Deer Creek Water Origins

 

Before we ever see water in Deer Creek, most of it has rained, snowed, and been stored in NID’s Mountain Division and PG&E Lakes. It’s moved from lake to lake, going through multiple powerhouses, generating electricity. It enters Scotts Flat Lake where swimmers, motor boaters, and fisherman enjoy it. Flowing into Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir, human or wind-powered boaters recreate on it.

Another portion of water entering Deer Creek comes from the watershed. A watershed is an area of land that channels water to a low point, such as a stream, river, lake, or ocean.

History of Water Management in Nevada County: 1850 Water Business is Born

Placer miners needed water for rockers; hydraulic miners needed it to move mountains.

The first miner’s ditch, to which PG&E traces its tap root, was built in 1850 by The Rock Creek Water Company.  Historians locate this ditch is near Coyote Hill. Constructed by Charles Marsh, William Crawford, John & Thomas Dunn, and C. Carol at a cost of $10K, the ditch was nine miles long.

After only two weeks of operation, The Rock Creek Water Company investment paid off.

Successful, and profitable, water transportation soon spread to neighboring counties— Placer, Eldorado, Amador, Calaveras, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne County.

Before water management, Deer Creek was seasonal.

An 1854 drought caused local economic hardship. Mines stopped working, miners couldn’t pay debts, and real estate values crashed.

Wooden water flume. Photo Credit: Les Nicholson

After assessing the lakes in the Yuba Watershed, water companies understood that gravity and elevation would work in their favor. They built systems to move water to the mines using flumes, tunnels, high-pressure pipes, siphons, and trestle bridges.

The water transportation system was an engineering marvel of its time.

Early engineers and savvy businessmen realized the potential of a year-round water supply for ranching, mills, and establishing towns.

When the Sawyer Decision washed-up hydraulic mining in the mid 1880s, the South Yuba Water Company, and its subsidiary, the Central California Electric Company, was poised to capitalize on a new industry—hydroelectrisity.

 

Photo Credit: LocoSteve

Following Deer Creek’s Water Path

Deer Creek water begins in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, north of I-80, fifty-five miles northwest of Lake Tahoe.

French Lake–elevation 6,676 ft.
Faucherie Lake–elevation 6,135 ft.
Sawmill Lake–elevation 5,869 ft.
Bowman Lake–elevation 5,600 ft.
Fuller Lake–elevation 5,344 ft.
Canyon Creek Drainage
Bowman Spaulding Canal
Spaulding Hydro Power Plant
Spaulding Lake–elevation 5,014 ft.
Hwy 20 & Bear Valley–South Yuba Canal
Big Tunnel
Deer Creek Forebay–elevation 4,477 ft.
Deer Creek Hydro Power Plant
North and South Fork Deer Creek Confluence
Deer Creek
Scotts Flat Lake–elevation 3,069 ft.
Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir–elevation 2,094 ft.

 

“There’s very little natural water in Deer Creek,” says Les Nicholson, retired Nevada Irrigation District Hydroelectric Manager.

Burlington Ridge, the apex of the North and South Fork of Deer Creek isn’t high enough to maintain a snowpack (4,160 ft elevation).

“Most Deer Creek water is imported,” Nicholson says. “Imported water means it comes from another drainage.”

In Deer Creek’s case, that drainage is the Yuba Watershed.

Nicholson generously shared his time to explain the complicated route water takes before we see it in our ditches, creeks, and rivers.

*After leaving Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir, the video tour back-tracks to Burlington Ridge, the physical headwaters of the North and South Forks of Deer Creek.

 

Run-off and gravity always show the direction water is flowing.

Resources:

Bear Yuba Land Trust – Trails Portal

Burlington Ridge | North Fork Deer Creek

GetAwayHorsePlay.com – Skillman Horse Camping video

Gold Country Trails Council – Horse Camps & Trail Maps

Skillman Horse Campground reservations 

USDA Forest Service – Skillman Campground & OHV information 

 Burlington Ridge | South Fork Deer Creek

Burlington Motorcycle Trail System

OHV Trails around Donner Summit 

Hiking Trails & Camping

All Trails – Cascade Canal

Outside In – Snow Mountain Ditch 

Nevada Irrigation District

Since 1921 the Nevada Irrigation District has supplied domestic, irrigation, and domestic water for Nevada and Placer Counties. It is an independent California special district governed by an elected board.

