Sierra Nevada forests, Part 3C: Reservoirs of Yosemite Region

The review of the central Sierra Nevada ecoregion surrounding Yosemite National Park includes a paragraph on the other national park system unit and then continues with the reservoir systems, mostly used for hydroelectricity. The review continues next month with the national trail system and wilderness areas.

National Park System

Yosemite National Park, California, is described under World Heritage Sites. Devils Postpile National Monument, California (N37º38’ W119º5’), is known for its columnar basalt columns. It also contains 100-foot Rainbow Falls on the Middle Fork San Joaquin River. The Middle Fork San Joaquin River is eligible for the wild and scenic rivers system in the monument. Most of the monument outside of the Devils Postpile area is part of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, described separately. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail traverses the monument.

Reservoirs and Hydroelectric Power Projects

This section includes reservoirs federally authorized (hydroelectric projects), reservoirs located on federal lands, and reservoirs constructed by federal agencies. Because of the large number of hydroelectric developments in the Sierra Nevada, reservoirs are listed by river basin.

Kings River

Balch Afterbay, Pacific Gas & Electric, Sierra National Forest (N36º55’ W119º6’) receives water from Black Rock Reservoir (Balch Diversion Dam). Water from Balch Afterbay enters a tunnel which exits at Kings River Powerhouse on Pine Flat Lake (N36º55’ W119º10’).

Black Rock Reservoir (Balch Diversion Dam), Pacific Gas & Electric Company, California (N36º55’ W119º1’), is on the North Fork Kings River in the Sierra National Forest and receives water from the Haas Powerhouse. Water from Wishon Reservoir is diverted downstream into the Haas Tunnel, which transports water to the Haas Powerhouse above Black Rock Reservoir. Water from Black Rock Reservoir enters another tunnel which exits at the Balch Powerhouse on Balch Afterbay.

Courtright Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, California (N37º5’ W118º59’), is on Helms Creek, a tributary of the North Fork Kings River. Campgrounds are operated by the Sierra National Forest. John Muir Wilderness borders the reservoir on the east and Dinkey Lakes Wilderness borders it on the north. Courtright is the upper storage reservoir for the Helms Pumped Storage Project.

Wishon Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, California (N37º0’ W118º58’) is on the North Fork Kings River. Campgrounds are operated by the Sierra National Forest. John Muir Wilderness borders the reservoir on the east. At the upper end of Wishon is the Helms Powerhoure, capable of 1,212 MW of generation. The powerhouse is in a chamber 1,000 feet underground carved out of granite. Water from Wishon Reservoir is diverted to the Haas Powerhouse above Black Rock Reservoir.

Mono Basin

Rush Creek Hydroelectric Project of Southern California Edison consists of three reservoirs and a powerhouse on the June Lake Loop (State Route 168) within Inyo National Forest and Ansel Adams Wilderness. Waugh (Rush Meadows) Reservoir (N37º45’ W119º11’) and Gem Reservoir (N37º45’ W119º9’) are storage reservoirs within the wilderness, while Agnew Reservoir (N37º45’ W119º8’) feeds the penstock and powerhouse outside of the wilderness (Diamond and Hicks, 1988). Downstream of the powerhouse, Grant Lake, City of Los Angeles (N37º51’ W119º7’), diverts water to the Owens River watershed for eventual diversion to the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

Lee Vining Creek  Project of Southern California Edison consists of three reservoirs and a powerhouse along Tioga Pass Road (State Route 120) in Inyo National Forest. Saddlebag Reservoir (N37º58’ W119º17’) and Tioga Reservoir (N37º55’ W119º15’) serve as storage for Ellery (Rhinedollar) Reservoir (N37º56’ W119º14’), where water is diverted to a penstock and power is generated at Poole Powerhouse (N37º57’ W119º13’).

Lundy Reservoir, Southern California Edison (N38º2’ W119º14’) is on Mill Creek in the northern edge of Inyo National Forest. Hoover Wilderness borders the reservoir.

Owens River

The Bishop Creek Hydroelectric System of Southern California Edison is within John Muir Wilderness, Inyo National Forest, and the National System of Public Lands, as well as private and City of Los Angeles lands. It consists of reservoirs, diversion dams, and powerhouses, which have their own dams and intakes. On the South Fork Bishop Creek, South Reservoir (N37º10’ W118º34’) provides water storage. The storage is supplemented by water from Bluff Reservoir (N37º11’ W118º33’), which is on Green Creek, a tributary to South Fork Bishop Creek. Water is released from South Reservoir, passes a Weir Lake, then is diverted at the South Fork Diversion Dam (N37º14’ W118º34’) to Intake 2 Reservoir (N37º15’ W118º35’) on the Middle Fork Bishop Creek. On the Middle Fork Bishop Creek, water is also released from Sabrina Reservoir (N37º13’ W118º37’) to Intake 2 Reservoir. Intake 2 Reservoir diverts water to the Second Powerhouse (N37º16’ W118º34’).

Water is also diverted to the Second Powerhouse from storage in Longley Reservoir (N37º17’ W118º40’) on McGee Creek. Downstream from Longley Reservoir, McGee Creek Diversion Dam (N37º17’ W118º38’), Birch Creek Diversion Dam (N37º17’ W118º37’), and East Fork Birch Creek Diversion Dam (N37º16’ W118º36’) also divert water to the 2nd Powerhouse. Below the second powerhouse, another diversion dam sends water to the 3rd Powerhouse (N37º18’ W118º32’), and in turn another diversion sends water to the 4th Powerhouse (N37º19’ W118º30’), then to the 5th Powerhouse (N37º20’ W118º29’) and finally to the 6th Powerhouse (N37º21’ W118º28’) just west of the city of Bishop (Taylor, 1994).

Bluff Reservoir, Southern California Edison (N37º11’ W118º33’), is on Green Creek, a tributary to South Fork Bishop Creek, in the Inyo National Forest. Water is diverted from Green Creek to South Reservoir for hydroelectric storage as part of the Bishop Creek Hydroelectric System.

Longley Reservoir, Southern California Edison (N37º17’ W118º40’), is on McGee Creek in the John Muir Wilderness. It is a storage reservoir for the Bishop Creek Hydroelectric System.

Sabrina Reservoir, Southern California Edison (N37º13’ W118º37’), is on Middle Fork Bishop Creek in the Inyo National Forest. It borders the John Muir Wilderness.

South Reservoir (Hillside Reservoir), Southern California Edison (N37º10’ W118º34’), is on South Fork Bishop Creek in the Inyo National Forest and is used as a storage reservoir for the Bishop Creek Hydroelectric System.

 

 San Joaquin River

The Big Creek Hydroelectric Development of Southern California Edison is accessed from State Route 168 and consists of multiple reservoirs and tunnels in the Sierra National Forest. The complex system is on the South Fork San Joaquin River, San Joaquin River, and Big Creek, all of which are near SR 168. The uppermost reservoirs are on the South Fork San Joaquin River and tributaries. Florence Lake (N37º16’ W118º58’) is on the South Fork San Joaquin River. Its water is supplemented by a diversion dam on Hooper Creek (N37º18’ W118º57’). Water from Florence Lake is diverted into the Ward Tunnel. Water from Chinquapin (N37º18’ W119º1’), Camp 62 (N37º18’ W119º2’), and Bolsillo (N37º19’ W119º2’) Creeks is also diverted to the Ward Tunnel. Lake Thomas A. Edison (N37º23’ W118º59’)) receives water from Mono Creek and Warm Creek. The Mono Creek Diversion Dam (N37º21’ W119º0’) below Lake Thomas A. Edison and the Bear Creek Diversion Dam (N37º20’ W118º59’) divert water to the Mono-Bear Siphon, which also feeds the Ward Tunnel. Ward Tunnel passes the Portal Forebay (N37º19’ W119º4’), where it captures water from Camp 61 Creek, then exits the tunnel through Portal powerhouse at Huntington Lake (N37º14’ W119º12’).

Water from Huntington Lake (Big Creek Dam 3 Reservoir) may be diverted through three pathways. Tunnel 1 leads to a powerhouse above Big Creek Dam 4 Reservoir (N37º12’ W119º14’). Tunnel 7 delivers water to North Fork Stevenson Creek, a tributary of Shaver Lake, or as is usually the case, Tunnel 7 delivers water to Balsam Meadows Forebay (N37º10’ W119º15’). Tunnel 7 also receives diverted water from Pittman Creek (N37º12’ W119º13’). If sent to Balsam Meadows Forebay, the water passes through the Eastwood Powerhouse on Shaver Lake (N37º8’ W119º7’). Shaver Lake is operated as a pumped storage facility with Balsam Meadows Forebay, which is not on national forest lands.

Water from Shaver Lake is diverted through Tunnel 5 to a powerhouse on Big Creek Dam 5 reservoir (N37º12’ W119º18’). Big Creek Dam 5 reservoir also receives water via Tunnel 2 from Big Creek Dam 4 Reservoir. Water in Tunnel 2 is supplemented by water from Balsam Creek (N37º11’ W119º16’) and Ely Creek (N37º11’ W119º17’).

On the San Joaquin River is Mammoth Pool Reservoir (N37º20’ W119º19’). Water from Mammoth Pool is diverted to a powerhouse on Big Creek Dam 6 (N37º12’ W119º20’), which is on the San Joaquin River. Dam 6 also receives water from Big Creek Dam 5 reservoir. The powerhouse on Dam 6 also receives water diverted from Rock Creek (N37º16’ W119º20’) and Ross Creek (N37º14’ W119º21’).

Below Big Creek Dam 6, water is diverted through Tunnel 3 to Redinger Lake (N37º9’ W119º27’). Water from Redinger Reservoir is diverted to a powerhouse on the upper end of Kerckhoff Reservoir (N37º8’ W119º31’), which is operated by Pacific Gas & Electric. Kerckoff Powerhouse (N37º6’ W119º33’) is just above Millerton Lake in the California interior chaparral and woodlands ecoregion. The major dams of the Big Creek hydroelectric project are listed below.

Balsam Meadow Forebay, Southern California Edison (N37º10’ W119º15’) is on West Fork Balsam Creek, a tributary of the San Joaquin River. It is a pumped storage reservoir operated in conjunction with Shaver Lake. It receives water from Huntington Lake.

Bear Creek Diversion Dam, Southern California Edison (N37º20’ W118º58’), is on Bear Creek in the Sierra National Forest, a tributary of the South Fork San Joaquin River. Water is diverted via tunnel to Huntington Lake, where power is generated.

Big Creek Dam 4, Southern California Edison (N37º12’ W119º14’), has a powerhouse that receives water from Huntington Lake for power generation. It is on Sierra National Forest land.

Big Creek Dam 5, Southern California Edison (N37º12’ W119º18’) receives water via tunnels from Big Creek Dam 4 and from Shaver Lake. It is on Sierra National Forest land.

Big Creek Dam 6, Southern California Edison (N37º12’ W119º20’), is on the San Joaquin River and receives water via tunnels from Big Creek Dam 5 and from Mammoth Pool Reservoir. It is on Sierra National Forest land.

Lake Thomas A. Edison (Vermillion Valley Dam), Southern California Edison (N37º23’ W118º59’), is on Mono Creek, a tributary to the South Fork San Joaquin River. It contains private resorts and campgrounds operated by Sierra National Forest. John Muir Wilderness borders the reservoir on the east and Ansel Adams Wilderness borders it on the west. Below Vermillion Valley Dam is Mono Creek Diversion Dam (N37º21’ W119º0’). Here, water from Lake Thomas A. Edison is diverted to Portal Powerhouse at the upper end of Huntington Lake. It is accessed from Forest Highway 80 (Kaiser Pass Road) from Huntington Lake.

Florence Lake, Southern California Edison (N37º16’ W118º58’), is on the South Fork San Joaquin River and contains private resorts and campgrounds operated by Sierra National Forest. It is accessed via Forest Highway 80 and Forest Road 7S01 from Huntington Lake. John Muir Wilderness surrounds the reservoir. Water from Florence Lake is diverted to the Portal Powerhouse at the upper end of Huntington Lake.

Huntington Lake (Big Creek Dam 3), Southern California Edison, California (N37º14’ W119º12’), is on Sheep Thief Creek, a tributary to the San Joaquin River, and contains private resorts and winter sports areas with campgrounds operated by Sierra National Forest. It is accessed by State Route 168.

Mammoth Pool Reservoir, Southern California Edison (N37º20’ W119º19’) is on the San Joaquin River in the Sierra National Forest. Ansel Adams Wilderness borders the reservoir on its north end. Water is diverted via tunnels to a powerhouse on Big Creek Dam 6.

Portal Forebay, Southern California Edison (N37º19’ W119º4’), is on Camp 61 Creek, a tributary to the San Joaquin River, and is part of the Big Creek Hydroelectric Development in Sierra National Forest. It is located along Kaiser Pass Road and contributes water to the hydroelectric tunnels leading to Huntington Lake.

Redinger Reservoir, Southern California Edison (N37º9’ W119º27’) is on the San Joaquin River in the Sierra National Forest and receives water from Big Creek Dam No. 6.

Shaver Lake, Southern California Edison, California (N37º8’ W119º17’) is on Stevenson Creek, a tributary of the San Joaquin River. Some Sierra National Forest land borders the reservoir. Access is provided by State Route 168. It receives water from Huntington Lake and pumped storage projects. Water from Shaver Lake is diverted to the Big Creek Hydroelectric facilities. The Museum of the Central Sierra is on reservoir lands donated by Southern California Edison.

Other dams on the San Joaquin River and tributaries include two hydroelectric projects operated by Pacific Gas & Electric, Crane Valley and Kerckhoff. The Crane Valley Hydroelectric Project consists of Chilkoot Lake, Browns Creek Diversion Dam, Bass Lake, San Joaquin Powerhouse No. 3 Forebay, Manzanita Lake, South Fork Willow Creek Diversion Dam, North Fork Willow Creek Diversion Dam, and Corrine Lake. On the North Fork Willow Creek in the Sierra National Forest is the Crane Valley Hydroelectric Development of Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The uppermost reservoir of this development is Chilkoot Lake (N37º25’ W119º29’), which is a storage reservoir. Downstream is the largest of the development, Bass Lake (N37º18’ W119º32’), formed by Crane Valley Dam. Supplemental water is diverted to Bass Lake from the Browns Creek Diversion Dam (N37º18’ W119º30’). From the powerhouse at Bass Lake, the water is diverted through tunnels to a forebay at San Joaquin No. 3 Powerhouse (N37º15’ W119º32’). The outflow from the powerhouse goes into Manzanita Lake (N37º15’ W119º31’). From Manzanita Lake water is diverted to the San Joaquin No. 2 Forebay (N37º12’ W119º30’), where additional power is generated. Water from San Joaquin No. 2 forebay is supplemented through diversion dams on the South Fork Willow Creek and North Fork Willow Creek (both N37º13’ W119º30’). From San Joaquin No. 2, water is sent to the San Joaquin No. 1A Powerhouse, which discharges into Corrine Lake (N37º10’ W119º30’). Water from Corrine Lake is sent through the A.G. Wishon powerhouse to the San Joaquin River (PGE 2006).

Bass Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric, California (N37º18’ W119º32’) is on the North Fork Willow Creek in the Sierra National Forest. N. Fork Willow is a San Joaquin River tributary. Recreation areas are operated by private marinas and the Sierra National Forest.

Kerckhoff Diversion Dam, Pacific Gas & Electric (N37º8’ W119º31’) is on the San Joaquin River in the Sierra National Forest and National System of Public Lands. Kerckoff Powerhouse (N37º6’ W119º33’) is just above Millerton Lake on the National System of Public Lands.

Manzanita Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (N37º15’ W119º31’) is on the North Fork Willow Creek. Some Sierra National Forest land adjoins the reservoir.

Stanislaus River, Middle and South Forks

Beardsley Reservoir (N38º13’ W120º4’) and Beardsley Afterbay (N38º12’ W120º5’) are on the Middle Fork Stanislaus River in the Stanislaus National Forest and are operated by the Tri-Dam Project, a partnership of the South San Joaquin and Oakdale Irrigation Districts. It is reached from State Route 108 at Strawberry via Forest Highway 52.

Donnell Reservoir (N38º20’ W119º57’) is on the Middle Fork Stanislaus River in the Stanislaus National Forest and is operated by the Tri-Dam Project. It is visible from State Route 108. The reservoir adjoins the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.

Herring Creek Reservoir (N38º15’ W119º56’) is operated by the Stanislaus National Forest for recreation.

Lyons Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (N38º6’ W120º10’), is on the South Fork Stanislaus River in the Stanislaus National Forest off State Route 108. Water is diverted via the Tuolumne Ditch to Sullivan Creek, and power is generated at the Phoenix Reservoir Powerhouse (N38º0’ W120º19’) on Sullivan Creek near Sonora.

Pinecrest (Strawberry) Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (N38º12’ W119º59’) is on the South Fork Stanislaus River and accessed from State Route 108 in the Stanislaus National Forest. Water is diverted to the Spring Gap Powerhouse on the Middle Fork Stanislaus River for power generation. This reservoir is part of the Spring Gap-Stanislaus Hydroelectric Project.

Relief Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (N38º16’ W119º44’) is on Summit Creek in the Stanislaus National Forest headwaters of the Middle Fork Stanislaus River. It adjoins Emigrant Wilderness and provides supplemental water to downstream reservoirs. Power is generated at the Spring Gap Powerhouse and Stanislaus Powerhouse downstream from Beardsley Lake Afterbay. Relief Reservoir is part of the Spring Gap-Stanislaus Hydroelectric Project.

Sand Bar Dam, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (N38º11’ W120º9’) diverts water from the Middle Fork Stanislaus into a tunnel, which provides water to the Stanislaus Powerhouse (N38º8’ W120º22’) on New Melones Reservoir. Sand Bar Dam is part of the Spring Gap-Stanislaus Hydroelectric Project.

Spring Gap Dam and Powerhouse, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (N38º11’ W120º7’), on the Middle Fork Stanislaus River, receives water from the Pinecrest Lake Diversion on the South Fork Stanislaus River. Spring Gap Dam is part of the Spring Gap-Stanislaus Hydroelectric Project.

Stanislaus River, North Fork

Lake Alpine (N38º29’ W120º0’), Northern California Power Agency, is on Silver Creek adjacent to State Route 4 as well as the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.

Beaver Creek Diversion Dam, Calaveras County Water District (N38º14’ W120º7’), diverts water to McKays Point Reservoir for power generation.

Hunter’s Reservoir (N38º12’ W122º22’) is operated by the Utica Water and Power Authority. The dam stores water and diverts it into the Utica Canal, which crosses Stanislaus National Forest land on the way to Murphy’s Powerhouse along State Route 4 (N38º9’ W120º26’).

McKay’s Point Diversion Dam, Calaveras County Water District (N38º14’ W120º17’) is the entry point for an 8.5-mile tunnel to Collierville Powerhouse (N38º9’ W120º23’), where power is generated.

New Spicer Meadows Reservoir, Calaveras County Water District (N38º24’ W120º0’) is on Highland Creek and is used for storage. It is adjacent to Carson-Iceberg Wilderness.

North Fork Diversion Dam, Calaveras County Water District (N38º26’ W120º1’) sends water from the North Fork Stanislaus River to New Spicer Meadow Reservoir for storage.

Union Reservoir and Utica Reservoir, Northern California Power Agency (N38º26’ W120º0’) are the uppermost reservoirs on the North Fork Stanislaus River. Both release water to the North Fork Diversion Dam (N38º26’ W120º1’) of Calaveras County Water District.

Tuolumne River

Cherry Lake, City of San Francisco (N38º0’ W119º54’) is in the Stanislaus National Forest to the west of Yosemite National Park. Its water is supplemented with a tunnel from Lake Eleanor to the east. Hydroelectric power from Lake Eleanor and Cherry Lake water is generated at the 169-MW Holm Powerhouse (N37º54’ W119º58’) on Cherry Creek in the Stanislaus National Forest.

