wealth at all costs. This alone is a very big step in the direction of conservation and sustainability.” – Hydraulic Mining in the Yuba and Bear River Basins – Yuba Trails and Tales, Hank Meals
Pioneer Day – Yearly – Last Saturday in April
If you liked this post, you may also like Geology or Geography.
CalEXPLORnia – Timbuctoo
CalEXPLORnia – the church of Immaculate Conception
Chapman University – Huell Howser Archives – Timbucktoo / Smartsville (video)
Crow’s Range: An Environmental History of the Sierra Nevada, by David Beesley [KXJZ, Insight interview 35:46] Ghost Towns – Timbuctoo
Hydraulic Mining in the Yuba and Bear River Basins – Yuba Trails and Tales, Hank Meals
ilikehistory.com – The Infamous Stagecoach Robber Black Bart
Malakoff Diggins State Park – Sawyer Decision to stop hydraulic mining
National Geographic – Sierra Nevada Geotourism – Smartsville
National Geographic – Sierra Nevada Geotourism – Timbuctoo
Nevada County, CA Historical Sites – Mooney Flat Hotel
Nevada County Historical Landmarks Commission – Mooney Flat Hotel
Truewestmagazine.com – The Flawed Gentleman Bandit
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.
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.”
For the Nisenan and other Native American tribes, colonial settlement was more devasting than the European Holocaust. Statistics estimate that 60% of European Jews were murdered in World War II. For California Indians, white pioneers reduced their population by nearly 90%.
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.
If you found this post informative, you may also like Nisenan Book Review, Culture & Healing Historic Trauma, Anthony House Aflame Under Lake Wildwood or Tumbuctoo – Hydraulic Mining & First Land Use Limit Law.
History Channel – California’s Little-Known Genocide