South Yuba Canal NID video

Nevada Irrigation District Campgrounds & Lakes

PG&E

Book: PG&E of California,1851-1952, by Charles Coleman

History of PG&E

Wikipedia – Pacific Gas and Electric Company

 

Incense Cedar, the Pencil Tree

A burned, sometimes smoldering,  Incense Cedar tree is one of the few places the Cedar Wood Wasp, lays its eggs. This insect is the only living species of its family, making it a ‘living fossil.’

Incense Cedar Wood Wasp – a living fossil

Cedar is commonly used for building and fencing materials. Because the wood is pliable for gripping and resists splintering, it may be best known for its use in pencils.

Hearty, drought tolerant, and accepting of shade and sun, the tree grows at a wide variety of elevations.

Calocedrus decurrens seed cones and seeds
Incense Cedar growing range

 

 

 

 

Native Americans used Incense Cedar for hunting bows, fire making, baskets, brooms, shelter building, and for ceremonial and healing purposes.

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like, Mugwort – Dream Plant with a Long History

click image to see more Life on the Creek art

 

 

Resources:

Calflora – Calocedrus decurrens

CalPoly – Incense Cedar Tree Detail

Hansen’s Northwest Native Plant Database

Living Wild Project

Pacific Northwest, Pest Management – Cedar, Incense Broom Rust

Native American Cedar Mythology

USDA – Calocedrus decurrens

Plant Guide [PDF]

Wikipedia – Cedar Wood Wasp

Raccoon – Puzzler & Mastermind

Origin & Name

Raccoons evolved around water sources. People observing them gave them names describing their ‘washing’ behavior.

Scientific name – Procyon lotor means “before-dog washer” in Latin
Aztecs – Mapachitli – “one who takes everything in its hands”
Chinese – Orsetto lavatore “little-bear washing”
Garman – Waschbär – “wash-bear”
Italian – Araiguma – “washing-bear”
Algonquian / Powhatan Indian – Arocoun – “he scratches with his hands”
English speaking North American colonists changed Arocoun to raccoon

Hands & Masks

Raccoons explore with touch. It’s long been thought that ‘food washing’ was for cleanliness. Dipping ‘hands’ in water is called dousing; it stimulates nerve endings in the forepaws, giving the animal an improved ability to detect changes in pressure.


Raccoons don’t have thumbs but use both forepaws to manipulate objects, like hands. Their forepaws have concentrations of mechanoreceptor cells similar to primates and humans.

Since the animal is nocturnal and thought to be colorblind, it makes sense that it interprets the world through touch.

The mask, a stripe of dark fur surrounding the eyes, maximizes night vision by blocking glare.

Intelligence

Raccoons are omnivores; they’ll eat anything. Scientists believe that this characteristic, as with humans, contributes to their extraordinary intelligence.

A raccoon is a relentless problem solver, passing learning along to their young. As people attempt to keep them out, raccoons adapt, becoming smarter in the process.

In 1907, H.B. Davis published a raccoon intelligence study in The American Journal of Psychology. Twelve raccoons were given a series of locks to crack. He presented the test subjects with 13 puzzles to solve. Their success rate was nearly 85%.

“The learning curves for the raccoons and Kinnaman’s monkeys… seem to show a nearly equal facility in learning to undo fasten-ings.”

“Test of the raccoon’s powers of retention show that skill in undoing simple fastenings once learned remains practically undiminished…”

Breeding & Raising Young

  • Mating Season – January and June
  • Females mature and can reproduce at about one year
  • Two – five kits are common per litter, born in spring
  • Females separate from others to raise young.
  • Mothers teach kits by example
  • Kits remain with mother between 13-14 months
  • Raccoons in tree cavities & burroughs – keeping up to 20 den sites at one time

Factoids

  • Full grown = up to 23 pounds
  • Adult male = boar
  • Adult female = sow
  • Young = kits
  • Lifespan = wild – 2 – 3 years, captivity 20 years

Predators

In the wild bobcats, coyotes, mountain lions, great horned owls, and red-tailed hawks pose threats.