Lake Eleanor, City of San Francisco, California (N37º59’ W119º52’) is part of the Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric development completed in 1918 by the City in the northwestern edge of Yosemite National Park. A tunnel to the west transfers some Lake Eleanor water to Cherry Lake for storage. Eleanor Creek is a tributary to Cherry Creek, which in turn is a tributary to the Tuolumne River. Hydroelectric power from Lake Eleanor and Cherry Lake water is generated at the 169-MW Holm Powerhouse (N37º54’ W119º58’) on Cherry Creek in the Stanislaus National Forest.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, City of San Francisco (N37º57’ W119º47’) is surrounded by Yosemite National Park and was the subject of one of the epic battles in environmental history. The Sierra Club fought to prevent the dam in the Tuolumne River canyon, but the dam and hydroelectric development by the City of San Francisco was authorized by Congress in 1913. The reservoir was completed in 1923. Hydroelectric power from the reservoir is generated at Kirkwood Powerhouse (N37º53’ W119º57’) on the Tuolumne River in the Stanislaus National Forest and at Moccasin Powerhouse (N37º49’ W120º18’) on the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct at the junction of State Routes 49 and 120 above Don Pedro Reservoir. The Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct continues to the San Francisco Bay area (Crystal Springs Reservoir) and provides drinking water to the metropolitan area.

 

Sierra Nevada Forests, part 3B: National Forest System

The National Forest system in the Yosemite area includes Stanislaus National Forest to the north, Sierra National Forest to the south, and Inyo National Forest to the east. Toiyabe National Forest to the northeast was previously described in Part 2 in the Tahoe-Eldorado region. Within these forests are special areas including the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, experimental forests, and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, administered by the Forest Service. The trail is further described under the National Trails System section. The Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest is further described under Man and the Biosphere Reserves. Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, California, is described separately under Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. Wilderness areas and national recreation trails within the national forest system are also described separately.

Inyo National Forest

Inyo NF, California and Nevada, includes lands in the Sierra Nevada, Great Basin, Great Basin Montane Forest, and Mojave Desert ecoregions. This 1.8-million-acre forest is on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, adjoining Yosemite National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and Sequoia National Park. However, it includes the (eventually) westward-flowing upper Kern River drainage in the Golden Trout Wilderness. The southernmost points in the forest are at Kennedy Meadows (N36º2’ W118º8’) and Tunawee Canyon (N36º3’ W118º0’), while the northernmost point in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion is at Copper Mountain (N38º2’ W119º12’) near Mono Lake. The Ansel Adams Wilderness, Golden Trout Wilderness, Hoover Wilderness, John Muir Wilderness, Owens River Headwaters Wilderness, and South Sierra Wilderness, all described separately, are included in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion portion of Inyo National Forest. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail passes through wilderness areas of the forest (see description under Hoover, Ansel Adams, John Muir, Golden Trout, and South Sierra Wildernesses) and also through Agnew Meadows (N37º41’ W119º5’) and Kennedy Meadows (N36º3’ W118º8’).

Mammoth Lakes to Kennedy Meadows

Much of the Sierra Nevada portion of the forest south of Mammoth Lakes consists of trailheads for the John Muir Wilderness. Some of these trailheads are Whitney Portal (N36º35’ W118º14’), Onion Valley (N36º46’ W118º20’), Oak Creek (N36º51’ W118º18’), Big Pine Creek (N37º7’ W118º27’), South Lake in Bishop Creek Canyon (N37º10’ W118º34’), Lake Sabrina in Bishop Creek Canyon (N37º22’ W118º41’), Rock Creek Canyon (N37º27’ W118º44’), McGee Creek (N37º33’ W118º48’), Mammoth Lakes Basin (N37º36’ W119º0’), and Convict Lake (N37º35’ W118º52’). Oak Creek and Division Creek (N36º56’ W118º17’) are wildflower viewing areas.

At Whitney Portal trailhead west of Lone Pine, trails lead to Mount Whitney and to Meysan Lakes (N36º33’ W118º15’), an alpine lake basin. At Onion Valley west of Independence, trails lead to Kearsage Pass with views of Sequoia National Park, lakes, and boulder fields. At Big Pine Creek, a nine-mile trail leads to Palisades Glacier, the southernmost glacier in North America, passing waterfalls and lakes. The Glacier Lodge cabin development is at the trailhead (N37º7’ W118º26’).  Bishop Creek Canyon (N37º15’ W118º35’) features an 18-mile drive on State Route 168 climbing 5,000 feet in elevation west of Bishop. This passes a Southern California Edison hydroelectric development. Glacier-carved Rock Creek Canyon includes the Little Lakes Valley (N37º26’ W118º45’), 50 lakes surrounded by 13,000-foot peaks. Rock Creek Canyon provides a dramatic vegetation transition in a short distance, from desert to lodgepole pine and subalpine forests. South of Crowley Lake, McGee Creek (N37º33’ W118º48’) is a wildflower viewing area.

The Bishop Creek Hydroelectric System of Southern California Edison consists of reservoirs, diversion dams, and powerhouses, which have their own dams and intakes. On the South Fork Bishop Creek, South Reservoir (N37º10’ W118º34’) provides water storage. The storage is supplemented by water from Bluff Reservoir (N37º11’ W118º33’), which is on Green Creek, a tributary to South Fork Bishop Creek. Water is released from South Reservoir, passes a Weir Lake, then is diverted at the South Fork Diversion Dam (N37º14’ W118º34’) to Intake 2 Reservoir (N37º15’ W118º35’) on the Middle Fork Bishop Creek. On the Middle Fork Bishop Creek, water is also released from Sabrina Reservoir (N37º13’ W118º37’) to Intake 2 Reservoir. Intake 2 Reservoir diverts water to the Second Powerhouse (N37º16’ W118º34’).

Water is also diverted to the Second Powerhouse from storage in Longley Reservoir (N37º17’ W118º40’) on McGee Creek. Downstream from Longley Reservoir, McGee Creek Diversion Dam (N37º17’ W118º38’), Birch Creek Diversion Dam (N37º17’ W118º37’), and East Fork Birch Creek Diversion Dam (N37º16’ W118º36’) also divert water to the 2nd Powerhouse. Below the second powerhouse, another diversion dam sends water to the 3rd Powerhouse (N37º18’ W118º32’), and in turn another diversion sends water to the 4th Powerhouse (N37º19’ W118º30’). The 5th and 6th Powerhouses are not in Inyo National Forest.

The South Fork Kern River is a wild and scenic river as it passes through the forest in the Golden Trout and South Sierra Wilderness areas, as well as in the Monache Meadows (N36º12’ W118º10’) and Kennedy Meadows (N36º2’ W118º8’) areas outside of the wildernesses.

Mammoth Lakes

The remains of a volcanic eruption 760,000 years ago, Long Valley Caldera is bordered by Mammoth Mountain (N37º38’ W119º2’), Crowley Lake (N37º36’ W118º45’), and Glass Mountain (N37º46’ W118º42’). Glass Mountain is part of the Mono Hills IBA, and is noted for long-eared owl and northern harrier. More recent eruptions were 500 years ago at Obsidian Dome (N37º45’ W119º1’) and South Deadman Dome (N37º43’ W119º1’). Inyo Craters (N37º42’ W119º1’) are two volcanic pits. Near Crowley Lake, glacial moraines are visible at McGee Creek (N37º34’ W118º47’) and at Convict Creek (N37º37’ W118º50’).

At Mammoth Lakes, a fissure in the earth called Earthquake Fault (N37º39’ W119º0’) runs through the pine trees near State Route 203. Dead trees in the vicinity of Horseshoe Lake (N37º37’ W119º1’) signal high levels of carbon dioxide emissions underground. Horseshoe Lake is in the Mammoth Lakes Basin, along with four other glacial lakes. State Route 203 continues to Minaret Vista, then Forest Highway 11 descends into the San Joaquin Valley, ending at Reds Meadow (N37º37’ W119º5’), providing access Devils Postpile National Monument, campgrounds, and hiking areas in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Reds Meadow is currently (2016) accessible only by shuttle bus in summer. Sentinel Meadow RNA (N37º48’ W118º48’) is a 3,800-acre lodgepole pine and limber pine forest on the northern rim of the Long Valley Caldera. Whitebark pine, sagebrush, and mountain mahogany vegetation are also present. Indiana Summit RNA (N37º49’ W118º55’) is a pristine Jeffrey pine forest of 1,162 acres on a volcanic plateau. The Middle Fork San Joaquin River is eligible for the wild and scenic rivers system in the Ansel Adams Wilderness and in the Inyo National Forest in the vicinity of Rainbow Falls (N37º36’ W119º5’).

Mono Basin

Between Mammoth Lakes and Lee Vining, June Lake Loop Road (State Route 158) passes a U-shaped canyon with lakes and 270-foot Horsetail Falls (N37º46’ W119º8’), which is on Rush Creek below Agnew Lake. Nearby, a glacial moraine is visible in Bloody Canyon (N37º54’ W119º8’).  The Rush Creek Hydroelectric Project of Southern California Edison includes Agnew Lake (N37º45’ W119º8’) and the Rush Creek Powerhouse on the June Lake Loop. Downstream of the powerhouse, Grant Lake, City of Los Angeles (N37º51’ W119º7’), diverts water to the Owens River watershed for eventual diversion to the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Off of the June Lake Loop, Parker Creek (N37º51’ W119º8’) is a wildflower viewing area for mule ears and balsamroot flowers.

West of Lee Vining, on the road to Yosemite National Park, are waterfalls, campgrounds and resorts in Lee Vining canyon. Tioga Lake (N37º56’ W119º15’), Saddlebag Lake (N37º59’ W119º17’), and Ellery Lake are part of the Southern California Edison Lee Vining hydroelectric project. Between Tioga and Ellery Lakes is the Nunatak Nature Trail, which provides high elevation wildflower identification opportunities. Mono Mills (N37º55’ W118º58’) is a former logging and mining site on State Route 120. Wood was hauled via railroad to Bodie via the east shore of Mono Lake. At the northern edge of the forest, Lundy Lake (N38º2’ W119º14’) is another hydroelectric development of Southern California Edison.

Kings River Special Areas

Kings River Experimental Watersheds, Pacific Southwest Research Station, Sierra National Forest, California is a group of eight watersheds where research is conducted on forest management in the semi-arid, patchy southern Sierra Nevada landscape. There is one watershed in the Teakettle Experimental Forest (N36º58’ W119º2’), three in the Dinkey Creek drainage centered on Bull Creek (N36º59’ W119º5’), and four in the Providence Creek area (N37º3’ W119º12’). Physical, chemical and biological indicators are being collected.

Kings River Special Management Area, Sequoia National Monument and Sierra National Forest, California, is 49,000 acres and protects the 8,000-foot-deep Kings Canyon, and extends from its easternmost point at Horseshoe Bend on State Route 180 on the South Fork Kings River (N36º49’ W118º50’) to the confluence with the North Fork Kings River and to the ridges overlooking the canyon. The southernmost portion is south of Sampson Flat (N36º46’ W119º5’), the northwestern portion is on the North Fork Kings River at Rodgers Ridge (N36º53’ W119º7’), and the northeasternmost portion is at Spanish Mountain (N36º55’ W118º55’). There is a wild trout fishery in the Kings River, and the Boole giant sequoia tree (N36º49’ W118º57’) is in the area. The Kings River National Recreation Trail traverses the area.

Sierra National Forest

Sierra National Forest, California, is 1.3 million acres on the western side of the Sierra Nevada between Yosemite National Park and Kings Canyon National Park. Its northern border is the Merced River and its southern boundary is the Kings River. Dinkey Lakes and Kaiser Wildernesses are completely within the forest, while Ansel Adams, John Muir, and Monarch Wildernesses are in both the Sierra National Forest and adjoining public lands. Wilderness areas are described separately. The granite monoliths of the Sierra Nevada are found in this forest which bridges the gap between Kings Canyon NP and Yosemite NP. Vegetation ranges from grasslands to subalpine meadows; ponderosa pine predominates between 4,000 and 8,000 feet elevation. There are no trans-mountain roads leading across the Sierra Nevada in the Sierra National Forest. State Route 168 is the Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway and ends at Kaiser Pass. The Sierra Vista Scenic byway makes a loop in the northern part of the forest south of Yosemite National Park.

Kings River Watershed

In the southern part of the forest is the Kings River watershed. The Helms Pumped Storage Project of Pacific Gas and Electric Company consists of an upper Courtright Reservoir (N37º5’ W118º59’) and a lower Wishon Reservoir (N37º1’ W118º58’). Both reservoirs are reached by taking Forest Highway 40 east from Shaver Lake. In between is the Helms Powerhouse, capable of 1,212 MW of generation. The powerhourse is in a chamber 1,000 feet underground carved out of granite. Courtright Reservoir adjoins the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness and Wishon Reservoir adjoins Ansel Adams Wilderness. Courtright Intrusive Contact Zone Geological Area (N37º5’ W118º58’) is east of Courtright Dam. The contact between two large granitic intrusions at the bedrock of the Sierra Nevada range may be viewed. On the way to Wishon Reservoir, Forest Route 40 crosses Dinkey Creek and the McKinley Grove Botanical Area (N37º1’ W119º7’), 520 acres surrounding an isolated giant sequoia grove. Dinkey Creek Recreation Area (N37º4’ W119º9’) is in the ponderosa pine zone and contains campgrounds and resorts in a streamside setting. King Caverns Geological Area (N36º 55’ W119º 0’) is 338 acres with three major caves and 2,000 feet of passageway and delicate cave formations.

Water from Wishon Reservoir is diverted downstream into the Haas Tunnel, which transports water to the Haas Powerhouse above Black Rock Reservoir (N36º55’ W119º1’). East of Black Rock Reservoir is the Kings River Geological Area (N36º55’ W118º59’). Water from Black Rock Reservoir enters another tunnel which exits at the Balch Powerhouse on Balch Afterbay (N36º55’ W119º6’). Water from Balch Afterbay enters a tunnel which exits at Kings River Powerhouse on Pine Flat Lake (N36º55’ W119º10’).

Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway

The Sierra Heritage Scenic Byway begins at Clovis on the east side of Fresno and climbs to Kaiser Pass at 9,200 feet elevation. After entering the Sierra Nevada ecoregion, Pineridge Vista (N37º4’ W119º22’) provides a view of a 40-mile flume from Shaver Lake used for logging. At Shaver Lake, the Museum of the Central Sierra (N37º7’ W119º18’) at Camp Edison is on land provided by Southern California Edison. The road continues climbing to Huntington Lake, where it provides access to the China Peak Mountain Resort (N37º14’ W119º0’) and two national recreation trails (NRTs) on Sierra National Forest lands. The byway ends at White Bark Vista Point (N37º17’ W119º5’) near Kaiser Pass, adjacent to the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. From Kaiser Pass, Forest Route 80 continues to Mono Hot Springs (N37º20’ W119º1’) on the South Fork San Joaquin River.

Along the State Route 168 corridor, Dinkey Creek Roof Pendant Geological Area (N37º9’ W119º6’) is 640 acres established to interpret a sequence of five sedimentary rock units metamorphosed by intruded granite. Near Huntington Lake are Black Point National Recreation Trail and Rancheria Falls NRT, described separately. Crater Lake Meadow proposed Geological Area (N37º24’ W119º9′), is 80 acres partially in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. The mountaintop depression is a volcanic pipe of basalt about 3.5 million years old. Granite boulders deposited by glaciers dot the meadow.

The Big Creek Hydroelectric Development of Southern California Edison is accessed from State Route 168 and consists of multiple reservoirs and tunnels in the Sierra National Forest. The complex system is on the South Fork San Joaquin River, San Joaquin River, and Big Creek, all of which are near SR 168. The uppermost reservoirs are on the South Fork San Joaquin River and tributaries. Florence Lake (N37º16’ W118º58’) is on the South Fork San Joaquin River. Its water is supplemented by a diversion dam on Hooper Creek (N37º18’ W118º57’). Water from Florence Lake is diverted into the Ward Tunnel. Water from Chinquapin (N37º18’ W119º1’), Camp 62 (N37º18’ W119º2’), and Bolsillo (N37º19’ W119º2’) Creeks is also diverted to the Ward Tunnel. Lake Thomas A. Edison (N37º23’ W118º59’)) receives water from Mono Creek and Warm Creek. The Mono Creek Diversion Dam (N37º21’ W119º0’) below Lake Thomas A. Edison and the Bear Creek Diversion Dam (N37º20’ W118º59’) divert water to the Mono-Bear Siphon, which also feeds the Ward Tunnel. Ward Tunnel passes the Portal Forebay (N37º19’ W119º4’), where it captures water from Camp 61 Creek, then exits the tunnel through Portal powerhouse at Huntington Lake (N37º14’ W119º12’).

Water from Huntington Lake (Big Creek Dam 3 Reservoir) may be diverted through three pathways. Tunnel 1 leads to a powerhouse above Big Creek Dam 4 Reservoir (N37º12’ W119º14’). Tunnel 7 delivers water to North Fork Stevenson Creek, a tributary of Shaver Lake, or as is usually the case, Tunnel 7 delivers water to Balsam Meadows Forebay (N37º10’ W119º15’). Tunnel 7 also receives diverted water from Pittman Creek (N37º12’ W119º13’). If sent to Balsam Meadows Forebay, the water passes through the Eastwood Powerhouse on Shaver Lake (N37º7’ W119º17’). Shaver Lake is operated as a pumped storage facility with Balsam Meadows Forebay, which is not on national forest lands.

Water from Shaver Lake is diverted through Tunnel 5 to a powerhouse on Big Creek Dam 5 reservoir (N37º12’ W119º18’). Big Creek Dam 5 reservoir also receives water via Tunnel 2 from Big Creek Dam 4 Reservoir. Water in Tunnel 2 is supplemented by water from Balsam Creek (N37º11’ W119º16’) and Ely Creek (N37º11’ W119º17’).

On the San Joaquin River is Mammoth Pool Reservoir (N37º20’ W119º19’). Water from Mammoth Pool is diverted to a powerhouse on Big Creek Dam 6 (N37º12’ W119º20’), which is on the San Joaquin River. Dam 6 also receives water from Big Creek Dam 5 reservoir. The powerhouse on Dam 6 also receives water diverted from Rock Creek (N37º16’ W119º20’) and Ross Creek (N37º14’ W119º21’).

Below Bear Creek Dam 6, water is diverted through Tunnel 3 to Redinger Lake (N37º9’ W119º27’). Water from Redinger Reservoir is diverted to a powerhouse on the upper end of Kerckhoff Reservoir (N37º8’ W119º31’), which is operated by Pacific Gas & Electric. Kerckoff Powerhouse (N37º6’ W119º33’) is just above Millerton Lake in the California Interior Chaparral ecoregion.

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway

The Sierra Vista Scenic Byway has Yosemite-like scenery, with granite domes and rock formations. It begins at North Fork (N37º14’ W119º31’) and follows a loop using Forest Highways 81, 7, and 10, ending at Yosemite Forks on State Route 41. At North Fork is the Cedars Interpretive Trail along Willow Creek. Leaving North Fork on County Road 225 (Italian Bar Road), the byway passes the geographic center of California marker (N37º10’ W119º27’). The route then backtracks to follow Forest Highway 81 (Minarets Road). On Minarets Road is an overlook of Redinger Reservoir (N37º11’ W119º26’), then the road climbs to Ross Cabin (N37º14’ W119º22’), built in the 1860s near a Mono Indian Trail. The Mile High Vista (N37º19’ W119º21’) provides expansive views of the Minarets and numerous domes and buttes. A granite arch known as Arch Rock (N37º27’ W119º17’) is further up Minarets Road.

The byway turns west at Beasore Road (Forest Highway 7) to Jackass Meadow (N37º30’ W119º20’). On Forest Highway 7, Portuguese Overlook (N37º30’ W119º22’) provides a view of the Balls, a series of granite domes in the Ansel Adams Wilderness. Globe Rock (N37º29’ W119º25’) is a granite sphere, precariously perched. Cold Springs Meadow (N37º25’ W119º30’), the highest point on the drive at 7,300 feet, provides a view of Madera Peak.

Continuing on Sky Ranch Road (Forest Highway 10), the byway provides a view of Fresno Dome (N37º27’ W119º32’), then continues to Nelder Grove Historical Area (N37º26’ W119º35’), a 1,400-acre giant sequoia grove that was subjected to lumber activity between 1884 and 1893. There are also more than 100 mature trees left. At Nelder Grove is the Shadow of the Giants National Recreation Trail.

On the North Fork Willow Creek in the Sierra National Forest is the Crane Valley Hydroelectric Development of Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The uppermost reservoir of this development is Chilkoot Lake (N37º25’ W119º29’), which is a storage reservoir. Downstream is the largest of the development, Bass Lake (N37º18’ W119º32’), formed by Crane Valley Dam. Supplemental water is diverted to Bass Lake from the Browns Creek Diversion Dam (N37º18’ W119º30’). From the powerhouse at Bass Lake, the water is diverted through tunnels to a forebay at San Joaquin No. 3 Powerhouse (N37º15’ W119º32’). The outflow from the powerhouse goes into Manzanita Lake (N37º15’ W119º31’). From Manzanita Lake water is diverted to the San Joaquin No. 2 Forebay (N37º12’ W119º30’), where additional power is generated. Water from San Joaquin No. 2 forebay is supplemented through diversion dams on the South Fork Willow Creek and North Fork Willow Creek (both N37º13’ W119º30’). From San Joaquin No. 2, water is sent to the San Joaquin No. 1A Powerhouse, which discharges into Corrine Lake (N37º10’ W119º30’). Water from Corrine Lake is sent through the A.G. Wishon powerhouse to the San Joaquin River (PGE 2006).

