Wednesday, November 04, 2009

local stuff

the red things in the foreground meter irrigation water in miner's inches drawn out to paying customers.
along the banner cascade trail

my beginning look into the history and development of the canals in nevada county, sometimes called miner's ditches, confirmed how little i know and how fascinating are the canals and the larger story of gold mining on the western slope of the sierra nevada mountains.

nevada is a spanish word meaning snow covered. sierra (literally saw, as in handsaw with teeth, related to serrated) translates as jagged mountain range. kind of stuns me that i grew up in california and didn't know that. from the superb history section of a very nice book titled "Yuba Trails" by Susan Lamela and Hank Meals (here is the updated edition by Hank Meals. Susan Lamela died in 2000) i learned that in 1873 60% of the miners in california were chinese. also that the gold found in the modern rivers was washed out of a 50 million year old river system that ran on a north-south axis and is now located mostly on the ridge tops. hence hydraulic mining to recover the gold still on the ridges. mmmmmm geology.

from the county website

"By 1867, the total length of ditches in the county had reached 850 miles at a cost of construction of $4,250,000. The two leading systems were the Eureka Lake and Yuba Canal Company and the South Yuba Canal Company. By 1880 there were more than 1000 miles of ditches, and construction costs had reached $7,000,000. It was the elaborate ditch systems that made hydraulic mining possible. This form of mining dominated all other methods of obtaining gold until it was stopped by court order in 1884. Today that network of ditches have been absorbed by the Nevada Irrigation District, with some of the old ditches still in use."

see what i mean about fascinating. i need to spend some time in the library and local bookstores. meanwhile we continue exploring the actual local area. we walked on the banner/cascade trail along a canal that supplies water to two treatment plants which produce potable water for grass valley and nevada (snow covered!) city.

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