In urban environments, infection, disease, and cars are the major causes of death

Differing Interactions with Humans

Raccoons in the wild are shy around humans, avoiding them when possible.

Urban raccoons will approach them looking for handouts.

Highly adaptable, raccoons are able to easily navigate living in urban environments. Food sources (pet and bird feeding stations and garbage day) are plentiful and they’ll den in attics and abandoned buildings. Raccoons understand traffic patterns and travel on roofs and fence tops.

The trapper in the above video is from Florida, but his topics and the other animals he talks about are applicable to Nevada County.

Becoming Invasive

Germany
In 1934 a forester released a pair of raccoons to “enrich the fauna” for hunting. In 1945, twenty-five raccoons escaped from a fur farm after an air strike. Since then, the raccoon population in Germany has grown tremendously.

 

German raccoon population increase

Raccoons are now considered an invasive species.  A zero-tolerance policy is in place. Over 10,000 raccoons are trapped and killed in Germany per year.

Japan
Rascal the Raccoon anime show appeared in the 1970s. As a result, children wanted pet raccoons. At one time, over 1,500 raccoons were imported per month. When keeping them became difficult, many were released in the forest.

Today, raccoons cause hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to ancient, irreplaceable buildings and temples. Raccoons have spread to most regions in the country. Japan prohibits raccoon imports.

Problem Prevention

To discourage denning on or near the property;

• Securely close trash containers
• Don’t leave pet food outside
• Remove bird feeders
• Eliminate water sources and ornamental fish
• Cover outdoor sandboxes when not in use
• Keep brush cleared
• Eliminate access to attics, basements, and barns

Raccoon Voiding Spots and Latrines

Wilderness raccoons prefer to poo at the base of trees, on horizontal surfaces, on large rocks or in raised tree forks. Undigested seeds are often visible.

In urban areas, they’ll go on rooftops, decks, woodpiles, and in attics, haylofts, and in garages.

A raccoon latrine is a communal defecation area used by multiple raccoons.

1940s advertisement

Feces Spread Disease

  • Fungal Spores
  • Parasitic raccoon roundworm- causes neurologic damage and possible death: eggs are temperature resistant and can become airborne when dry
  • Giardia
  • Leptospirosis – contact with open wounds

Above is a list of some of the infectious diseases carried by raccoon feces. They can also be spread through contact with urine, saliva, bites and scratches.

 

Communal Food

Because food sources attract a variety of animals, disease can spread. Infectious raccoons may appear healthy. When a disease moves from a raccoon to a cat, dog, or human, it can be more challenging to combat.

Feces Clean-Up

Prepare for cleaning by protecting your airways (mucous membranes) and skin.

• Wear disposable gloves and rubber boots (or disposable booties that cover shoes)
• Wear an N95-rated respirator (hardware store)
• Plan to burn or sterilize gear when finished

Outdoor Latrine Cleaning

• Use a shovel (or inverted bag) to collect feces and contaminated material. Bury or burn. If placing in the trash, double bag and secure to protect landfill workers
• Roundworm eggs are chemical resistant. High heat will kill them. Cover feces with boiling water or blast with a propane torch
• Use boiling water to disinfect shovel blades and deck surfaces
• Burn or boil and disinfect protective gear
• Wash hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Launder clothing with hot water and detergent

Indoor Latrine Cleaning

  • Lightly mist area with soapy water in a spray bottle to avoid stirring up dust
  • Collect and dispose of feces as listed above
  • Use a bucket of hot, soapy water and a damp sponge to wipe down the area
  • Rinse sponge frequently
  • Flush contaminated water down the toilet
  • Disinfect the bucket with boiling water
  • Burn or boil and disinfect protective gear
  • Wash hands thoroughly with hot, soapy water
  • Launder clothing with hot water and detergent

 

Editor’s Note:

Apart from post titles, I endeavor to present Deer Creek topics objectively from multiple angles, using reliable sources. While the Center for Disease Control says, “human infections are rare,” I think a cautionary note is valuable.