Southwest of Yosemite

Along State Route 41 to the south of Yosemite is the Lewis Creek National Recreation Trail, described separately, providing access to waterfalls. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad (N37º27’ W119º39’), a tourist train, and is nearby to SR 41, as is the Miami Off-Highway Vehicle riding area. Bishop Creek candidate Research Natural Area (N37º36’ W119º42’) is a ponderosa pine stand south of Bishop Creek on the Yosemite National Park boundary southwest of Yosemite Valley. It adjoins the South Fork Merced National Wild and Scenic River. Devils Peak proposed Botanical Area (N37º 36’ W119º 45’) is 1,600 acres protecting Yosemite onion, Congdon’s woolly sunflower and lewisia.

Merced River is designated a wild and scenic river along the northern boundary of the Sierra National Forest from El Portal (N37º40’ W119º49’) to Briceburg (N37º36’ W119º58’). Between El Portal and Briceburg, the vegetation is pine-oak savannah and chaparral. The section from Briceburg to Lake McClure (N37º36’ W120º6’) is considered eligible for the wild and scenic river system. The river in the Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests contains five outstandingly remarkable values (USDA, FS 2015):

  • Geology: contact between metasedimentary and granitic rock
  • Vegetation: four state-listed rare and endangered plants
  • Wildlife: threatened salamander habitat
  • Recreation: white water rafting, camping and hiking
  • Cultural: old Yosemite railroad and mining sites)

South Fork Merced River within the Sierra National Forest is a wild and scenic river. The sections on the boundary with Yosemite National Park (N37º32’ W119º31’) and downstream from the park (N37º35’ W119º42’) for 18 miles to the confluence with the Merced River (N37º39’ W119º53’) are included in the designation. The river contains five outstandingly remarkable values (USDA forest service 2015).

  • Recreation: fishing, nature study, white water rafting
  • Geology: oldest gold-bearing rocks
  • Wildlife: riparian dependent wildlife and rare limestone salamander
  • Fisheries: habitat for native fish
  • Botany: four state-listed rare plants

Stanislaus National Forest

Stanislaus National Forest, California, is 898,000 acres between the Merced River and North Fork Mokelumne River. The forest borders Yosemite National Park on the east. Wilderness areas are Carson-Iceberg, Emigrant, and Mokelumne. Within the Stanislaus, the Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest, described separately, is a Biosphere Reserve. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail passes through the wilderness areas of the forest and is accessed at Ebbetts Pass (N38º33’ W119º49’) and Sonora Pass (N38º20’ W119º38’). The forest includes portions of the Merced and Tuolumne National Wild and Scenic Rivers and two national recreation trails.

Merced River

The southern boundary of the Forest is the Merced Wild and Scenic River. Merced River is designated a wild and scenic river along the southern boundary of the Stanislaus National Forest from El Portal (N37º40’ W119º49’) to Briceburg (N37º36’ W119º58’). Between El Portal and Briceburg, the vegetation is pine-oak savannah and chaparral. The section from Briceburg to Lake McClure (N37º36’ W120º6’) is considered eligible for the wild and scenic river system. The river in the Sierra and Stanislaus National Forests contains five outstandingly remarkable values (USDA, FS 2015):

  • Geology: contact between metasedimentary and granitic rock
  • Vegetation: four state-listed rare and endangered plants
  • Wildlife: threatened salamander habitat
  • Recreation: white water rafting, camping and hiking
  • Cultural: old Yosemite railroad and mining sites

North of the Merced River, the Trumbull Peak Historic and Botanical Area (N37º41’ W119º52’) is 150 acres west of El Portal. The area includes a railroad spur, a logging incline from the peak to the Merced River, and Trumbull Peak lookout. There are populations of three sensitive plants, Allium yosemitense, Eriophyllum congdonii, and Lewisia congdonii. To the northwest in the North Fork Merced watershed, the Jordan Creek Bower Cave Cultural and Geologic Area (N37º45’ W120º2’) is 1,600 acres on Forest Highway 20 south of State Route 120, or east of Coulterville on Greely Hill Road. The site includes a wildflower area, cave, and tribal sacred site. Grizzly Mountain Research Natural Area (N37º43’ W119º55’) is 668 acres with California black oak, ponderosa pine, and chaparral. It is west of Yosemite National Park and north of the Merced River off of Forest Highway 20.

Tuolumne River

South of State Route 120 off of Forest Road 1S13, the Pacific Madrone Botanical Area (N37º48’ W120º0’) is 15 acres in two tracts near the South Fork Tuolumne River. It contains the southernmost groves of Arbutus menziesii, a species more commonly found in coastal areas of the Pacific Northwest. In the Clavey River watershed, a tributary to the Tuolumne, Bell Meadow Research Natural Area (N38º10’ W119º56’) is an aspen stand in a Jeffrey pine forest. William B. Critchfield RNA (N38º7’ W119º54’) is at Bourland Meadows adjoining the Emigrant Wilderness. The 1,003-acre RNA is a red fir research site. Oak scrub is also present. Bourland Creek Trestle Historic Area (N38º3’ W120º0’) is near Forest Road 2N14 off Forest Highway 31. The large, curved wooden trestle is 76 feet above the creek. Nearby is Jawbone Falls Heritage Area (N38º1’ W119º58’), off of Forest Highway 31.

North of State Route 120, Cherry Lake (N37º57’ W119º55’), along with Holm Powerhouse on Cherry Creek (N37º54’ W119º58’)and Kirkwood Powerhouse on the Tuolumne River (N37º53’ W119º57’) within the forest are part of the Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric development of the City of San Francisco. On the South Fork Tuolumne River near State Route 120 is the San Jose Family Camp (N37º50’ W120º0’), operated by the City of San Jose on Stanislaus National Forest lands. Downstream from Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park is the Tuolumne Wild and Scenic River (see separate description).

Route 108 to Sonora Pass

State Route 108 bisects the forest between Mi-Wuk Village and Sonora Pass. At the western edge of the forest, the West Side Railroad Grade Trail (N38º0’ W120º12’) provides North Fork Tuolumne River canyon views. Lyons Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (N38º6’ W120º10’), is on the South Fork Stanislaus River in the Stanislaus National Forest off State Route 108 at Sierra Village. Water is diverted via the Tuolumne Ditch to Sullivan Creek, and power is generated outside the forest at the Phoenix Reservoir Powerhouse (N38º0’ W120º19’). Uphill on SR 108, Pinecrest Lake (N38º12’ W119º59’), also called Strawberry Reservoir, is operated by Pacific Gas & Electric Company on national forest lands.

Near Pinecrest Lake is the Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest (described under Man and the Biosphere Reserves) and Pinecrest National Recreation Trail (described separately). Bull Run Scenic and Geologic Area (N38º15’ W119º57’) is 340 acres, featuring a horseshoe-shaped, lava-capped ridge with unique rock formations. The Trail of the Gargoyles traces the rim. It is found on Forest Road 4N12 (Herring Creek Road) off of State Route 108. Further up Herring Creek Road is a mountain biking area surrounding Herring Creek Reservoir (N38º15’ W119º56’), operated by the Stanislaus National Forest for recreation.

On the Middle Fork Stanislaus River north of State Route 108 are reservoirs and hydroelectric developments. Within the national forest are Sand Bar Dam and tunnel (N38º11’ W120º9’) and Spring Gap Dam and Powerhouse (N38º11’ W120º7’), operated by Pacific Gas & Electric Company. Beardsley Reservoir (N38º13’ W120º4’), Beardsley Afterbay (N38º12’ W120º5’), and Donnell Reservoir (N38º20’ W119º57’) are operated by the Tri-Dam Project, a partnership of the South San Joaquin and Oakdale Irrigation Districts. Niagara Creek and Falls Scenic and Geologic Area (N38º20’ W119º56’), is 320 acres adjacent to State Route 108 near Donnell Lake. A 900-foot waterfall, 500 feet of which is freefall, cascades into the lake in the spring from a hanging valley. By taking Forest Route 5N01 for 12 miles east of SR108, the turnoff for the Bennett Juniper (N38º19’ W119º48’) is on the western edge of Sardine Meadow. This is the largest living western juniper tree.

A few miles to the east of Donnell Reservoir on State Route 108 is the Columns of the Giants Scenic and Geologic Area (38º20’ W119º48’), 105 acres featuring unique columnar basalt formations also found at Devils Postpile National Monument (see under National Park System). Clark Fork candidate Research Natural Area (N38º23’ W119º48’) is 460 acres in the Middle Fork Stanislaus area and contains examples of white fir and red fir forest. Relief Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric Company (N38º16’ W119º44’) is on Summit Creek in the Stanislaus National Forest headwaters of the Middle Fork Stanislaus River. It adjoins Emigrant Wilderness and provides supplemental water to downstream reservoirs. The Middle Fork Stanislaus River is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from the Emigrant Wilderness boundary (N38º18’ W119º44’) downstream 15 miles to Donnell Reservoir (N38º21’ W119º56’). Deadman Creek is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from Sonora Pass (N38º20’ W119º38’) downstream to the confluence with the Middle Fork Stanislaus River (N38º19’ W119º45’). Both streams are adjacent to State Route 108. The California National Historic Trail traverses the forest in the Emigrant Wilderness (see) and from Burst Rock (N38º12’ W119º52’) west to Long Barn on State Route 108 east of Sonora (N38º5’ W120º9’).

Route 4 to Ebbets Pass

State Route 4 bisects the forest between Columbia and Ebbets Pass. Windeler Cave Geologic Area (N38º5’ W120º21’) is near Silver Gulch on Forest Road 2N63 northeast of Columbia. The limestone cave is 2,500-feet long with stalagtite and stalagmite formations. At the edge of the national forest along SR 4, Hunter’s Reservoir (N38º12’ W120º22’) is operated by the Utica Water and Power Authority. The dam stores water and diverts it into the Utica Canal, which crosses national forest land on the way to Murphy’s Powerhouse along SR 4 (N38º9’ W120º26’). Arnold Rim Trail extends to the west of SR 4 from Crescent Cove (N38º11’ W120º23’) north to the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum (N38º16’ W120º21’), which overlooks White Pines Reservoir (N38º16’ W120º21’) of the Calaveras County Water District. Further up SR 4, Highland Lakes former Research Natural Area (N38º29’ W119º48’) is a 440-acre mountain hemlock and wet meadow area adjacent to the Carson Iceberg Wilderness. The North Fork Mokelumne River is eligible for the national wild and scenic rivers system from Highland Lakes (N38º30’ W119º48’) downstream nine miles to the Mokelumne Wilderness boundary (N38º32’ W119º55’) downstream of State Route 4.Highland Lakes are reached by turning off State Route 4 west of Ebbets Pass. Downstream of the Mokelumne Wilderness on the North Fork Mokelumne River, Salt Springs Reservoir (N38º30’ W120º11’) is operated by Pacific Gas & Electric on national forest lands. At the western edge of the forest, Schaads Reservoir (N38º23’ W120º26’) is a hydroelectric reservoir on the Middle Fork Mokelumne River. It is operated by the Calaveras Public Utility District.

To the south of State Route 4 in the forest are hydroelectric reservoirs and facilities on the North Fork Stanislaus and tributaries operated by the Northern California Power Agency. The Upper Utica Project consists of three reservoirs. Lake Alpine (N38º29’ W120º0’) is on Silver Creek adjacent to State Route 4 as well as the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Union Reservoir (N38º26’ W120º0’) is the uppermost reservoir on the North Fork Stanislaus River. Just downstream is Utica Reservoir. Both release water to the North Fork Diversion Dam (N38º26’ W120º1’) of Calaveras County Water District, which sends water to New Spicer Meadows Reservoir (N38º24’ W120º0’) on Highland Creek for storage. Downstream, water from the North Fork Stanislaus River reaches McKays Point Reservoir (N38º14’ W120º17’) of the Calaveras County Water District. Water from Beaver Creek Diversion Dam (N38º14’ W120º7’) is also diverted to McKays Point Reservoir. At McKays Point, the water enters an 8.5-mile tunnel for power generation at Collierville Powerhouse (N38º9’ W120º23’) on New Melones Reservoir.

Teakettle Experimental Forest

Teakettle Experimental Forest, Sierra National Forest, California (N36º58’ W119º2’), is a watershed management research area with a red fir forest and meadows, located west of the North Fork Kings River on Forest Road 11S12, Black Rock Road.

 

Sierra Nevada Forests, part 3A: Yosemite

The discussion in the next series of posts focuses on the area around Yosemite National Park, including the adjoining national forests. This post describes the Yosemite World Heritage Site.

Yosemite World Heritage Site

There is one World Heritage Site in the Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion. Yosemite National Park, California, is 748,000 acres carved by the glacial erosion of granite, resulting in perhaps the world’s most famous national park landscape. The distinctive landscape of hanging valleys, waterfalls, cirque lakes, polished domes, moraines, and U-shaped valleys. Major park areas are the Yosemite Valley, Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River, which is in a roadless area between Tuolumne Meadows and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Tuolumne Grove, Mariposas Grove, Wawona Dome and Chilnualna Fall, and Glacier Point. The high meadows between 4500 and 7000 feet are part of the Sierra Meadows South important bird area (IBA). One of the few trans-mountain roads in the southern Sierra Nevada is the Tioga Road, which passes through Tuolumne Meadows. The Sierra Nevada Research Station of the University California Natural Reserve System is located in Wawona along the South Fork of the Merced River. Most of the park is also designated as the 704,600-acre Yosemite Wilderness. Exclusion areas outside the wilderness are the roads, hydroelectric reservoirs, private inholdings, campgrounds, and high-volume visitor areas including Yosemite Valley, Wawona, and Glacier Point. These are described first, then the wilderness is described. In addition to the natural features, there are five national historic landmarks in the park.

Areas outside the Yosemite Wilderness include:

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir (N37º57’ W119º47’) and Lake Eleanor (N37º59’ W119º52’) within the park are part of the Hetch Hetchy hydroelectric development of the City of San Francisco. These are described separately in the recreation lakes section.

Aspen Valley (N37º50’ W119º46’) is an area of private inholdings at 6,200-feet elevation on the former Tioga Road (connecting White Wolf with Big Oak Flat) off of Evergreen Road. The 1879 two-story Hodgdon Homestead Cabin was relocated from Aspen Valley to the Pioneer Yosemite History Center in 1960. It is used as an authentic building to interpret pioneer history.

On Big Oak Flat Road are campgrounds and sequoia groves. Merced Grove (N37º45’ W119º50’) is an area of 20 sequoia trees about one mile south of Big Oak Flat Road. Tuolumne Grove (N37º46’ W119º48’) of giant sequoias is one mile north of the junction of Tioga Pass Road and Big Oak Flat Road. Foresta (N37º42’ W119º45’) is an area of private inholdings at 4,200-foot elevation with 30 private homes, some of which are available for vacation rentals, on the western boundary of the park off of Big Oak Flat Road on Coulterville Road.

On Tioga Road are campgrounds and spur roads to other campgrounds such as Tamarack Flat, White Wolf, and Yosemite Creek. White Wolf (N37º52’ W119º39’) is a lodge and campground area and trailhead for the western part of Tioga Road. Tuolumne Meadows (N37º52’ W119º22’) is a lodge and trail head for the high alpine meadows portion of the park along Tioga Road. Yosemite High Sierra Camps are a series of five hike-in tent villages to the west and south of Tuolumne Meadows. These facilities have beds and serve dinner. The camps are located at Glen Aulin (N37º55’ W119º25’), May Lake (N37º51’ W119º30’), Merced Lake (N37º44’ W119º24’), Sunrise (N37º48’ W119º26’), and Vogelsang (N37º48’ W119º21’). The immediate area around the camps is excluded from the wilderness, but the entire trail access is within the wilderness. Vogelsang is the highest camp, at 10,300 feet elevation, and Merced Lake is the lowest, at 7,150 feet. It is currently possible to make reservations at individual camps rather than for the entire 50-mile loop (Ryan 2015).

Parsons Memorial Lodge National Historic Landmark (N37º53’ W119º22’) is located in the Tuolumne Meadows area off Tioga Pass Road.  Built in 1915 by the Sierra Club, it was one of the earliest rustic stone buildings in the national parks. The building was named for Edward Taylor Parsons, a Sierra Club director who was involved in the political fight over allowing Hetch Hetchy Dam to be built in a national park. The Sierra Club lost that battle when Hetch Hetchy and Lake Eleanor were authorized by Congress in 1913. The site commemorates the role of the Tuolumne River in inspiring conservation of the natural world nationwide.

Yosemite Valley (N37º45’ W119º35’) was the center of the first land grant for Yosemite in 1864 and is the major park destination today. The 1980 park General Management Plan describes it as the premiere masterwork of the natural world. Iconic waterfalls line the sheer rock walls of the glaciated valley. Campgrounds and visitor accommodations are also here, although reservations are hard to get. Trails in Yosemite Valley lead to Bridalveil Fall, Mirror Lake, Vernal Fall, Nevada Fall, Yosemite Falls, and Half Dome. At 2,425 feet, Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America.

Majestic Yosemite Hotel National Historic Landmark (N37º45’ W119º34’)* is part of the Yosemite Valley Historic District and is on the north side of the Merced River at the base of the Royal Arches rock formation on the north valley wall. Built in 1927, the hotel is seven stories and a symbol of design excellence, 1920 architectural ideals, and Rustic-style architecture on a previously unimagined scale. A Great Lounge provides the feel of a national park hotel. The NHL is significant for its role in development of tourism, national parks, concessions in national parks, and in the public appreciation of the national park system (National Park Service 2011).

*In 2016, there is a dispute about names of some concessionaire facilities.

Le Conte Memorial Lodge National Historic Landmark (N37º45’ W119º35’) is on the south side of the Merced River in the Yosemite Valley near the Housekeeping Camp. It was constructed in 1903 by the Sierra Club to disseminate information about the Sierra Nevada and is still used for that purpose. Club volunteers man the memorial in the summer months. In 1919 it was moved to its present location across from the Housekeeping Camp. The structure is unique in the national parks for its Tudor revival architecture. Its historic significance is as a principal foothold of the Sierra Club in the mountains for which it was named.

Rangers’ Club National Historic Landmark (N37º45’ W119º35’) is on the south side of the Merced River in Half Dome Village.* The rustic chalet was built in 1920 and donated to the park by Stephen Mather, the first director of the National Park Service, with the idea that rangers serving in the remote location could be provided a place of their own. The Rustic style was intended for national park architecture to harmonize with nature. The interior of the building has Arts and Crafts characteristics.

**In 2016, there is a dispute about names of some concessionaire facilities.

South of Yosemite Valley, Wawona Road leads to the south entrance. A spur road off of the Wawona Road leads to Badger Pass, Bridalveil Creek, and Glacier Point. Glacier Point (N37º44’ W119º34’) is a 3,000-foot sheer cliff that overlooks Yosemite Valley and is a trailhead for the southern portions of the park. Ostrander Ski Hut (N37º37’ W119º33’) is a winter use facility south of Bridalveil Creek. The immediate area around the hut is excluded from the wilderness, but the trail access traverses the wilderness. Wawona (N37º32’ W119º39’) includes the Pioneer Yosemite History Center and the Big Trees Hotel National Historic Landmark, described below. The Pioneer Yosemite History Center is a collection of historic structures from different locations within Yosemite.

Big Trees Hotel National Historic Landmark (N37º32’ W119º39’)* is on the South Fork Merced River. It is the largest Victorian hotel in a national park, built between 1876 and 1918, and it has operated for more than 100 years. It was constructed on the homestead of one of Yosemite’s earliest settlers, Galen Clark, and and was also the site of a stage station at the crossing of the South Fork Merced River. The seven-building national historic landmark complex contains the studio of Thomas Hill, a landscape painter of the Hudson River School, who painted here from 1886 to 1908. The other six buildings are the main hotel, the Annex, Clark Cottage, the Manager’s House, Moore’s Cottage, and Washburn Cottage.

*In 2016, there is a dispute about names of some concessionaire facilities.

At the southwestern edge of the park is Mariposa Grove (N37º31’ W119º36’). Together with Yosemite Valley, this was the first area set aside by Congress for preservation of Yosemite in 1864 and is considered the birthplace of the national park idea. The giant sequoias occupy about 500 acres and include 500 mature trees. In 2015, a parking area and transit hub is being developed at the park’s south entrance to provide visitor access and protection of the grove.

The Yosemite Wilderness designation includes 705,000 acres. The wilderness is bordered by the Emigrant Wilderness to the north, Hoover to the northeast, Ansel Adams to the southeast. The northernmost point is near Dorothy Lake (N38º11’ W119º35’), the southernmost near Mariposa Grove (N37º30’ W119º35’), the westernmost near Lake Eleanor (N37º59’ W119º53’), and the easternmost at Mount Lewis (N37º51’ W119º12’). Some major features within the wilderness are Jack Main Canyon (N38º3’ W119º41’), the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne River (N37º56’ W119º33’), Lyell Canyon (N37º49’ W119º17’), Little Yosemite Valley (N37º44’ W119º30’), and  Buena Vista Crest (N37º36’ W119º29’).

Trails lead into the wilderness from Hetch Hetchy area (Wapama Falls, Rancheria Falls, Smith Peak), Big Oak Flat (Carlon Falls on South Fork Tuolumne River [from Evergreen Road in Stanislaus National Forest]), Tuolumne Meadows (Lyell Canyon, Mono Pass, Cathedral lakes, Gaylor Lake, Elizabeth Lakes, and Tuolumne River waterfalls), White Wolf (Lukens Lake, Harden Lake, North Dome, Ten Lakes), Glacier Point Road (Sentinel Dome, McGurk Meadow, Mono Meadow), and Wawona (Chilnaulna Falls). The John Muir Trail begins in Yosemite Valley and climbs to Tuolumne Meadows, where it joins the Pacific Crest Trail and continues south to Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail traverses the wilderness from Donohue Pass on the Ansel Adams Wilderness boundary (N37º46’ W119º15’) north to Dorothy Lakes Pass on the Hoover Wilderness boundary (N38º11’ W119º35’), passing Lyell Canyon, Tuolumne Meadows, Tuolumne Falls, Virginia Canyon, Matterhorn Canyon, and Jack Main Canyon.

Merced River within Yosemite National Park and wilderness is part of the wild and scenic river system. The river is designated from its source on Mount Lyell to Briceburg (N37º36’ W119º58’), including glacially carved Yosemite Valley. There are four source streams that are included in the designation. Red Peak Fork (N37º40’ W119º23’), Merced Peak Fork (N37º39’ W119º23’), and Triple Peak Fork (N37º38’ W119º20’) confluence from the south, and Lyell Fork (N37º44’ W119º16’) enters from the east. From its source to El Portal (N37º40’ W119º49’)(the Yosemite National Park portion), the river flows through a conifer forest. South Fork Merced River within Yosemite National Park and Wilderness is a wild and scenic river from its source at Chain Lakes (N37º34’ W119º24’) downstream for 22 miles to the park boundary (N37º35’ W119º42’). The river passes the Wawona area. The Tuolumne River and its headwater tributaries Dana Fork and Lyell Fork are designated as wild and scenic rivers within the park and wilderness except for a section of the Tuolumne River at Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. These are described in the wild and scenic rivers section.

Man and the Biosphere Reserves

There are two Biosphere reserves in the Sierra Nevada, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and the Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest.

Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest Man and the Biosphere Reserve

Stanislaus-Tuolumne Experimental Forest, Stanislaus National Forest, California (N38º11’ W119º59’), is on both sides of State Route 108 near Pinecrest. This 1,700-acre research forest is composed of sugar pine, mixed conifer, and black oak forests in two units. One tract is south of Pinecrest and the other is on the South Fork Stanislaus River.

Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, California, is known for its tufa towers of evaporated salt, the area includes Mono Lake and volcanoes in the Great Basin ecoregion. However, Mono Dome (N37º58’ W119º10’) in the Hoover Wilderness and a portion of the Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion that overlooks the lake is included in the National Forest Scenic Area.

National Historic Landmarks

There are five National Historic Landmarks in Yosemite National Park, which are described under the Yosemite National Park World Heritage Site entry.

Sierra Nevada Forests, part 2E: Tahoe-Eldorado Local Sites

Part 2E describes state and local sites. Donner Memorial State Park is described under National Historic Landmarks. Emerald Bay State Park is described under National Natural Landmarks.

Mother Lode

Antelope Valley Wildlife Area, California, is 5,600 acres in two units on the south side of Sierra Valley. Vegetation is sagebrush and Jeffrey pine. The Antelope Valley unit (N39º38’ W120º17’) is on Sierra County Road 855 south of State Route 49. The Merry-Go-Round unit (N39º40’ W120º20’) is on State Route 49 north of Sierraville.

Auburn State Recreation Area, California, is 38,000 acres along the North and Middle Forks of the American River. The large area contains riparian, chaparral, and mixed conifer habitats with 100 miles of trails and whitewater recreation. Lake Clementine (N38º56’ W121º1’), constructed by the US Army Corps of Engineers on the North Fork American River, is within the recreation area. From the lower end in Knickerbocker Canyon (N38º52’ W121º3’), the area extends along the North Fork to Iowa Hill Road (N39º6’ W120º55’) and along the Middle Fork to Stoney Bar-Mosquito Ridge Road (N39º1’ W120º45’). The Western States Pioneer National Recreation Trail begins in Auburn State Recreation Area at Maidu Drive and China Bar Road in Auburn (N38º52’ W121º4’), follows the Middle Fork American River to Foresthill, then enters the Tahoe National Forest (N39º2’ W120º47’

Blodgett Forest Research Station, University of California-Berkeley (N38º54’ W120º40’), is 4,270 acres 12 miles east of Georgetown on Wentworth Springs Road (Forest Highway 1). It contains a mixed conifer forest with ponderosa pine, sugar pine, white fir, incense cedar, Douglas-fir, and black oak.

Central Sierra Snow Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley (N39º19’ W120º22’), is at Donner Pass off of I-80 at Soda Springs. The laboratory is used for research on snow physics, hydrology, meteorology, and climatology.

Chickering American River Reserve, University of California Natural Reserve System (N39º14’ W120º18’) is 16,900 acres at the headwaters of the North Fork American River bordered by Tahoe National Forest and North Fork Reserve. The area has soda water springs, black oak, conifers, aspen, and meadows.

Crocker Meadows Wildlife Area, California (N39º51’ W120º23’) is 1,700 acres of montane chaparral in two units. Vegetation is sagebrush and bitterbrush with scattered black oak and pine. The site is on Plumas County Road 111 north of Beckwourth and adjoins the Plumas National Forest.

Empire Mine State Historic Park, California (N39º12’ W121º3’) is 850 acres off of State Route 174 in Grass Valley. This was the oldest, largest, deepest, longest, and richest gold mine in California, operated for 100 years from 1850 to 1956. There are mine and building tours, including a map of 367 miles of shafts, and eight miles of multi-use trails.

Finnon Lake, Mosquito Volunteer Fire Association (N38º48’ W120º45’) is a reservoir recreation area north of Placerville on Jaybird Creek, a tributary to South Fork American River (finnonrecreationarea.com).

Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park, California (N38º26’ W120º38’) is 135 acres with more than 1,000 mortar holes, the largest collection in North America. It is located on the Pine Grove Volcano Road off of State Route 88 east of Jackson. Also at the site are camping opportunities in bark houses, the Chaw’se Regional Indian Museum, a reconstructed Miwok Village, petroglyphs, and trails.

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park, California (N39º22’ W120º55’), is 3,100 acres north of Nevada City in the San Juan Ridge area. Huge cliffs overlooking Humbug Creek are the remnants of hydraulic mining for gold from the 1850s to the 1880s. The historic gold-mining town of North Bloomfield is also within the park, which extends downstream to the South Yuba River. There are 20 miles of trails. Because entire mountains were being washed away and silt was flowing into San Francisco Bay, endangering navigation, tailings were prohibited from being dumped into the nearby South Yuba River by an 1884 court order. The court decision ended hydraulic mining in the area. The park adjoins South Yuba State Park and Tahoe National Forest lands.

Smithneck Creek Wildlife Area, California (N39º39’ W120º12’) is 1,400 acres south of Loyalton on Sierra County Road 860. Vegetation is sagebrush-bitterbrush and pine. It adjoins the Tahoe National Forest.

South Yuba River State Park, California, stretches for 20 miles with 10 scattered tracts of state lands along the river. The area is approximately 8,700 acres. The upstream end is at Missouri Bar (N39º21’ W120º53’) and the downstream end is at Bridgeport (N39º18’ W121º12’). The park features historic Bridgeport mining camp, the Bridgeport Covered Bridge, the largest single-span covered bridge in existence, and 12 trails. Activity areas are the Hoyt Crossing (N39º18’ W121º5’), which includes a 2.2-mile wheelchair accessible Independence Trail, Purdon Crossing (N39º20’ W121º3’), which is the trailhead for the South Yuba Trail, and Edwards Crossing (N39º20’ W120º59’).  The South Yuba River between Lake Spaulding and the confluence with the Yuba River is a California State Wild and Scenic River.

Mount Zion Demonstration State Forest (N38º23’ W120º39’) is 160 acres south of Pine Grove off of Route 88. It is available for hiking and there is a fire lookout.

Carson-Truckee-Walker Area

D.L. Bliss State Park, California (N38º59’ W120º6’) is on the west shore of Lake Tahoe. The Balancing Rock Nature Trail leads to a unique geologic feature. Vikingsholm House was built in 1929 to look like an ancient Scandinavian house.

Burton Creek State Park, California (N39º12’ W120º9’) is northwest of Lake Tahoe on State Route 28. The 2,000-acre park has six miles of trails, along with the Antone Meadows and Burton Creek State Natural Areas, representing exemplary mountain meadows and riparian forests, respectively.

Eriksson Education Center, California (N39º11’ W120º7’) is a historic fish hatchery and demonstration garden on State Route 28 at Lake Forest Road in Tahoe City. It is operated by University of California-Davis.

Green Creek Wildlife Area, California (N38º8’ W119º14’) is 720 acres of aspen and Jeffrey pine vegetation along Green Creek about 8 miles south of Bishop. It adjoins Toiyabe National Forest and National System of Public Lands-managed property.

Grover Hot Springs State Park, California (N38º42’ W119º51’), is 550 acres four miles west of Markleeville surrounded by the Toiyabe National Forest. The six, 102-degree, green-colored springs are in an alpine meadow surrounded by open pine and sagebrush areas. Trails lead to a waterfall.

Heenan Lake Wildlife Area, California (N38º39’ W119º40’) is 1,700 acres on State Route 89 west of Monitor Pass between Markleeville and Topaz Lake. It adjoins the Toiyabe National Forest. Vegetation is Jeffrey pine, meadows, and sagebrush.

Hope Valley Wildlife Area, California (N38º46’ W119º56’) is 2,900 acres in three units at the junction of State Routes 88 and 89. The West Fork Carson River flows through the property. Vegetation is wet meadow, chaparral, Jeffrey pine, and aspen-lodgepole pine. Hope Valley is a site on the Carson Route of the California National Historic Trail. The emigrant trail from Hope Valley to Luther Pass can be hiked. This trail linked the Carson River Route in Hope Valley with the Johnson Cutoff.

Kings Beach State Recreation Area, California (N39º14’ W120º2’) is on the shore of Lake Tahoe at the Nevada state line. The park provides a beach and lakeside recreation.

Lake Valley State Recreation Area, California (N38º52’ W120º1’), is a 150-acre golf course in South Lake Tahoe. It adjoins Washoe Meadows State Park.

Mormon Station State Historic Park, Nevada (N39º0’ W119º51’) is in Genoa on State Route 206 (Main Street) at Genoa Lane. This was a trading post established in 1851 to serve California emigrants as they prepared to leave the desert and cross the Sierra Nevada.

Red Lake Wildlife Area, California (N38º43’ W119º57’), is 860 acres in five tracts along State Route 88 between Carson Pass and Hope Valley. Vegetation is red fir and lodgepole pine with meadows along Red Lake Creek. The area adjoins Mokelumne Wilderness and Toiyabe National Forest lands.

Slinkard-Little Antelope Wildlife Area, California, is 11,700 acres in six units. The largest acreage is in Little Antelope Valley (N38º31’ W119º30’), Slinkard Valley (N38º36’ W119º35’), and along Mill Creek (N38º25’ W119º29’). The property adjoins Toiyabe National Forest, Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, and the National System of Public Lands along State Route 89 and to the west of US Route 395. The Walker River-Sonora Route of the California National Historic Trail passes through Little Antelope Valley and Little Lost Canyon in the wildlife area.

Lake Tahoe State Recreation Area, California (N39º10’ W120º8’) is a small campground and water access park on the shores of Lake Tahoe on State Route 28 at Tahoe City. Access to a bike path along Lake Tahoe is also provided.

Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park, Nevada, has four main activity areas.

  • The Cave Rock area (N39º3’ W119º57’) provides water access along US Route 50.
  • The Sand Harbor area (N39º12’ W119º56’) includes part of the eastern shore of Lake Tahoe, with beaches and trails on the lake.
  • The Spooner Backcountry is accessed from Spooner Lake (N39º6’ W119º55’) and offers 50 miles of trails on 13,000 acres, available for multiple uses including hiking, equestrian, and biking. The Tahoe Rim NRT east of Marlette Peak (N39º11’ W119º53’) crosses the Spooner Backcountry portion. The Marlette Water System Historic Civil Engineering Landmark is mostly within the Spooner Backcountry section, except for the  pipelines which carry water eastward across the Washoe Valley to Virginia City. The water system carries water from Marlette Lake (N39º10’ W119º54’) and Hobart Creek (N39º12’ W119º52’) down 2,700 feet to the Washoe Valley then back up 1,400 feet to a reservoir above Virginia City and Gold Hill (N39º17’ W119º42’) in the Great Basin ecoregion. At the time it was built (1873) it was the highest pressure water line in the world, with a working head of twice that of any other pipeline. The water system is still in use, supplying Virginia City and Carson City.
  • The Van Sickle unit (N38º57’ W119º56’) is located at the Stateline area and provides a trail connection to Tahoe Rim Trail in addition to a 1914 log cabin.

Tahoe Science Center, Nevada (N39º15’ W119º56’) serves as a science education center. Tahoe Center for Environmental Quality in the same building monitors the quality of Lake Tahoe water and researches alpine lakes. The building is located on Country Club Drive at Mill Creek Road in Incline Village on the campus of Sierra Nevada College and co-sponsored by University of California-Davis, University of Nevada-Reno, and the Desert Research Institute.

Truckee River Wildlife Area, California, is 5,300 acres in five units. The Boca unit (N39º22’ W120º6’) is in four tracts along I-80 east of Truckee. The Gray Creek Canyon unit (N39º21’ W120º1’) is in three tracts adjoining Toiyabe National Forest lands south of the Truckee River. The Polaris Unit (N39º20’ W120º9’) is east of Truckee on the north side of the river. The Union Ice unit (N39º22’ W120º3’) is along I-80 and adjoins Tahoe National Forest land on the Truckee River.  The West River unit (N39º19’ W120º12’) is southwest of Truckee on the south side of the river.

Washoe Meadows State Park, California (N38º52’ W120º2’) is an open space area on Sawmill Road at Lake Tahoe Boulevard in South Lake Tahoe. It adjoins the Lake Valley State Recreation Area.

Ed Z’berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, California (N39º3’ W120º8’) is 2,320 acres on the west side of Lake Tahoe. It is noted for dense pine and fir forests. The Hellman-Ehrman House is a historic estate built in 1903 as a summer home by a wealthy resident. General Creek Trail provides access to the Desolation Wilderness six miles to the west.

Private Sites

Black Chasm Caverns, California, is described under National Natural Landmarks.

Donner Lake Preserve, Truckee Donner Land Trust, California (N39º19’ W120º19’) is 2,100 acres west of Donner Lake and includes the Donner Summit Canyon Trail to Donner Pass in the Tahoe National Forest.

Independence Lake Preserve, The Nature Conservancy and Truckee Donner Land Trust, California (N39º27’ W120º18’) is a pristine alpine lake protected as a refuge for rare fish, including a wild population of the Lahontan cutthroat trout. It is located off of State Route 89 north of Truckee. Water storage is owned by Truckee Meadows Water Authority. The preserve borders the Sagehen Experimental Forest and Tahoe National Forest.

Perazzo Meadows, Truckee Donner Land Trust, California (N39º29’ W120º19’) is 980 acres on Henness Pass Road off of Forest Highway 7 near Truckee. The property is a wildlife viewing area near the Tahoe National Forest Mount Lola Trailhead. The willow thickets in the meadows are part of the Northern Sierra Meadows Important Bird Area. The willow thickets host Lincoln’s sparrow, Wilson’s warbler, and willow flycatcher.

Royal Gorge, Truckee Donner Land Trust, California (N39º18’ W120º22’), is 3,000 acres on I-80 west of Donner Pass, adjoining the Tahoe National Forest. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail and Truckee Route of the California National Historic Trail cross the property.

Sierra Buttes, Sierra County Land Trust, California (N39º36’ W120º37’) is 1,000 acres at the northernmost granitic outcrop in the Sierra Nevada, overlooking the North Fork Yuba River. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail crosses the property, which adjoins the Tahoe National Forest on State Route 49 north of Sierra City.

Waddle Ranch Preserve, Truckee Tahoe Airport District and Truckee Donner Land Trust, California (N39º19’ W120º6’) is 1,400 acres to the east of Martis Reservoir off of State Route 267. It includes hiking trails and Dry Lake (Ella Lake).

Webber Lake Preserve, Truckee Donner Land Trust, California (N39º29’ W120º25’) is 3,000 acres on Jackson Meadows Road west of State Route 89 north of Truckee. A hiking trail is maintained from the lake to Lacey Meadows on Tahoe National Forest Road 86. The Trust for Public Land was involved in the acquisition of the property.

Sierra Nevada Forests, Part 2D: Mother Lode trails, wilderness areas, and wild rivers

Part 2D describes the national trail system, wilderness areas, and  wild and scenic rivers in the Tahoe-Eldorado area of the Sierra Nevada forests.

 

National Trails System

California National Historic Trail

The Beckwourth Trail, Walker River-Sonora Route, Carson Route, and Truckee Routes of the California National Historic Trail cross the Sierra Nevada ecoregion. In addition, the emigrants used at least 11 alternate routes in addition to the four main routes. One alternate route that ultimately became the most popular was the Johnson Cutoff, which is roughly modern-day U.S. Route 50.

Walker River-Sonora Route was the original route dating from 1841. Its modern-day equivalent is through the Hoover and Emigrant Wilderness areas. It was a very difficult route, going over 9,800-foot Emigrant Pass, and was abandoned in 1854. Sites in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion include Little Lost Canyon in Slinkard-Little Antelope State Wildlife Area (N38º30’ W119º30’); Upper Levitt Meadow, Toiyabe National Forest (N38º20’ W119º33’); Browder Flat, Hoover Wilderness; Fremont Lake, Hoover Wilderness (N38º15’ W119º33’); Little Emigrant Valley, Emigrant Wilderness (N38º12’ W119º39’); Hubbs Grave Site, Emigrant Wilderness (N38º14’ W119º43’); Relief Camp, Emigrant Wilderness (N38º14’ W119º45’); and Burst Rock, Emigrant Wilderness and Stanislaus National Forest (N38º12’ W119º52’).

The Carson Route roughly follows State Route 88 over 8,500-foot Carson Pass. Sites in the Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion include Woodfords Station (N38º47’ W119º50’), Hope Valley (now in Hope Valley Wildlife Area) (N38º46’ W119º56’), Carson Pass, Toiyabe National Forest (N38º42’ W119º59’), Caples Lake, Eldorado National Forest (N38º42’ W120º2’), Emigrant Valley, Mokelumne Wiilderness (N38º40’ W120º3’), West Pass, Eldorado National Forest and Mokelumne Wilderness (N38º40’ W120º3’), Melissa Cordy Peak, Mokelumne Wilderness and Eldorado National Forest (N38º39’ W120º2’), Tragedy Springs, Eldorado National Forest (N38º38’ W120º9’), and Union House (N38º46’ W120º33’). The 15-mile section from Caples Lake to Tragedy Springs is designated a National Recreation Trail. The section of trail east of Carson Pass in the Toiyabe National Forest is known as Devils Ladder (N38º42’ W119º59’) where emigrants had to use block and tackle to haul wagons up the steep slope from Red Lake.