As more people spread into wild areas, animals with the ability to live in urban areas join us. Our structures, pets, feeding stations and trash fulfill their hierarchy of needs. As a result, species whose paths would rarely cross are ‘meeting at the grocery store,’ creating opportunities for infectious organisms.

There are valid reasons behind the statement, “don’t feed wild animals.”

Below are several worst-case scenarios illustrating those reasons.

Danger of Disease

 Attic Horror Story

click image to purchase or view entire Life on the Creek design collection
click on image to download free coloring sheet

If you liked this post, you might also like, Bobcat – Susceptible to Rat Poison

 

Resources:

Average Outdoorsman – Raccoon Sounds

Centers for Disease Control – Parasites – Baylisascaris infection

Centers for Disease Control – Racoon Latrines: Identification and Clean-up [PDF]

Centers for Disease Control – Healthy Swimming – Raccoons and Pools

Gold Country Wildlife Control

Harper College – Animal Scat photos

Inside & Outside Latrines

LIVE Science – Facts about Racoons

Mental Floss – Rodent, or NOT a Rodent

Mental Floss – 10 Clever Facts About Raccoons

Northern Woodlands – Raccoons: It’s All In The Hands

Oxford Research Encyclopedia – Animals in Latin American History

PBS – Racoon Fact Sheet

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management – Infectious Diseases of Racoons [PDF]

Wikipedia – Raccoon

Wildlife Animal Control – How to Get Rid of Raccoons in the Attic, House, Yard

 

North American Beaver – Water Banker

History

In 1805, Lewis and Clark saw beaver dams “extending as far up those streams as [we] could discover them.” Even before the famous explorers, French trappers and traders were drawn to the land teeming with beaver.

The beaver is North America’s largest rodent. Its pelt is waterproof and has a double layer of insulation making it highly desirable for human use. At the height of pelt demand, some estimates claim that between 60-400 million animals were taken.

Fortunately, we have beavers living along Deer Creek!

The beaver method of water retention, stream restoration, and habitat rehabilitation.

Beaver ponds and dams;

  • reduce erosion
  • act as a fire break
  • slow water movement through a watershed, replenishing the water table, reducing the need for irrigation
  • filter nitrogen and other chemicals that cause algae blooms resulting in oxygen-deprived dead zones
  • retain sediments, increasing watershed biodiversity

Ponds volume keeps water temperatures cool, necessary for certain fish species

Discord Between Beavers and People

  • beaver may eat landscape plants and trees within 165 feet of the water’s edge
  • water pooling on the land will expand
  • roads and structures may flood
  • dams plug culverts and drains
  • animals and wildlife are attracted to the habitats beavers create

In 2017, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service killed 81 beavers in California.

Beaver Problem Remediation

  • install a pond flow device, limiting water rise, eliminating flooding
  • choose landscape plants that beaver don’t eat
  • choose plants that resprout after a beaver visit
  • keep landscape plants distant from the water source

Barrier methods;

  • wrap large trees with 3 ft. high galvanized welded wire fencing or multiple layers of chicken wire
  • paint tree trunks with sanded paint ( mix 2/3 cup masonry sand per quart of latex paint)
  • surround groups of trees/ shrubs with 3 ft. high fencing strong enough to withstand a 60 lb animal pushing on it or attempting to  get under it
  • apply and reapply deer and big game repellent

Diet and Behavior

Nocturnal and non-hibernating, beavers eat plants; leaves, bark twigs, trees, willow, cottonwood and other deciduous trees. They’ll also eat garden plants if given the chance.

Pairs may mate for life but are not always monogamous. Kits are born between April and June, remaining with their parents for two years. A beaver colony usually consists of a breeding pair and several generations of their kits.

A full grown beaver can grow up to 60 pounds. (Fossil records show that they once reached 300 lbs!) Their lifespan in the wild is between 5 – 10 years.

Spending most of their time in the water, beavers have few predators. When on land, they are most vulnerable. Predators include; man, wolves, coyote, mountain lion, bears, bobcats, and dogs.