The Truckee Route was another early route, dating to 1844, which roughly follows today’s I-80 over 7,000-foot Donner Pass. Sites in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion are in the Tahoe and Toiyabe National Forests. In the Toiyabe National Forest are Dog Valley (N39º33’ W120º2’) and Donner Camp (N39º23’ W120º11’). The Donner Lake site (N39º19’ W120º14’) is in Donner Memorial State Park. Donner Pass (N39º19’ W120º20’), Roller Pass (N39º18’ W120º19’), and Bear Valley (N39º18’ W120º41’) are in the Tahoe National Forest. The Mule Springs site (N39º15’ W120º48’) is on private land.

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail extends 2,600 miles from Canada to Mexico, passing through some of the most scenic areas in California. The Sierra Nevada section provides a tour of wilderness areas.

North of Carson Pass, the trail enters the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and follows the western watershed divide around Lake Tahoe. The trail joins the Tahoe Rim Trail in the Upper Truckee area north of Carson Pass (N38º43’ W120º1’) and crosses Echo Summit (US Route 50) (N38º49’ W120º2’) before entering the Desolation Wilderness at Upper Echo Lake. It leaves the Desolation Wilderness at Lost Corner Mountain and enters the Tahoe National Forest at Miller Meadows (N39º2’ W120º14’).

In the Tahoe National Forest, the trail enters Granite Chief Wilderness at Twin Peaks (N39º6’ W120º14’) and leaves the wilderness at Granite Chief (N39º12’ W120º17’). It then crosses Donner Pass (N39º19’ W120º19’), Donner Summit (N39º21’ W120º20’), Meadow Lake Road (N39º25’ W120º27’), Henness Pass Road (N39º30’ W120º32’), State Route 49 at Sierra City (N39º35’ W120º37’), Summit Lake (N39º40’ W120º41’) on the Plumas National Forest boundary, and leaves the forest at Gibraltar (N39º43’ W120º46’).

Pony Express National Historic Trail

Pony Express National Historic Trail crosses the Sierra Nevada from the Carson Valley to Placerville. Portions of the trail cross the Toiyabe National Forest, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, and Eldorado National Forest in the Sierra Nevada. Most of the stations and sites are privately owned. Sites from east to west are listed.

Mormon Station State Historic Park, Nevada (N39º0’ W119º51’) is in Genoa on State Route 206 (Main Street) at Genoa Lane. This was a trading post established in 1851 to serve California emigrants as they prepared to leave the desert and cross the Sierra Nevada. Van Sickle’s Station, Nevada (N38º56’ W119º51’), privately owned, was the site of a hotel built in 1857 and a stop at the base of the Kingsbury Grade, now State Route 207, which climbs over the Carson Range to Lake Tahoe.

Woodford’s Station, California (N38º47’ W119º49’) is at the junction of State Routes 88 and 89. This was the initial route prior to the completion of the Kingsbury Grade over the Carson Range.

Friday’s Station, Nevada (N38º58’ W119º56’) was in present-day Stateline, Nevada on US Route 50 just south of the junction with State Route 207 (Kingsbury Grade).

Yanks Station Toll House, California (N38º51’ W120º1’) was a hotel and trading post in addition to a Pony Express station. It was on US Route 50 at Apache Avenue in present-day Meyers. The route to Echo Summit was via the Hawley Grade (N38º48’ W120º1’), which was the first graded wagon road in the Sierra, built in 1857, with original retaining walls and cobblestones still visible. The Hawley Grade National Recreation Trail is on Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit lands. The trail passes the Lake Valley House, a station on the Pony Express Trail.

Strawberry Valley House, California (N38º48’ W120º9’), was the first stop after crossing Echo Summit. It is on US Route 50. The eight-mile trail between Strawberry Valley House and Sugar Loaf House is designated Pony Express National Recreation Trail. Sugar Loaf House, California (N38º46’ W120º19’) is one mile west of Kyburz on US Route 50.

Riverton Station, California (N38º46’ W120º27’) is on US Route 50 at the bridge over the South Fork American River. In the Pony Express period, the river crossing was at Brockliss Bridge, below Bridal Veil Falls in the Eldorado National Forest (N38º46’ W120º30’) downstream near Pacific.

Sportsman Hall Station, California (N38º46’ W120º35’) is on Old Pony Express Trail in Pollock Pines. This was considered one of the finest restaurants and hotels along the route.

Placerville Station, California (N38º44’ W120º48’) was at the junction of Main and Sacramento in Placerville.

National Recreation Trails (NRTs)

Carson Emigrant Historic NRT, Mokelumne Wilderness and Eldorado National Forest, is 15 miles, extending from Caples Lake Dam (N38º42’ W120º4’) to Tragedy Spring (N38º38’ W120º9’), both on State Route 88, the Carson Pass National Scenic Byway. The trail is partially in the Mokelumne Wilderness and passes Plasse Trading Post site and Mud Lake in the Eldorado National Forest.

Donner Camp NRT, Tahoe NF, California (N39º23’ W120º11’), is a 0.4-mile trail with interpretive displays at the Donner Camp Picnic Area north of Truckee on State Route 89.

Hawley Grade NRT, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, California (N38º48’ W120º1’) is a 1.8-mile trail from Echo Pass on US Route 50 to the Upper Truckee River. It was the former route of the Pony Express Trail.

Pioneer NRT, Tahoe NF, California, extends from the forest boundary at Five Mile House east of Nevada City (N39º17’ W120º57’) parallel to State Route 20 to Bear Valley, and then north to Lake Spaulding (N39º20’ W120º38’).

Pony Express NRT, Eldorado National Forest, is eight miles between Strawberry (N38º47’ W120º9’) and Kyburz (N38º46’ W120º20’). The trail is a multiple use trail paralleling US Route 50.

Pope-Baldwin NRT, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (N38º56’ W120º3’) is a three-mile paved bicycle path following State Route 89 through national forest system lands between South Lake Tahoe and Tallac Creek.

Tahoe Rim NRT, California and Nevada, is a ridgetop trail extending 165 miles across national forest and state lands managed by Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Toiyabe National Forest, and Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park. The trail crosses the southern portion of the Mount Rose Wilderness. The trail makes a complete loop around Lake Tahoe. The portion west of Lake Tahoe is co-located with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. The portion around the east side of the lake in the map area offers views of the Carson Valley as well as Lake Tahoe. The south junction of the TRT with the Pacific Crest NST is along the Upper Truckee River, California (N38º43’ W120º1’). Trailheads on the east side are at Big Meadow-State Route 89 crossing in California (N38º47’ W120º0’), Kingsbury Grade-State Route 207 near Daggett Pass in Nevada (N38º59’ W119º54’), Spooner Summit on US Route 50 in Nevada (N39º6’ W119º54’), Tahoe Meadows on State Route 431 in Nevada (N39º18’ W119º55’), Brockway Summit on State Route 207 in California (N39º16’ W120º4’), and Tahoe City, California at the junction of State Route 89 and 28 (N39º10’ W120º8’). The northern connection with the Pacific Crest Trail is at Twin Peaks (N39º6’ W120º14’). The Pacific Crest Trail portion passes through the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, Tahoe National Forest, Eldorado National Forest, and Desolation Wilderness. Access is at Barker Pass (N39º5’ W120º14’) and at Echo Summit on US Route 50 (N38º49’ W120º2’).

Western States Pioneer NRT, National System of Public Lands, Tahoe National Forest, and Auburn State Recreation Area, California, begins in Auburn State Recreation Area at Maidu Drive and China Bar Road in Auburn (N38º52’ W121º4’), follows the Middle Fork American River to Foresthill, enters the Tahoe National Forest (N39º2’ W120º47’), and continues east to Painted Rock (N39º13’ W120º11’), in the Squaw Valley area on State Route 89 near Lake Tahoe. The trail is 55 miles long and used for endurance riding

South Yuba NRT, National System of Public Lands and Tahoe National Forest, California, begins at the Purdon Crossing in South Yuba River State Park (N39º20’ W121º3’) and extends 12 miles upstream to Poorman Creek in the Tahoe National Forest (N39º21’ W120º49’).

National Wild and Scenic River System

The North Fork American River, Tahoe National Forest and National System of Public Lands, is a wild and scenic river from the Colfax-Iowa Hill Bridge (N39º6’ W120º55’) 38 miles upstream to Green Valley/Heath Springs (N39º15’ W120º24’).

National Wilderness Preservation System

The 23 areas that make up the National Wilderness Preservation System include some of the oldest and largest areas in the wilderness system. Yosemite Wilderness is described under World Heritage Sites. The John Krebs Wilderness and Sequoia-Kings Canyon Wilderness areas are described under Man and the Biosphere Reserves.

Carson-Iceberg Wilderness, Stanislaus and Toiyabe National Forests, California, is 161,000 acres, with 12 peaks above 10,000 feet and 200 miles of trails, located between State Routes 4 and 108. Volcanic ridges and peaks including The Iceberg (N38º25’ W119º45’) and The Dardanelles (N38º24’ W119º45’), are found in the wilderness.  On the southeast boundary, Sonora Peak reaches 11,459 feet. The Iceberg is visible from the end of Clarks Fork Road. Deep canyons drain to the Stanislaus and Carson Rivers. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail traverses the wilderness from the East Fork Carson River headwaters on Sonora Peak (N38º22’ W119º38’) to north of Wolf Creek Pass (N38º30’ W119º46’), passing Boulder Peak along the way. The East Fork Carson River is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system for 27 miles from its source (N38º22’ W119º38’) to the Silver King Valley (N38º33’ W119º38’). Carson Falls is included in this river reach. Other sites showing the extent of the wilderness are Wolf Creek Lake in the north (N38º36’ W119º40’), Clark Fork Meadow and St. Marys Pass (N38º21’ W119º39’) in the south, Donnell Lake and the Middle Fork Stanislaus River (N38º20’ W119º58’) in the southwest, Rose Meadow near Lake Alpine (N38º28’ W120º0’) in the west, Antelope Peak (N38º28’ W119º33’) in the east, and the Elephant Rock (N38º27’ W119º58’). Access points from the Stanislaus National Forest include Iceberg Meadow at The Iceberg, Clark Fork Campground (N38º24’ W119º48’), and Tryon Meadow on Highland Lake Road (N38º30’ W119º48’). From the Toiyabe National Forest, Rodriquez Flat (N38º31’ W119º33’) and Wolf Creek Meadows (N38º35’ W119º42’) provide trail access. Silver King Creek (N38º28’ W119º36’) in the Toiyabe section is considered a potential National Natural Landmark.

Desolation Wilderness, Eldorado National Forest and Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, is 64,000 acres of glacially smoothed terrain with 130 lakes and granite peaks. Middle Mountain proposed Research Natural Area (N38º56’ W120º10’) is 400 acres of mountain hemlock vegetation type. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail crosses the wilderness from Lost Corner Mountain (N39º0’ W120º13’) south to Upper Echo Lake (N38º51’ W120º5’). Trailheads on the Lake Tahoe Basin side of the wilderness include Mount Tallac (N38º55’ W120º4’), Glen Alpine (N38º53’ W120º5’), Echo Lakes (N38º50’ W120º3’), Eagle Falls (N38º57’ W120º7’), Bayview (N38º57’ W120º6’), and Meeks Bay (N39º2’ W120º8’). Rubicon Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º59’ W120º13’) is on the Rubicon River in the wilderness. It is part of the Upper American River hydroelectric project. Lake Aloha (N38º52’ W120º8’) is on Pyramid Creek in the southern part of the wilderness. It drains to the South Fork American River as part of the hydro projects of the El Dorado Irrigation District. There are six auxillary dams that keep the reservoir from overflowing into other lakes in the vicinity.

Granite Chief Wilderness, Tahoe National Forest, California, is 25,100 acres between the Rubicon River and Middle Fork American River. Topography is exposed rocks, cliffs, and glacier-carved forested valleys. The northernmost point is near Lyon Peak (N39º13’ W120º20) and the southernmost point is near the Rubicon River (N39º3’ W120º18’) upstream from Hell Hole Reservoir. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail crosses the wilderness between Twin Peaks (N39º6’ W120º14’) and Granite Chief (N39º12’ W120º17’). The Western States Pioneer Recreation Trail crosses the wilderness from French Meadows (N39º11’ W120º21’) to Squaw Valley Ski Area (N39º12’ W120º17’).  The wilderness borders the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and is usually accessed from the Lake Tahoe area.

Hoover Wilderness, Inyo and Toiyabe National Forests and Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area, California, is a 124,500-acre region of alpine lakes and meadows adjacent to Yosemite NP. It extends from 300-foot Leavitt Falls (N38º19’ W119º34’) in the north to the Twenty Lakes Basin (N37º59’ W119º18’) in the south. The Pacific Crest Trail crosses a small portion of the wilderness from Dorothy Lake Pass (N38º11’ W119º35’) to Kennedy Canyon (N38º15’ W119º36’). Sites in the Toiyabe portion include Kennedy Canyon and Tower Canyon in the West Walker River drainage, Virginia Lakes,Green Creek, Barney Lake, Peeler Lake, and Little Slide Canyon. Sites in the Inyo portion include Lundy Canyon, Tioga Peak, and Twenty Lakes Basin. Mono Dome is in the Mono Lakes National Scenic Area portion. Rainbow Meadows Research Natural Area (N38º9’ W119º31’) is a 1,500-acre area of subalpine white bark pine and pristine alpine habitats in the West Walker River headwaters near Hawksbeak Peak, adjoining Yosemite NP. Harvey Monroe Hall Research Natural Area (N37º58’ W119º18’) is 3,900 acres of alpine meadow and subalpine forest north of Tioga Pass on the Yosemite National Park boundary. The West Walker River is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from its headwaters (N38º10’ W119º33’) downstream to Leavitt Meadows (N38º18’ W119º33’) in the wilderness. The Walker River-Sonora Route of the California National Historic Trail crosses the wilderness from Leavitt Meadow (N38º20’ W119º33’) to Fremont Lake (N38º15’ W119º33’).

Mokelumne Wilderness, Eldorado, Stanislaus, and Toiyabe National Forests, California, is 105,000 acres in two sections separated by the Deer Valley four-wheel-drive route (N38º34’ W119º55’). The west segment extends from Winnemucca Lake in the north and Avalanche Meadow in the south. This is a volcanic area that has been shaped by glaciers. Volcanic peaks include Elephants Back (N38º41’ W119º59’) and Round Top (N38º40’ W120º0’), which is also a geological and botanical special interest area. A glaciated valley in the west section is Summit City Canyon (N38º39’ W119º59’). In the east section, glaciated valleys include Pleasant Valley (N38º38’ W119º52’) and Thornberg Canyon (N38º39’ W119º51’). The west section extends from Grover Hot Springs in the north and Grouse Flat on State Route 4 in the south. The North Fork Mokelumne River and its canyon in the wilderness from State Route 4 (N38º32’ W119º55’) 18 miles downstream to Salt Springs Reservoir (N38º30’ W120º9’) is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail traverses the two sections of the wilderness between Carson Pass (N38º41’ W120º0’) and Raymond Meadow (N38º35’ W119º50’) north of Ebbetts Pass. Round Top Botanical and Geological Area (N38º41’ W119º59’) is 4,000 acres in the northwestern portion of the wilderness and Eldorado National Forest lands to the north. Snow Canyon proposed RNA (N38º37’ W119º59’) in the Eldorado portion is a subalpine forest with western white pine, alpine barrens, and shrub steppe. The Carson Route of the California National Historic Trail crosses the wilderness in the area of Emigrant Valley (N38º40’ W120º3’) near Caples Lake. This trail is designated the Carson Emigrant Historic National Recreation Trail.

Mount Rose Wilderness, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and Toiyabe National Forest, Nevada, is in two units separated by Hunter Lake Road (Forest Road 392). The Carson Range, including 10,780-foot Mount Rose, is included along with meadows and small lakes. Trails from the east side begin at the Galena Creek Visitor Center (N39º22’ W119º51’) and adjacent Galena Regional Park. The Tahoe Rim National Recreation Trail crosses the wilderness from Relay Peak (N39º16’ W119º57’) west to Mount Baldy (N39º17’ W120º0’).

National Fish Hatchery System

The Lahontan National Fish Hatchery, Nevada (N38º53’ W119º42’) is focused on recovery of the endangered cui-ui (Chasmistes cujui) and Lahontan cutthroat trout, which migrated between Lake Tahoe and Pyramid Lake in the Truckee River. Fish are placed in Pyramid Lake, Walker Lake, the Truckee River, Fallen Leaf Lake, and Marlette Reservoir to aid in the recovery, with the goal of restoring the fish to their historic range in the Sierra Nevada.

Other Federal Sites

Indian Creek Recreation Area, National System of Public Lands, California (N38º45’ W119º47’), is 7,000 acres in the eastern Sierra north of Markleeville off of State Route 89. A campground, eight miles of trails, and the Curtz Lake Environmental Study Area are featured.

Mountain Warfare Training Center, U.S. Marine Corps, California (N38º22’ W119º31’) is on State Route 108 in the Toiyabe National Forest. Training occurs on 46,000 acres of the Toiyabe National Forest.

Stevens Trail, National System of Public Lands, California (N39º6’ W120º57’) begins at I-80 on Canon Way in Colfax and extends four miles, providing views of the North Fork American River, Cape Horn loop of the Central Pacific Railroad, and Secret Ravine.

Part 2E describes state and local sites in the Mother Lode (Tahoe-Eldorado areas).

Sierra Nevada Forests, Part 2C: Hydroelectric Reservoirs of the Mother Lode

Part 2C continues with hydroelectric reservoirs in the Mother Lode including the Bear, Cosumnes, Mokelumne, Truckee, and Yuba Rivers. The American River was previously described in part 2B.

Bear River

Alta Forebay, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º13’ W120º47’) receives water from the Towle Canal (North Fork American River watershed) and regulates water entering the penstock to Alta Powerhouse (N39º13’ W120º48’) on the Little Bear River. Below the powerhouse, water enters the Boardman Canal of Placer County Water Authority for distribution to water customers. These facilities are components of the Alta Development of Pacific Gas & Electric.

Drum Forebay, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º15’ W120º45’) receives water from the Lake Valley Canal and Drum Canal (from Spaulding Powerhouse No. 1 on the South Yuba River), then sends the water through the Drum No. 1 and No. 2 Powerhouses on the Bear River. It is part of the Drum No. 1 and No. 2 Development.

Drum Afterbay, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º15’ W120º46’), is on the Bear River and receives water from the Drum Powerhouse No. 1 and No. 2. It is part of the Dutch Flat No. 1 Development. Water is diverted into the Dutch Flat No. 1 Tunnel east of the Bear River for hydroelectric generation at Dutch Flat No. 1 Powerhouse on the Dutch Flat Afterbay, and to the Dutch Flat No. 2 Flume west of the Bear River for delivery to the Dutch Flat No. 2 Forebay.

Dutch Flat No. 2 Forebay, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º13’ W120º50’) receives water from the Drum Afterbay delivers it to the Dutch Flat Powerhouse No. 2 on Dutch Flat Afterbay.

Dutch Flat Afterbay, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º13’ W120º51’), receives water from Dutch Flat Powerhouses No. 1 and 2. It is bordered by the National System of Public Lands. Water is diverted to the Chicago Park Flume for delivery to the Chicago Park Powerhouse on the upper end of Rollins Reservoir.

Rollins Reservoir, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º8’ W120º57’) is an irrigation storage and hydroelectric reservoir on the Bear River near Colfax on I-80. It partially occupies the National System of Public Lands.

Bear River Canal Diversion Dam, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º8’ W120º57’) is just below Rollins Dam and delivers water into the Bear River Canal which sends water to the Halsey Forebay near Auburn. This dam is part of the Halsey Development.

Lake Combie, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º1’ W121º3’), is an irrigation and hydroelectric reservoir on the Bear River as it leaves the Sierra Nevada ecoregion. Shoreline residential development is common on this reservoir.

Cosumnes River

Jenkinson Lake, El Dorado Irrigation District (N38º43’ W120º34’) is south of Pollock Pines on Sly Park Creek. Sly Park Creek Dam was constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation but transferred to the El Dorado Irrigation District in 2003. The reservoir is partially on Eldorado National Forest lands.