The Beaver Butt Thing – Castoreum

Aside from fur, trappers learned of another beaver special quality; castor glands, located near the anus, smell vanilla sweet. Castoreum is secreted with urine to mark territory. One can’t help imagining the very first gland discovery. A mountain man noticed it while taking the animal apart. To verify, he needed a close-and-personal secondary sensory test. Enthusiastic conversations between trappers spread the news and began a new industry.

Castoreum, a thick, syrup-like ooze was used in the perfume industry, starting in the 1800’s, to enhance other scents and increase their longevity.

“The United States, the Food and Drug Administration lists castoreum extract as a generally recognized safe (GRAS) food additive. … While it is mainly used in foods and beverages as part of a substitute vanilla flavor, it is less commonly used as a part of a raspberry or strawberry flavoring.” Wikipedia

Despite Castoreum’s listing with the FDA, it was never a substance in wide use. Anesthetizing and milking beavers was time-consuming and costly.

[Castoreum should not be confused with Castor, as in Castor Oil, which is a plant.]

Beaver Adaptations

  • continuously growing incisors
  • an insatiable need to build at the sound of water
  • tail functions as extra leg while on land
  • a mouth valve that keeps water out while carrying/floating a tree or branch
  • ear valves with the same function
  • back of throat valve – ditto
  • nostril valves – ditto
  • nictitating membrane covers eyes underwater acting like goggles
  • tail slaps on water warn of danger
  • hind foot has a split toenail used as a comb
  • fur is waterproof, treated with an oily substance
  • intestinal bacteria ferment cellulose to digest plant matter — this is why castoreum smells so good!

California Native & Aquatic Keystone Species

The National Geographic Society describes a keystone species as an organism that helps define an entire ecosystem. Without its keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether.

 

click image to purchase or view entire Life on the Creek design collection

If you liked this post, you may also like, Singing Coyote – the Ultimate Adaptor.

Resources:

Bay Nature – For beaver believers salvation lies in a once-reviled rodent

Beavers: 8 things to know about nature’s most impressive landscape engineers

Dispatch – USDA fights endless battle of wits with ingenious beavers

Bridge Creek (Oregon) Beaver Dam Analog Steelhead Restoration (2004-2020)

Climate Change | Beavers Help Battle Ongoing Drought

Eager Beaver author, Ben Goldfarb Radio Interview.

KCRA Beaver Problem

Martinez Beavers.org

Mental Floss – A Brief History of Castoreum, the Beaver Butt Secretion Used as Flavoring

Nature World News – (Beaver) Dams Help Remove Nitrogen From Estuaries and Restore Streams | 2015

National Geographic – Beaver Butts Emit Goo Used for Vanilla Flavoring

National Geographic – Beavers Have Vanilla-Scented Butts and More Odd Facts

National Geographic – Beavers —Once Nearly Extinct—Could Help Fight Climate Change

National Park Service – Beaver

New York Post – Distillery has new bourbon flavored by beaver secretion

New York Times |2017 – Beavers Emerge as Gents of Arctic Destruction

NOAA Fisheries – Working with Beaver to Restore Salmon Habitat

NOAA – Working with Beaver to Restore Salmon Habitat

Science Magazine | 6/7/18 – Beaver dams without beavers? Artificial logjams are a popular but controversial restoration tool – rebeavering Bear Valley (an hour north of Redding)

Smithsonian’s National Zoo – Beaver

Spokane Lands Council – Beaver Solution

Time Magazine – The True History Behind Idaho’s Parachuting Beavers

USDA – 2017 California Animals Killed Report

USDA – How to Keep Beavers from Plugging Culverts [PDF]

USDA – Mountain Beaver Damage and Management

Washington Dept. Fish and Wildlife  – Beavers

Wikipedia – Beaver in the Sierra Nevada

Wikipedia – California Fur Rush

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warning! Video below shows animal butchering – Beaver Castor Gland Removal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

American River Watershed & Lake Tahoe

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.

RSS
Follow by Email
LinkedIn
Share
Pinterest
fb-share-icon
Instagram