Mokelumne River

South of Carson Pass, Meadow Lake (N38º36’ W119º58’), Twin Lake (N38º36’ W119º56’), Lower Blue Lake (N38º37’ W119º56’), and Upper Blue Lake (N38º37’ W119º57’), are operated by Pacific Gas & Electric as hydroelectric storage reservoirs for the North Fork Mokelumne River. Bear River Reservoir (N38º34’ W120º13’), and Lower Bear River Reservoir (N38º32’ W120º15’) are Pacific Gas & Electric hydroelectric projects on Eldorado National Forest lands. Salt Springs Reservoir (N38º30’ W120º11’) is a PG&E project on the North Fork Mokelumne River that occupies lands of both Eldorado and Stanislaus National Forests. Downstream from the national forest, Tiger Creek Reservoir (N38º27’ W120º30’) is also a PG&E project which occupies the National System of Public Lands (BLM lands).

On the Middle Fork of the Mokelumne River upstream from West Point, Schaads Reservoir (N38º23’ W120º26’) is operated by the Calaveras Public Utility District. It is also called the Middle Fork Dam Hydro Plant. Part of the reservoir occupies Stanislaus National Forest lands.

Truckee River

Boca Reservoir, Bureau of Reclamation, California (N39º24’ W120º6’), is on the Little Truckee River within the Tahoe National Forest. It provides irrigation storage for the Washoe County Conservation District as part of the Truckee Storage Project, and is accessed from I-80.

Echo Lake, El Dorado Irrigation District (N38º50’ W120º3’) is a tributary to the Upper Truckee River off of US Route 50 near Meyers. It is on Forest Service-managed lands of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

Lake Tahoe Dam, Bureau of Reclamation, California (N39º10’ W120º9’), is part of the Newlands Project and stores water for the 57,000 acres of irrigation lands downstream. The facility is operated by the Truckee-Carson Irrigation District. Although Lake Tahoe is a natural lake with a depth of 1,650 feet, the dam regulates the water level and controls the top six feet of the reservoir pool. The dam is located at Tahoe City on State Route 89.

Martis Creek Reservoir, US Army Corps of Engineers, California (N39º19’ W120º7’), was completed as a flood control reservoir on State Route 267 southeast of Truckee. Seepage has been an issue at the dam, and it has been maintained at a reduced pool of 70 acres for flood control and dam safety reasons. During flood control operations, the reservoir area could potentially increase temporarily to 770 acres if safety issues are resolved (USACE, 2014). The reservoir provides hiking opportunities within the Martis Creek Wildlife Area and Waddle Ranch Preserve of the Truckee Donner Land Trust.

Prosser Creek Reservoir, Bureau of Reclamation, California (N39º23’ W120º9’), is north of Truckee off of State Route 89 within the Tahoe National Forest. It is part of the Washoe Project, which stores water for fishery enhancement for Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-ui spawning.

Stampede Reservoir, Bureau of Reclamation, California (N39º29’ W120º8’), is on the Little Truckee River north of Boca Reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest. Part of the Washoe Project, it stores water for fishery enhancement for Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-ui spawning.

Yuba River

Merle Collins Lake (Virginia Ranch Dam), Browns Valley Irrigation District (N39º20’ W121º18’), is on Dry Creek, a tributary of the Yuba River, and is used for irrigation water and hydroelectric generation.

The Deer Creek Development of Pacific Gas & Electric receives water from Spaulding No. 2 Powerhouse below Spaulding Reservoir on the South Yuba River. Water from the powerhouse enters the South Yuba Canal and then the Chalk Bluff Canal, which flows across mostly Tahoe National Forest land to the Deer Creek Forebay (N39º18’ W120º49’). The forebay regulates water entering the penstock to Deer Creek Powerhouse (N39º18’ W120º51’) on South Fork Deer Creek, a tributary to the Yuba River.

Harry L. Englebright Lake, US Army Corps of Engineers (N39º15’ W121º16’), is on the Yuba River. Just downstream are the Narrows Powerhouses, one operated by Yuba County Water Agency and the other operated by Pacific Gas & Electric.

Scotts Flat Reservoir, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º17’ W120º55’) is on Deer Creek east of Nevada City. It is a small hydroelectric development (0.83 MW) as well as irrigation storage reservoir. It is reached from Scotts Flat Road off of State Route 20 east of Nevada City. There are four campgrounds on the reservoir. Just downstream, Lower Scotts Flat Reservoir (N39º16’ W120º57’) delivers water to the Deer Creek canal.

North Yuba River

New Bullards Bar Reservoir, Yuba County Water Agency (N39º24’ W121º8’), is partially on Tahoe and Plumas National Forest lands. There is a powerhouse at the reservoir and also at Colgate. The Colgate powerhouse (N39º20’ W121º11’) receives water from the Colgate Tunnel from New Bullards Bar Reservoir diversion dam just downstream of New Bullards Bar Reservoir. The reservoir is part of the Yuba River Development Project. On the upper end of the reservoir on Deadwood Creek (N39º32’ W121º6’) is a hydro plant operated by Yuba County Water Agency.

Slate Creek Diversion Dam, South Feather Water and Power Agency, Plumas National Forest (N39º37’ W121º3’) sends water to Sly Creek Reservoir in the Feather River watershed.

Salmon Creek Hydroelectric Project, Henwood Associates, Tahoe National Forest (N39º37’ W120º36’) is a small hydro plant off of State Route 49 north of Sierra City.

Middle Yuba River

Bowman Project of Nevada Irrigation District

Jackson Meadows Reservoir, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º30’ W120º33’) is on the Middle Yuba River in the Tahoe National Forest. It can be reached from Forest Highway 7 west of State Route 89.

Milton Reservoir, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º31’ W120º35’), is on the Middle Yuba River below Jackson Meadows Dam and diverts water through a tunnel to Bowman Lake on Canyon Creek, a tributary to the South Yuba River. It occupies Tahoe National Forest lands.

Wilson Creek Diversion Dam, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º31’ W120º35’) is on the Milton-Bowman aqueduct near Milton Reservoir and diverts creek water into the aqueduct and tunnel for delivery to Bowman Lake. It occupies Tahoe National Forest lands.

Yuba River Development Project of Yuba County Water Agency

Our House Diversion Dam, Yuba County Water Agency (N39º25’ W121º0’), transfers water into the Lohman Ridge Diversion Tunnel which leads to the Log Cabin Diversion Dam. It occupies Tahoe National Forest lands.

Log Cabin Diversion Dam, Yuba County Water agency (N39º26’ W121º3’), is on Oregon Creek. It transfers water to the Camptonville Diversion Tunnel which leads to New Bullards Bar Reservoir. The facility is on Tahoe National Forest lands.

South Yuba River

Bowman Project of Nevada Irrigation District

Jackson Lake, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º28’ W120º34’) is at the headwaters of Jackson Creek, a tributary to Bowman Lake. It provides storage for the Bowman hydroelectric project and is partially located on Tahoe National Forest lands.

French Lake, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º25’ W120º32’), is on Canyon Creek and provides storage for release into Bowman Lake. It is on Tahoe National Forest lands.

Faucherie Lake, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º26’ W120º34’), is on Canyon Creek downstream from French Lake and provides storage for release into Bowman Lake. It is partially on Tahoe National Forest lands.

Sawmill Lake, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º27’ W120º36’), is on Canyon Creek downstream from Faucherie Lake. It provides storage for release into Bowman Lake and is partially on Tahoe National Forest lands.

Bowman Lake, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º27’ W120º39’) is on Canyon Creek downstream from Sawmill Lake. It stores water for release to the Bowman powerhouse downstream of the dam. It is partially on Tahoe National Forest land.

Bowman-Spaulding Conduit Diversion Dam (N39º27’ W120º40’) is on Canyon Creek immediately downstream from Bowman Lake and diverts water to the Spaulding No. 3 Project of Pacific Gas & Electric.

Spaulding No. 3 Development of Pacific Gas & Electric

Upper Rock Lake and Lower Rock Lake (both N39º26’ W120º37’) are on Texas Creek and are Pacific Gas & Electric storage reservoirs. The water is diverted at the Texas Creek Diversion Dam to the Bowman-Spaulding Conduit and Spaulding Reservoir for hydroelectric generation.

Cuthbertson Lake, Tahoe National Forest (N39º25’ W120º37’), is on a tributary to Texas Creek and is a storage reservoir for Pacific Gas & Electric. The water is diverted at the Texas Creek Diversion Dam to the Bowman-Spaulding Conduit and Spaulding Reservoir for hydroelectric generation.

Upper Lindsey Lake, Middle Lindsey Lake, and Lower Lindsey Lake (N39º25’ W120º38’) are on Lindsey Creek, a tributary to Texas Creek, and are storage reservoirs for Pacific Gas & Electric. Lower Lindsey Lake is on Tahoe National Forest land. The water is diverted at the Texas Creek Diversion Dam to the Bowman-Spaulding conduit and Spaulding Reservoir for hydroelectric generation.

Texas Creek Diversion Dam, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º24’ W120º40’), sends water from Texas Creek to the Bowman-Spaulding Conduit and through the Spaulding No. 3 powerhouse on Spaulding Reservoir.

Feeley Lake and Carr Lake, Tahoe National Forest (both N39º24’ W120º38’), are Pacific Gas and Electric storage reservoirs on Lake Creek, a tributary to Fall Creek. Their water is diverted at the Fall Creek Diversion Dam (N39º23’ W120º40’), to the Bowman-Spaulding Conduit and through the Spaulding No. 3 powerhouse on Spaulding Reservoir.  The conduit also captures water from Clear Creek Diversion (N39º23’ W120º41’) and Trap Creek Diversion (N39º22’ W120º41’).  All three diversions are on Tahoe National Forest land and owned by Nevada Irrigation District.

Blue Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º21’ W120º38’), is on Rucker Creek and is a storage reservoir. Water is released downstream to Rucker Lake.

Rucker Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º21’ W120º39’), is on Rucker Creek and is a storage reservoir in the Tahoe National Forest. Water from Rucker Creek is diverted by the Rucker Creek Diversion, Nevada Irrigation District (N39º21’ W120º40’), to the Bowman-Spaulding Conduit and through the Spaulding No. 3 Powerhouse on Spaulding Reservoir.

Fuller Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º21’ W120º39’) is a re-regulating reservoir at the end of the Bowman-Spaulding Conduit and regulates water inflow into the Spaulding No. 3 Powerhouse on Spaulding Reservoir. It is on Tahoe National Forest land.

Spaulding Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º20’ W120º38’), is on the South Yuba River and is bordered by Tahoe National Forest land.

Spaulding No. 1 and No. 2 Projects of Pacific Gas & Electric

White Rock Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º25’ W120º23’), on White Rock Creek near Mount Lola, is the uppermost storage reservoir and is on Tahoe National Forest land. Releases from White Rock Lake flow into North Creek and Fordyce Lake.

Meadow Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º24’ W120º30’) is on an unnamed tributary and releases water to Fordyce Lake. It is on Tahoe National Forest land.

Lake Sterling, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º21’ W120º29’) is south of Fordyce Lake on Bloody Creek and is a storage reservoir on Tahoe National Forest land. Releases flow into Fordyce Lake.

Fordyce Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º23’ W120º30’) receives water from White Rock, Meadow,and Sterling lakes and releases water into Fordyce Creek, which feeds Lake Spaulding. Some Tahoe National Forest land as well as private lands border Fordyce Lake, which is mostly surrounded by private lands.

Kidd Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º19’ W120º26’) is a storage lake south of I-80, which releases to the South Yuba River and Lake Spaulding downstream.

Upper Peak Lake and Lower Peak Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (both N39º18’ W120º26’) are storage lakes mapped as ‘Cascade Lakes’ which release to Cascade Creek, a tributary to the South Yuba River and Lake Spaulding. Both include Tahoe National Forest lands.

Lake Spaulding, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º20’ W120º38’) is on the South Fork Yuba River. Two additional dams are required to prevent overflow into Jordan Creek. Tahoe National Forest lands border the upper sections of the reservoir. Two powerhouses below Spaulding Dam divert water to the Bear River or Deer Creek basins. Spaulding No. 1 Powerhouse discharges to the Drum Canal while Spaulding No. 2 Powerhouse discharges to the South Yuba Canal for transfer to the Bear River.

Part 2D describes the national trail system, wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and state and local sites in the Tahoe-Eldorado area of the Sierra Nevada forests.

Sierra Nevada Forests, Part 2B: Tahoe National Forest and American River

Part 2B continues with the national forest system and then describes the reservoir and hydroelectric power systems of the American River area of the Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion.

Lake Tahoe Basin

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, California, manages 78 percent of the Lake Tahoe watershed, and was formed from lands of the Eldorado, Tahoe, and Toiyabe National Forests. The special management unit was established from three national forests to protect the 1,650-foot-deep natural lake. The southernmost point is at the headwaters of the Upper Truckee River along the Pacific Crest Trail near Carson Pass (N38º42’ W120º0’), the northernmost point is at Mount Relay west of Tahoe Meadows (N39º19’ W119º57’), the westernmost point is at near Barker Peak on the Pacific Crest Trail (N39º5’ W120º15’), and the easternmost point is on State Route 207 in Haines Canyon (N38º58’ W119º51’). The Taylor Creek Visitor Center (N38º56’ W120º3’) is at South Lake Tahoe. Near the Visitor Center is a stream profile chamber where a diverted creek can be viewed through aquarium windows. Also near the visitor center is Tallac Historic Area, a resort for San Francisco elite in the early 20th century; Valhalla, an art, museum, and theater hall built in 1924; and trailheads for hikes into the Desolation Wilderness. Trailheads for the wilderness are discussed in the wilderness entry. Other trailheads in the management unit are at Big Meadow on State Route 89 (N38º47’ W119º56’), which is for the Tahoe Rim Trail to Dardanelles Lake; Lam Watah on US Route 50 (N38º58’ W119º56’), which is for Nevada Beach Trail; Bayview on State Route 89 (N38º57’ W120º6’), which is for Cascade Falls; Spooner Summit South on US Route 50 (N39º6’ W119º54’), for the Tahoe Rim Trail; Chimney Beach on State Route 28 (N39º10’ W119º56’), and Lakeshore Drive in Kings Beach (N39º14’ W120º0’), for the Stateline Lookout.

The unit is encircled by the 165-mile long Tahoe Rim National Recreation Trail. The western boundary is approximately followed by the Pacific Crest Trail, which is collocated with the Tahoe Rim Trail on the west side of Lake Tahoe. The Carson Range on the east side of Lake Tahoe is an IBA. A portion of the Desolation Wilderness and Mount Rose Wilderness are within the unit lands. Grass Lake Research Natural Area (N38º48’ W119º57’) is just west of Luther Pass on State Route 89. The 360-acre area is the largest floating Sphagnum bog in California, surrounded by red fir forest. Echo Lake (N38º50’ W120º3’) is part of the El Dorado Hydroelectric Project, operated by the El Dorado Irrigation District. The lake is a trailhead for the Desolation Wilderness. The Pony Express National Historic Trail crosses the forest between Meyers (N38º51’ W120º2’), Echo Summit (N38º49’ W120º2’), and Luther Pass (N38º47’ W119º57’). Thunderbird Lodge (N39º10’ W119º56’) is operated by the Thunderbird Preservation Society. Constructed in 1936, the lodge is the last and best example of a residential estate on Lake Tahoe built by San Francisco elite. The lodge was built by Capt. George Whittell, Jr., who owned 40,000 acres on the eastern shore of the lake and maintained it in an undeveloped state. This land is now mostly part of Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit.

 Tahoe National Forest

The Tahoe National Forest is 800,000 acres in both the Mother Lode and Truckee River watersheds on both sides of I-80. The Onion Creek Experimental Forest and Sagehen Experimental Forest are managed by the Pacific Southwest Research Station and are described separately. The Granite Chief Wilderness and North Fork American River National Wild and Scenic River are also within the forest and are also described separately. The Truckee Route of the California National Historic Trail crosses the forest from Donner Camp (N39º23’ W120º11’) to Mule Springs (N39º15’ W120º48’). The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail enters the forest at Miller Meadows (N39º2’ W120º14) and is co-located with the Tahoe Rim Trail north to Twin Peaks (N39º6’ W120º14’). The trail enters Granite Chief Wilderness at Twin Peaks (N39º6’ W120º14’) and leaves the wilderness at Granite Chief (N39º12’ W120º17’). It then crosses Donner Pass (N39º19’ W120º19’), Donner Summit (N39º21’ W120º20’), Meadow Lake Road (N39º25’ W120º27’), Henness Pass Road (N39º30’ W120º32’), State Route 49 at Sierra City (N39º35’ W120º37’), Summit Lake (N39º40’ W120º41’) on the Plumas National Forest boundary, and leaves the forest at Gibraltar (N39º43’ W120º46’).

American River Area

This portion of Tahoe National Forest is accessed by Foresthill Road east from Auburn. Near Foresthill is the Foresthill Forest Genetics Center (N39º5’ W120º44’), formerly used for genetic research and containing white fir, sugar pine, Douglas’fir, and red fir seed orchards. To the north is the Foresthill Off-Highway Vehicle Trails area (N39º7’ W120º46’).

The North Fork American River is a wild and scenic river from the forest boundary (N39º10’ W120º47’) upstream 24 miles to Green Valley (N39º15’ W120º24’). Sugar Pine Reservoir (N39º8’ W120º48’) is on North Shirttail Creek, a tributary to the North Fork American River. It is operated by the Foresthill Public Utility District, which acquired the reservoir in 2003 from the Bureau of Reclamation. The Joshua M. Hardt Memorial Trail follows the reservoir shoreline for three miles. Upstream of Sugar Pine, Big Reservoir, Morning Star Resort, California (N39º8’ W120º48’) is a privately operated campground resort on Forbes Creek within the Tahoe National Forest. Sugar Pine Point Research Natural Area (N39º15’ W120º32’) overlooks the North Fork American River and is 640 acres of ponderosa-sugar-white fir mixed conifer forest ecosystem.

Placer County Big Tree Grove Botanical Area (N39º3’ W120º34’) is 364 acres on Mosquito Ridge Road. It is the northernmost natural occurrence of the Sierra redwoods. The Big Tree National Recreation Trail (1.4 miles long) provides access. Grouse Falls Scenic Area (N39º6’ W120º37’) is 141 acres surrounding the highest cascading waterfall in California, on the North Fork of the Middle Fork American River, reached from Forest Highway 33. Lyon Peak/Needle Lake Research Natural Area (N39º12’ W120º18’) is a 740-acre roadless area north of Granite Chief Wilderness used for research on the mountain hemlock forest type. The Western States Pioneer National Recreation Trail crosses the forest from near Foresthill (N39º2’ W120º47’) east to Painted Rock (N39º13’ W120º11’), in the Squaw Valley area on State Route 89 near Lake Tahoe. The trail is 55 miles long and used for endurance riding.

French Meadows Reservoir (N39º7’ W120º27’) and Ralston Afterbay (N39º0’ W120º45’), both on the Middle Fork American River, are operated by the Placer County Water Agency on Tahoe National Forest lands. Both offer trails as well as water-based recreation.

South Yuba River Area

Meadow Lake Archaeological Area (N39º24’ W120º30’) is a 70-acre area on Meadow Lake recognized for its use as a former gold mining area and for prehistoric rock art. The South Yuba River flows through a steep-walled canyon within the Tahoe National Forest and is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from Lake Spaulding (N39º19’ W120º39’) 21 miles downstream to the forest boundary at New York Canyon (N39º19’ W120º54’). The river is a designated California State Wild and Scenic River. The South Yuba National Recreation Trail begins at Poorman Creek in the Tahoe National Forest (N39º21’ W120º49’) and extends downstream along the river to the forest boundary. The Pioneer National Recreation Trail extends from the forest boundary at Five Mile House east of Nevada City (N39º17’ W120º57’) parallel to State Route 20 to Bear Valley, and then north to Lake Spaulding (N39º20’ W120º38’). Also on State Route 20 is the Burlington Ridge Off-Highway Vehicle area (N39º19’ W120º50’); the Rock Creek Nature Trail (N39º18’ W120º56’), which goes by an old mill site on Forest Road 20-3-4; and the Omega Overlook (N39º19’ W120º45’), which provides a view of the Alpha and Omega Diggins.

The area between the South Yuba River and Middle Yuba River and surrounding Malakoff Diggins State Historical Park is known as San Juan Ridge (N39º23’ W120º56’). This is a historic hydraulic mining area and is also known for fossil mammal sites. In the upper area of the South Yuba watershed, I-80 climbs Donner Summit. On the way, Big Bend Visitor Center (N39º18’ W120º31’) provides access to Loch Leven Trail and scenic granite outcroppings and glacial erratics.

Elsewhere, the South Yuba River watershed is crisscrossed with complex hydroelectric developments of the Nevada Irrigation District and Pacific Gas and Electric. Jackson Lake (N39º28’ W120º34’) is at the headwaters of Jackson Creek, a tributary to Bowman Lake. It provides storage for the Bowman hydroelectric project. French Lake (N39º25’ W120º32’), is on Canyon Creek and provides storage for release into Bowman Lake. Faucherie Lake (N39º26’ W120º34’), is on Canyon Creek downstream from French Lake and provides storage for release into Bowman Lake. Sawmill Lake (N39º27’ W120º36’) is on Canyon Creek downstream from Faucherie Lake. It provides storage for release into Bowman Lake. Bowman Lake (N39º27’ W120º39’) is on Canyon Creek downstream from Sawmill Lake. It stores water for release to the Bowman powerhouse downstream of the dam. Bowman-Spaulding Conduit Diversion Dam (N39º27’ W120º40’) is on Canyon Creek immediately downstream from Bowman Lake and diverts water to the Spaulding No. 3 Project of Pacific Gas & Electric.

The Spaulding No. 3 development of Pacific Gas & Electric captures water from a series of creeks and routes it into the Bowman-Spaulding Conduit for hydroelectric generation at the Spaulding No. 3 Powerhouse on Spaulding Lake. Facilities on National Forest lands include Culbertson Lake (N39º25’ W120º37’), Lower Lindsey Lake (N39º25’ W120º38’), Feeley Lake and Carr Lake (both 39º24’ W120º38’), Rucker Lake and Fuller Lake  (both N39º21’ W120º39’), Fall Creek Diversion (N39º23’ W120º40’), Clear Creek Diversion (N39º23’ W120º41’), and Trap Creek Diversion (N39º22’ W120º41’). The Spaulding No. 1 and No. 2 Developments on National Forest lands include White Rock Lake (N39º25’ W120º23’), Meadow Lake (N39º24’ W120º30’), Sterling Lake (N39º21’ W120º29’), Fordyce Lake (N39º23’ W120º30’), Upper Peak Lake and Lower Peak Lake (both N39º18’ W120º26’), and Spaulding Lake (N39º20’ W120º38’).Between Spaulding, Bowman, and French Lakes is the Grouse Lake area (N39º25’ W120º35’), which is known for hiking trails. Water leaving Spaulding Lake through the powerhouses can be transferred to the Bear River watershed or the Deer Creek watershed. The South Yuba Canal leading to the Deer Creek area upstream from Nevada City is mostly on Tahoe National Forest land.

Middle Yuba River Area

The Middle Yuba River is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from Milton Reservoir (N39º31’ W120º35’) for 31 miles downstream to Our House Reservoir (N39º25’ W120º58’). The steep-walled canyon is 2,000 feet deep in places. One tributary, Macklin Creek (N39º30’ W120º36’) supports a population of the Pyramid Lake population of Lahontan cutthroat trout. This population was introduced to the west side of the Sierra divide.

The Bowman Development of the Nevada Irrigation District consists of reservoirs and diversion dams on Tahoe National Forest lands. On the Middle Yuba River is Jackson Meadows Reservoir (N39º30’ W120º33’). It can be reached from Forest Highway 7 over Henness Pass west of State Route 89. The Woodcamp Creek Interpretive Trail near Jackson Meadows (N39º29’ W120º33’) goes through a red fir forest. Downstream is Milton Reservoir (N39º31’ W120º35’), which diverts water through a tunnel to Bowman Lake on Canyon Creek, a tributary to the South Yuba River. Wilson Creek Diversion Dam (N39º31’ W120º35’) is on the Milton-Bowman aqueduct near Milton Reservoir and diverts creek water into the aqueduct and tunnel for delivery to Bowman Lake.

The Yuba River Development Project of Yuba County Water Agency includes three dams on Tahoe National Forest lands. Water is diverted from the Middle Yuba River by the Our House Diversion Dam (N39º25’ W121º0’). Water enters a tunnel and exits at the Log Cabin Diversion Dam on Oregon Creek (N39º26’ W121º3’). Water from Log Cabin Diversion is transferred via tunnel to New Bullards Bar Reservoir (N39º24’ W121º8’), which is on the Tahoe National Forest boundary with the Plumas National Forest.

North Yuba River Area

State Route 49 north from Nevada City provides access to Downieville and national forest lands along the North Yuba River. North of the crossing of the Middle Yuba River is the Oregon Creek Covered Bridge (N39º24’ W121º5’). New Bullards Bar Reservoir (N39º24’ W121º8’), is partially on Tahoe National Forest lands. There is a powerhouse at the reservoir. The reservoir is part of the Yuba River Development Project. An extensive trail system involving the 14-mile Bullards Bar Trail and connecting trails is on the south side of the reservoir.On the way to Downieville is Jouberts Diggins (N39º30’ W121º2’), where hydraulic mining continued until 1941.

North of Downieville near Canyon Creek is Devils Postpile Geological Area (N39º40’ W120º53’). This is a large vertical pillar of basalt rising above the surrounding landscape. A few miles to the east of Devils Postpile, Chimney Rock (N39º41’ W120º49’) is an unusual volcanic rock formation at the top of a 7000-foot mountain, accessible by hiking trail. East of Downieville, the Sierra Buttes (N39º36’ W120º39’) are the northernmost granite outcrop in the Sierra Nevada and support the southernmost occurrence of green spleenwort. Nearby is the Sand Pond Interpretive Trail (N39º37’ W120º37’) and the Kentucky Mine-Sierra City Museum (N39º34’ W120º37’), a project of Sierra County. West of Yuba Pass on State Route 49 is the Sierra Nevada Field Campus of San Francisco State University (N39º37’ W120º35’), where adult education courses are offered in the summer and research on the geology, flora, and fauna of the northern Sierra Nevada takes place.

Donner Summit and Truckee Area

The Alder Creek Camp Site of the Donner emigrant party (N39º23’ W120º11’) is on State Route 89 north of Truckee at the Donner Camp Picnic Area. The Tahoe National Forest site is part of the Donner Camp Sites National Historic Landmark, described separately. Donner Lake Rim Trail (N39º21’ W120º20’) connects the Donner Lake Interchange on I-80 with the Pacific Crest Trail at Donner Summit on I-80 and is a project of the Truckee-Donner Land Trust. The Donner Summit Canyon Trail (N39º19’ W120º19’) connects the west end of Donner Lake with Donner Pass, approximately along the route of the California National Historic Trail and original route of the Lincoln Highway, crossing both Tahoe National Forest and Truckee Donner Land Trust property. West of Donner Pass, Royal Gorge (N39º18’ W120º22’) is a hiking area developed by the Truckee Donner Land Trust using private property and Forest Service lands.

Glacier Meadows Geological Area (N39º20’ W120º20’) is 210 acres south of I-80 at Donner Summit. The area is known for scoured and polished granite with scattered large boulders and is accessed by a one-half mile trail from the I-80 rest stop. North of Donner Summit on the Pacific Crest Trail, Basin Peak (N39º23’ W120º22’) contains a nearly pure stand of mountain hemlock. Nearby Mount Lola (N39º26’ W120º21’) also supports mountain hemlock. Sagehen Headwaters Botanical Area (N39º25’ W120º19’) is a 78-acre glaciated cirque with a diversity of plants and aquatic systems.

On State Route 89 north of Truckee, Kyburz Flat (N39º30’ W120º14’) is a waterfowl nesting area, rock art, stage stop, and sheep camp site. The willow thickets in the flat are part of the Northern Sierra Meadows Important Bird Area. The willow thickets host Lincoln’s sparrow, Wilson’s warbler, and willow flycatcher. Cottonwood Creek Botanical Trail (N39º33’ W120º19’) is a one-half mile walk with plant identification information. There are three Bureau of Reclamation Reservoirs within this part of the forest, and Martis Creek Reservoir (N39º19’ W120º7’) of the US Army Corps of Engineers borders Tahoe National Forest land. Boca Reservoir (N39º24’ W120º6’), is on the Little Truckee River. It provides irrigation storage for the Washoe County Conservation District as part of the Truckee Storage Project, and is accessed from I-80. The dam is at the former Boca town site, which has a mining, lumbering, and railroad history. A one-half mile trail loops to the Boca Brewery, icehouse, and lumber mill sites. Prosser Creek Reservoir (N39º23’ W120º9’), is north of Truckee off of State Route 89 within the Tahoe National Forest. It is part of the Washoe Project, which stores water for fishery enhancement for Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-ui spawning. Stampede Reservoir (N39º29’ W120º8’), is on the Little Truckee River north of Boca Reservoir. Part of the Washoe Project, it stores water for fishery enhancement for Lahontan cutthroat trout and cui-ui spawning. Between Boca and Stampede reservoirs, the Little Truckee River Terrace (N39º27’ W120º6’) was formed by glacial dam bursts which resulted in release of water from Lake Tahoe.

Toiyabe National Forest

Toiyabe National Forest, 645,000 acres in California and 2.5 million acres in Nevada, is administered together with the Humbolt National Forest and includes the eastern front of the Sierra Nevada from Mono Lake to northwest of Reno, as well as ranges in the Nevada Great Basin desert area. The southernmost point in the Sierra Nevada ecoregion is at Copper Mountain (N38º3’ W119º12’) and the northernmost point is at Roberts Canyon (N39º44’ W120º8’). Wilderness areas in the forest, described separately, include Carson-Iceberg, Hoover, Mokelumne, and Mount Rose.

West of Reno is the Dog Valley portion of the forest. Babbitt Peak proposed Research Natural Area, California (N39º36’ W120º6’), is 960 acres in the Toiyabe and Tahoe National Forests, with an exemplary forest of Washoe pine, red fir, western white pine, and mountain hemlock. The Truckee Route of the California National Scenic Trail crosses Dog Valley (N39º33’ W120º2’).

Southwest of Reno, State Route 431, the Mount Rose Scenic Byway, traverses the forest in an area known as the Carson Front. The Galena Creek Visitor Center, Nevada (N39º22’ W119º51’) is the trailhead for an extensive trail system at the boundary between the Sierra Nevada and Great Basin ecoregions. Trails lead into the Mount Rose Wilderness. The Tahoe Rim National Recreation Trail crosses this portion of the forest and goes in and out of the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit-Toiyabe National Forest boundary. The Pony Express National Historic Trail crosses the forest at the Kingsbury Grade (State Route 207) (N38º58’ W119º52’).

The Alpine management area includes portions of Alpine County, California. Hope Valley (N38º46’ W119º56’) on the West Fork Carson River at the junction of State Routes 88 and 89 is considered eligible for national natural landmark status. East Fork Carson River is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from Silver King Valley (N38º36’ W119º40’) downstream to where it leaves the national system of public lands at a diversion dam (N38º53’ W119º41’) above the Lahonton Fish Hatchery. The eligibility continues upstream to the source in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. The California National Historic Trail, Carson Route, crosses the forest from Woodfords Station (N38º47’ W119º50’) to Carson Pass (N38º42’ W119º59’). The Walker River-Sonora Route of the California National Historic Trail crosses the forest from Little Lost Canyon (N38º30’ W119º30’) to Leavitt Meadow (N38º20’ W119º33’) and then enters the Hoover Wilderness. The Pony Express National Historic Trail crosses the forest between Woodford’s Station (N38º47’ W119º49’) and Luther Pass (N38º47’ W119º57’).

The Walker Management area includes the West Walker River watershed. Leavitt Meadows is part of the Sierra Meadows North Important Bird Area. The West Fork Walker River is eligible for the national wild and scenic river system from Leavitt Meadows (N38º18’ W119º33’) downstream to where it leaves the national forest along US Route 395 at Walker (N38º30’ W119º27’).

In the East Walker River watershed, Twin Lakes (N38º10’ W119º20’) are on Robinson Creek near Bridgeport. Resorts and trailheads for the Hoover Wilderness are in this area. Just north of Twin Lakes, Buckeye Hot Springs (N38º14’ W119º20’) provide recreational soaking.

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail passes through the wilderness areas of the forest (see separate descriptions under Mokelumne, Carson-Iceberg, and Hoover Wildernesses), as well as at Lost Lakes (N38º39’ W119º57’), Ebbetts Pass on State Route 4 (N38º33’ W119º49’), Wolf Creek Lake (N38º21’ W119º37’), and Sonora Pass (N38º20’ W119º38’).

Reservoirs and Hydroelectric Power Projects

This section includes reservoirs federally authorized (hydroelectric projects), reservoirs located on federal lands, and reservoirs constructed by federal agencies. Because of the large number of hydroelectric developments in the Sierra Nevada, reservoirs are listed by river basin.

American River, North Fork

Big Reservoir, Morning Star Resort, California (N39º8’ W120º48’) is a privately operated campground resort on Forbes Creek within the Tahoe National Forest.

Kelly Lake, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º19’ W120º35’), is south of I-80 at Yuba Gap on Sixmile Creek, a tributary to the North Fork of the North Fork American River. The hydroelectric storage reservoir is part of the Drum No. 1 and No. 2 Development.

Lake Valley Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º18’ W120º35’) is on the North Fork of the North Fork American River south of I-80 at Yuba Gap. The hydroelectric storage reservoir is part of the Drum No. 1 and No. 2 Development.

Lake Valley Canal Diversion Dam, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º18’ W120º38’) delivers water to the Drum Forebay, which in turn regulates water flow into the Drum powerhouses on the Bear River (see). This facility is part of the Drum No. 1 and No. 2 Development.

Sugar Pine Reservoir, Foresthill Public Utility District, California (N39º8’ W120º48’) is on North Shirttail Creek, a tributary to the North Fork American River, and is on Tahoe National Forest lands. The water supply reservoir was purchased by the utility district in 2003 from the Bureau of Reclamation, which originally constructed it.

Towle Canal Diversion Dam, Pacific Gas & Electric (N39º14’ W120º45’) is on Canyon Creek, a tributary to the North Fork American River. Water is diverted to the Alta Powerhouse on the Bear River (see). The small dam is along I-80 and is part of the Alta Development of Pacific Gas & Electric.

Newcastle Powerhouse, Pacific Gas & Electric (N38º50’ W121º6’) receives water from the South Canal (Wise Development) and discharges to Mormon Ravine on Folsom Lake.

American River, Middle Fork

Buck Island Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N39º0’ W120º15’), is on a tributary to the Rubicon River, but its water is diverted to Loon Lake by a tunnel. It is part of the Upper American River hydroelectric project in the Eldorado National Forest.

French Meadows Reservoir, Placer County Water Agency (N39º7’ W120º27’), is on the Middle Fork American River in the Tahoe National Forest. Hiking trails and campgrounds are on the reservoir.

Gerle Creek Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º58′ W120º24′), is on a tributary of the South Fork Rubicon River in the Crystal Basin area of Eldorado National Forest.

Hell Hole Reservoir, Placer County Water Agency (N39º4’ W120º24’) is a water supply and hydroelectric reservoir on the Rubicon River, a tributary to the Middle Fork American River, in Eldorado National Forest. It adjoins the Granite Chief Wilderness in the Tahoe National Forest. Hiking trails and campgrounds are on the reservoir.

Loon Lake, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º59’ W120º19’) is on Gerle Creek, a tributary of the South Fork Rubicon River, and is part of the Upper American River hydroelectric project. It is also part of the Crystal Basin Recreation Area in the Eldorado National Forest.

Robbs Creek Dam, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º57’ W120º23’) is on the South Fork Rubicon River. It is part of the upper American River hydroelectric development.

Rubicon Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º59’ W120º13’) is on the Rubicon River in the Desolation Wilderness. It is part of the Upper American River hydroelectric project.

Stumpy Meadows Reservoir, Georgetown Public Utility District (N38º54 W120º36’) is in the Eldorado National Forest east of Georgetown. Mark Edson Dam impounds Pilot Creek, a tributary to the Rubicon River, to create the reservoir.

American River, South Fork

Lake Aloha, El Dorado Irrigation District, California (N38º52’ W120º8’), is on Pyramid Creek in the Desolation Wilderness and is part of the El Dorado hydroelectric project on the South Fork American River.

Brush Creek Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (NN38º49’ W120º37’), is on Forebay Road north of Pollock Pines in the Eldorado National Forest. Brush Creek is a tributary to the South Fork American River and is part of the Upper American River Hydroelectric Project.

Camino Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º50’ W120º32’), is on Silver Creek in the Eldorado National Forest and used as part of the Upper American River Hydroelectric Project.

Caples Lake, El Dorado Irrigation District (N38º42’ W120º3’) is on State Route 88 near Carson Pass in the Eldorado National Forest. It is operated as part of the El Dorado hydroelectric project on the South Fork American River.

Chili Bar Reservoir, Pacific Gas and Electric, California (N38º46’ W120º49’) is off State Route 193 north of Placerville, on the South Fork American River.

Ice House Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º50’ W120º21’), is on South Fork Silver Creek in the Eldorado National Forest. It is part of the Crystal Basin Recreation Area and Upper American River Hydroelectric Project.

Junction Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º51’ W120º27’), is on Silver Creek just downstream from Union Valley Reservoir and is visible from Forest Highway 31. It is part of the Crystal Basin Recreation Area and Upper American River Hydroelectric Project in the Eldorado National Forest.

Kyburz Diversion Dam, El Dorado Irrigation District (N38º46’ W120º19’) is on the South Fork American River. It diverts river water into the El Dorado Ditch, which runs along the south side of the River to Forebay Reservoir at Pollock Pines (N38º46’ W120º35’), which in turn diverts the water through Akin Powerhouse (N38º48’ W120º37’) before returning to the river.

Silver Lake, El Dorado Irrigation District (N38º40’ W120º7’) is on Silver Fork American River just off State Route 88 in the Eldorado National Forest. It is operated as part of the El Dorado hydroelectric project on the South Fork American River.

Slab Creek Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º46’ W120º41’), is on the South Fork American River northeast of Placerville in the Eldorado National Forest. It is part of the Upper American River hydroelectric development.

Union Valley Reservoir, Sacramento Municipal Utility District (N38º52’ W120º25’) is on Silver Creek in the Eldorado National Forest. It is the largest reservoir of the Upper American River hydroelectric project and the Crystal Basin Recreation Area. In addition to its watershed, water for the reservoir is diverted from Rubicon Reservoir via Buck Island Dam, Loon Lake, Gerle Creek Reservoir, and Robbs Peak Dam.

Part 2C continues with hydroelectric reservoirs in the Mother Lode including the Mokelumne, Truckee, and Yuba Rivers.

Sierra Nevada Forests, Part 2A, American River and Tahoe Areas

Sierra Nevada map 1

Continuing south in the Sierra Nevada forests, the American River watershed drains the western slopes and the Truckee River drains the eastern slopes. This post describes some of the features in this landscape. Part 2 describes the Mother Lode and Lake Tahoe areas encompassed by general areas of the Eldorado and Tahoe National Forests, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, and the northern Toiyabe National Forest portion within the Sierra Nevada. Drainages include the American, Carson, Truckee, and Yuba Rivers, with some of the Mokelumne and Walker Rivers. Part 2A describes the National Historic Landmarks, National Natural Landmarks, and National Forest system.

National Historic Landmark

Donner Camp Sites National Historic Landmark, Donner Memorial State Park and Tahoe National Forest, California, commemorates three overwintering sites of the ill-fated Donner emigrant party, who were trapped by an early snow while traversing the California Trail. Donner Memorial State Park (N39º19’ W120º15’) is 1,750 acres on I-80 west of Truckee. It includes two overwintering sites of the Donner party, the sites of the Murphy Cabin and Breen-Keseberg Cabin. The park also has a museum interpreting the site and 2.5 miles of hiking trails and monuments commemorating all California emigrants. The Alder Creek Camp site, Tahoe National Forest (N39º23’ W120º11’) is on State Route 89 north of Truckee and is located at the Donner Camp Picnic Area. The Donner Camp National Recreation trail is an interpretive trail with displays. A third camp site, the Reed-Graves Cabin, is near I-80 east of the state park on private land. The Donner Party consisted of 87 California-bound emigrants from Illinois. They arrived late at the Sierra Nevada, on October 31, 1846, and were unable to cross the Sierra due to deep snow. Unable to proceed, they camped at the foot of the crest. During the winter, 48 survived, most infamously by eating human flesh. During the winter, two thirds of the men, one third of the children, and one fourth of the women survived.

National Natural Landmarks

Two National Natural Landmarks have been recognized in the Sierra Nevada. Many other sites are likely eligible. Emerald Bay State Park, California (N38º57’ W120º6’) is 1,400 acres on the west shore of Lake Tahoe on State Route 89. The unique embayment was gouged by glaciers and is listed as an outstanding example of glacial geology. The bay and shoreline to the north are part of a state underwater park. Black Chasm Caverns, Sierra Nevada Recreation Corporation, California (N38º26’ W120º38’) is a three-level cave with the best helictite formations in the west. It is located on Pioneer Volcano Road in Pine Grove, California, off of State Route 88 in the Mother Lode. Cavern tours and an above-ground nature trail are at the site.

National Forest (NF) System

The National Forest system in the American River and Tahoe areas includes the Eldorado, Tahoe, and Toiyabe National Forests as well as th Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit; experimental forests, watersheds, and research facilities; and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, administered by the Forest Service. The trail is further described under the National Trails System section. Wilderness areas and national recreation trails within the national forest system are also described separately.

Eldorado National Forest

Eldorado National Forest, California, is 670,000 acres in the Mother Lode crossed from east to west by US Route 50 and State Route 88 (Carson Pass National Scenic Byway). The Desolation Wilderness and Mokelumne Wilderness (both described separately) are within the forest. The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (described separately) is accessed at Carson Pass in the south and leaves the forest at Miller Meadows (N39º2’ W120º14) in the north.

US Route 50 and Crystal Basin

US Route 50 crosses between Echo Summit (N38º49’ W120º2’) and Pacific (N38º46’ W120º31’). This corridor became the major stage route to California. The Pony Express National Historic Trail, described separately, crosses the forest along the US Route 50 corridor between Echo Summit (N38º49’ W120º2’) and Pollock Pines (N38º46’ W120º35’). The eight-mile section between Strawberry (N38º47’ W120º9’) and Kyburz (N38º46’ W120º20’) is designated as a National Recreation Trail. Phillips Station (N38º49’ W120º5’) was an 1826 stage stop in a grassy meadow, across from the current Sierra at Tahoe ski resort entrance. Twin Bridges (N38º48’ W120º8’) is below a 1,000-foot-high rock face called Lover’s Leap. Horsetail Falls in the Desolation Wilderness is also visible from this area. The area between the wilderness and Twin Bridges is the Pyramid Creek Geological Area (N38º49’ W120º7’). Pyramid Creek from Avalanche Lake to US Route 50 is considered eligible for the National Wild and Scenic River system. Just downhill from Pyramid Creek confluence with the South Fork American River is the Strawberry Pony Express Station. The area to the north and south of US 50 in the Twin Bridges-Strawberry area is a major summer hiking area, with trails to waterfalls, lakes, and meadows. To the south of US Route 50 and the South Fork American River, Station Creek Research Natural Area (N38º47’ W120º12’) is 750 acres of sugar pine-white fir forest type. The Wrights Lake Turnoff from US Route 50 (Forest Highway 4) follows the route of 1850s roads to Georgetown. South of Wrights Lake, the Wrights Lake Bog Botanical Area (N38º50’ W120º13’) is 65 acres. Wrights Lake is the trailhead for Desolation Wilderness.

Continuing downhill on US Route 50, Kyburz (N38º46’ W120º18’) was an inn and toll house with a historic lodge; Sugarloaf House, a stage stop and Pony Express site, is also in this area. South of Kyburz along the Silver Fork American River (N38º42’ W120º12’) is a hiking area. Silver Fork is considered eligible for the National Wild and Scenic River system from the confluence with Caples Creek (N38º41’ W120º11’) downstream to Kyburz (N38º46’ W120º19’). Downstream of the confluence with Silver Fork is Kyburz Diversion Dam (N38º46’ W120º19’) for the El Dorado Irrigation District. The water is routed in the El Dorado ditch to a storage reservoir near Pollock Pines and to Akin Powerhouse, a hydroelectric plant to the north of Pollock Pines. Indian Springs (N38º46’ W120º20’) was a resort hotel in the 1920s and 1930s, which also bottled mineral water for sale. Whitehall (N38º47’ W120º24’) was the site of an 1850s saloon and the beginning of a toll road downhill to Placerville.

Riverton (N38º46’ W120º27’) was a hotel and stage stop in the 1860s. From Riverton, Forest Highway 3 (Ice House Road) leads north to the Crystal Basin Recreation Area, a joint project of Eldorado National Forest and Sacramento Municipal Utility District. The recreation area consists of nine reservoirs with trails and recreational facilities in between. The reservoirs are Rubicon Reservoir, described under the Desolation Wilderness, Buck Island Reservoir (N39º0’ W120º15’, Loon Lake Reservoir (N38º59’ W120º19’), Gerle Creek Reservoir (N38º58’ W120º24’), Robbs Creek Dam (N38º57’ W120º23’), Ice House Reservoir (N38º50’ W120º21’), Junction Reservoir (N38º51’ W120º27’), Camino Reservoir (N38º50’ W120º32’), and Union Valley Reservoir (N38º52; W120º25’), which is the largest. Trailheads in the Crystal Basin lead to the Desolation Wilderness. The South Fork American River from its headwaters near Echo Pass (N38º49’ W120º2’) downstream to Blair Bridge near Pacific House (N38º46’ W120º30’) is considered eligible for the National Wild and Scenic River System.

Further down US Route 50, Bullion Bend (N38º46’ W120º34’) was the site of a stagecoach robbery in 1864. North of Bullion Bend on the South Fork American River, the Peavine Research Natural Area (N38º47’ W120º34’) is 1,100 acres with Pacific ponderosa pine and black oak forests. Year-round hiking areas are south of Pollock Pines at Fleming Meadows (N38º42’ W120º33’) and Cedar Park (N38º43’ W120º36’). Also south of Pollock Pines is Jenkinson Lake (N38º43’ W120º34’), constructed by the Bureau of Reclamation but transferred to the El Dorado Irrigation District in 2003. It adjoins Eldorado National Forest lands. North of Pollock Pines, Slab Creek Reservoir (N38º46’ W120º41’) on the South Fork American River and Brush Creek Reservoir (N38º49’ W120º37’) are operated by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District within the Eldorado National Forest. East of Placerville, the Placerville Nursery (N38º45’ W120º44’) is 150 acres on Fruit Ridge Road. It supplies seedlings to other national forests in California. Also on Carson Road east of Placerville is the Institute of Forest Genetics, described separately.

State Route 88

State Route 88 bisects the forest between Dew Drop (N38º31’W120º29’) and Carson Pass (N38º42’ W119º59’). The California National Historic Trail, Carson Route, crosses the forest from Carson Pass to Amador. The 15-mile section from Caples Lake (N38º42’ W120º4’) to Tragedy Springs (N38º38’ W120º9’) is designated the Carson Emigrant Historic National Recreation Trail. The Carson Pass-Caples Lake area provides trailheads south in the Mokelumne Wilderness and north to places in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and lakes in the Eldorado National Forest. Just south of Carson Pass, the Round Top Botanical and Geological Area (N38º41’ W119º59’) includes a wealth of rare plants and geologic formations such as Elephants Back in the Mokelumne Wilderness. Caples Lake is operated by the El Dorado Irrigation District as part of the El Dorado hydroelectric project. Caples Creek (N38º43’ W120º8’) downstream of Caples Lake is considered eligible for the National Wild and Scenic River System.

The trail to Thunder Mountain (N38º40’ W120º5’) starts on State Route 88 west of Kirkwood. It passes volcanic formations called the Two Sentinels. Silver Lake (N38º39’ W120º7’) is also a trailhead for day hiking to glacial lakes such as Shealor, Granite, and Hidden Lakes. Silver Lake is operated by the El Dorado Irrigation District as part of the El Dorado hydroelectric project.

South of Carson Pass, Meadow Lake (N38º36’ W119º58’), Twin Lake (N38º36’ W119º56’), Lower Blue Lake (N38º37’ W119º56’), and Upper Blue Lake (N38º37’ W119º57’), are operated by Pacific Gas & Electric as hydroelectric storage reservoirs for the North Fork Mokelumne River. Salt Springs Reservoir (N38º30’ W120º11’), Bear River Reservoir (N38º34’ W120º13’), and Lower Bear River Reservoir (N38º32’ W120º15’) are also PG&E hydroelectric projects on Eldorado National Forest lands. The North Fork Mokelumne River between the Mokelumne Wilderness (N38º31’ W120º10’) and Tiger Creek (N38º27’ W120º29’) is protected as the 12,000-acre Mokelumne Archaeological Area. There are more than 100 prehistoric and historic archaeological sites of high integrity in this area. The North Fork is also eligible for the National Wild and Scenic River System.

Georgetown Approaches

The northwestern portion of the Eldorado NF is approached from Georgetown.  Off of State Route 193 at the junction of Meadowbrook Road and Bear Creek Road, the Traverse Creek Botanical Area (N38º52’ W120º49’) protects 220 acres of rare chaparral plants growing on serpentine hills, which contain high levels of magnesium, nickel, and chromium. Trails have been constructed through the serpentine chaparral. Further to the south is the Rock Creek Botanical Area (N38º49’ W120º46’) is 420 acres of similar habitat. To the east of Georgetown, Stumpy Meadows Reservoir (N38º54’ W120º36’), operated by the Georgetown Public Utilities District, occupies Eldorado National Forest lands. The Leonardi Falls Botanical Area (N38º55’ W120º32’) is 219 acres near the Rubicon River. Little Crater Geological Area (N39º1’ W120º34’) is 210 acres and Big Crater Geological Area (N39º1’ W120º36’) is 125 acres, both overlooking the Middle Fork of the American River. The Rubicon River is eligible for the National Wild and Scenic River system from its confluence with the Middle Fork American River (N39º0’ W120º44’) upstream to Hell Hole Reservoir (N39º3’ W120º24’). Hell Hole Reservoir and Ralston Afterbay (N39º0’ W120º45’) on the Middle Fork American River are operated by the Placer County Water Agency on Eldorado National Forest lands.

Institute of Forest Genetics

Institute of Forest Genetics, California (N38º44’ W120º44’) is 234 acres on Carson Road east of Placerville in the Mother Lode planted to various conifers. The Eddy Arboretum has the world’s largest collection of pines, with 78 species of pine and 24 species of firs.

Onion Creek Experimental Forest

Onion Creek Experimental Forest, California (N39º17’ W120º21’) is south of Donner Summit in the North Fork American River watershed. Permanent forest study plots of red fir and white fir forests are used for research by the University of California, Berkeley and the Pacific Southwest Research Station. It borders the Tahoe National Forest, the North Fork Reserve, and the Chickering American River Reserve of the UC Natural Reserve System.

Sagehen Experimental Forest

Sagehen Experimental Forest, California (N39ᵒ26’ W120ᵒ14’) is 8,100 acres north of Truckee on State Route 89 bordered by the Tahoe National Forest and Independence Lake Preserve of the Nature Conservancy. It is the home of the Sagehen Creek Field Station of University of California, Berkeley. It includes the entire watershed of Sagehen Creek, which is a glacial cirque with virgin red fir forests.  Over 50 years of hydrologic data has been collected in the lodgepole pine, Jeffrey pine, ponderosa pine, and fir forests upstream from Stampede Reservoir. The forest is known for its diversity and variety of springs and spring habitats. The Mason Fen Botanical Area is within the forest. This wet spongy peatland area has a moss and sedge mat. The willow thickets in the Sagehen Creek valley are part of the Northern Sierra Meadows Important Bird Area. The willow thickets host Lincoln’s sparrow, Wilson’s warbler, and willow flycatcher.

Part 2B continues with the national forest system and then describes the reservoir and hydroelectric power systems of the American River-Truckee River area of the Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion.

 

Sierra Nevada Forests, Part 1B: Plumas Area

This entry concludes the northernmost Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion compilation, with information about hydroelectric developments, wilderness areas, and state parks included.

Feather River, Middle Fork

Lake Davis, California State Water Project (N39º53’ W120º29’), is on Big Grizzly Creek, a tributary to the Middle Fork Feather River. The reservoir is north of Portola, with recreation areas managed by the Plumas National Forest.

Frenchman Lake, California State Water Project (N39º54’ W120º12’), is on Last Chance Creek, a tributary of the Middle Fork Feather River. It is north of Hallelujah Junction off of State Route 70. Recreation Areas are managed by the Plumas National Forest.

Feather River, South Fork

Little Grass Valley Reservoir, South Feather Water and Power Agency (N39º43’ W121º1’) is the uppermost storage reservoir of the South Feather Hydroelectric Development and is on the South Fork Feather River.

South Fork Diversion Dam, South Feather Water and Power Agency (N39º39’ W121º7’) sends water from the South Fork Feather River into a 2.7-mile tunnel for delivery to Sly Creek Reservoir. The reservoir also receives water from Slate Creek Diversion Dam in the North Yuba River watershed.

Sly Creek Reservoir, South Feather Water and Power Agency (N39º35’ W121º7’), is a major storage reservoir for the South Feather Hydroelectric Development on Lost Creek. Water is released to Lost Creek Reservoir.

Lost Creek Reservoir, South Feather Water and Power Agency  (N39º34’ W121º8’) diverts water to a tunnel which generates power is Woodleaf Powerhouse on upper Forbestown Diversion Reservoir.

Forbestown Diversion Dam, South Feather Water and Power Agency (N39º33’ W121º12’) is on the South Fork Feather River and diverts water to a powerhouse on Ponderosa Diversion Reservoir.

Ponderosa Diversion Dam, South Feather Water and Power Agency (N39º33’ W121º18’) is on the South Fork Feather River and diverts water through a canal and tunnel to Miners Ranch Reservoir.

Miners Ranch Reservoir, South Feather Water and Power Agency (N39º30’ W121º27’), stores water for release into Kelly Ridge Powerhouse below Oroville Dam.

North Yuba River

New Bullards Bar Reservoir, Yuba County Water Agency (N39º24’ W121º8’), is partially on Tahoe and Plumas National Forest lands. There is a powerhouse at the reservoir and also at Colgate. The Colgate powerhouse (N39º20’ W121º11’) receives water from the Colgate Tunnel from New Bullards Bar Reservoir diversion dam just downstream of New Bullards Bar Reservoir. The reservoir is part of the Yuba River Development Project. On the upper end of the reservoir on Deadwood Creek (N39º32’ W121º6’) is a hydro plant operated by Yuba County Water Agency.

Slate Creek Diversion Dam, South Feather Water and Power Agency, Plumas National Forest (N39º37’ W121º3’) sends water to Sly Creek Reservoir in the Feather River watershed.

National Trails System

California National Historic Trail

The Beckwourth Trail, Walker River-Sonora Route, Carson Route, and Truckee Routes of the California National Historic Trail cross the Sierra Nevada ecoregion. In addition, the emigrants used at least 11 alternate routes in addition to the four main routes. One alternate route that ultimately became the most popular was the Johnson Cutoff, which is roughly modern-day U.S. Route 50.

The Beckwourth Trail roughly follows State Route 70 from Beckwourth Pass (approximately 5,200 feet) to Quincy and the Oroville-Quincy Highway (Forest Highway 119) from Quincy via Bucks Summit (5,500 feet) to Bidwell Bar, submerged under today’s Oroville Lake. It was used beginning in 1851 after the Donner Disaster and was viewed as a low-elevation alternative to the Truckee Route. Sites on the Beckwourth Trail include Beckwourth Pass (N39º47’ W120º7’), Jim Beckwourth Museum and Cabin of the City of Portola (N39º49’ W120º25’), American Valley (Quincy, N39º56’ W120º57’), Bucks Lake (N39º52’ W121º11’), Mountain House (N39º42’ W121º20’), and Bidwell Bar (N39º33’ W121º26’) in Lake Oroville State Recreation Area. Except where indicated, all the sites are privately owned.

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail

Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail extends 2,600 miles from Canada to Mexico, passing through some of the most scenic areas in California.

In the Plumas National Forest, the PCT enters the forest at Summit Lake (N39º40’ W120º41’), passes Pilot Peak (N39º47’ W120º52’), Middle Fork Feather River (N39º48’ W121º3’), Rock Creek Reservoir (N40º0’ W121º16’), and leaves the forest at Chips Creek (N40º2’ W121º18’). The trail continues in the Lassen National Forest and leaves the Sierra Nevada after passing Poison Spring (N40º3’ W121º24’).

National Recreation Trails of the Sierra Nevada

Feather Falls National Recreation Trail, Plumas National Forest, California (N39º39’ W121º16’) is a 4.5-mile walk to the sixth highest waterfall in the U.S. (640 feet). The trailhead is off of Lumpkin Road (N39º37’ W121º16’).

Hartman Bar National Recreation Trail, Plumas National Forest, California (N39º45’ W121º10’), is a 3.75-mile descent from Forest Highway 94 to the Middle Fork Feather Wild and Scenic River, providing scenic canyon views.

National Wild and Scenic River System

The Middle Fork Feather River, Plumas National Forest and National System of Public Lands, is a wild and scenic river from Lake Oroville (N39º38’ W121º17’) upstream for 78 miles to the Sierra Valley Channels at Beckwourth (N39º49’ W120º23’). Wild river designations are in the Bald Rock Canyon area just before Lake Oroville, Devil Canyon (N39º44’ W121º13’), and Franklin Canyon (N39º48’ W121º5’). Scenic river designations are near Milsap Bar (N39º42’ W121º16’) and English Bar (N39º52’ W120º50’). The upper river from the railroad tunnel at Sloat (N39º52’ W120º46’) upstream to Sierra Valley is a recreational river designation. The Sierra Valley is the largest intermountain valley in the Sierra Nevada, and is at 5,000 feet in elevation, with sagebrush scrub and freshwater marshes. It is an Important Bird Area for the black tern, Wilson’s phalarope, and willet. A large colony of white-faced ibis breeds in the valley.

National Wilderness Preservation System

Bucks Lake Wilderness, Plumas National Forest, California, is 23,700 acres between Bucks Lake and the North Fork Feather River. This northernmost wilderness in the Sierra Nevada features oak and red fir forests, meadows, and quaking bogs. The northernmost point is near French Bar at the confluence of the North Fork Feather and East Branch North Fork Feather River (N40º1’ W121º13’) and the southernmost point is near Bucks Lake (N39º53’ W121º9’). The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail crosses the wilderness from Belden in the north (N40º0’ W121º16’) for 13 miles to Bucks Summit in the south (N39º54’ W121º7’), mostly following a ridge which drops off precipitously to the east and north. The Mount Pleasant Research Natural Area (N39º57’ W121º11’) is within the wilderness and was established for research on red fir on granite substrate, as well as wet and moist meadows with bog flora.

State and Local Sites

Baker Forest, University of California-Davis (N39º55’ W121º4’) is 120 acres in Meadow Valley west of Quincy operated under special use permit in the Plumas National Forest. It is used as a forestry summer camp and for forest research. In addition to ponderosa and sugar pines and black oak, there are plantations of white fir, giant sequoia, and incense cedar.

Butte Creek Ecological Reserve, California (N40º5’ W121º25’) is 320 acres of wet meadows and lodgepole-Jeffrey pine habitat. It is surrounded by Lassen National Forest lands and is on Humbug Summit Road.

Coon Hollow Wildlife Area, California, is 730 acres of wet meadow and upland habitat surrounded by Lassen National Forest lands. Tracts at Coon Hollow (N40º3’ W121º27’) and Snag Lake (N40º5’ W121º26’) make up the wildlife area.

Crocker Meadows Wildlife Area, California (N39º51’ W120º23’) is 1,700 acres of montane chaparral in two units. Vegetation is sagebrush and bitterbrush with scattered black oak and pine. The site is on Plumas County Road 111 north of Beckwourth and adjoins the Plumas National Forest and National System of Public Lands.

Lassen Creek Conservation Area, Lassen Land and Trails Trust, California (N40˚22’ W120˚38’), is south of Susanville on Richmond Road. The 385-acre area provides winter forage of the Lassen mule deer herd.

Lake Oroville State Recreation Area, California (N39º32’ W121º29’) surrounds Lake Oroville on the Feather River, West Branch Feather River, North Fork Feather River, Middle Fork Feather River, and South Fork Feather River. The area is 15,500 acres with 167 miles of shoreline. Reservoir-oriented recreation is emphasized. A visitor center is at the dam, and trails are at Potter Point and Loafer Creek. The area borders the National System of Public Lands, Plumas National Forest, and Lassen National Forest. The recreation extends up the West Branch to Jordan Hill (N39º44’ W121º34’), the North Fork to Poe Powerhouse (N39º43’ W121º28’), the Middle Fork to Feather Falls (N39º38’ W121º17’), and the South Fork to Ponderosa Diversion Dam (N39º33’ W121º18’).

Plumas-Eureka State Park, California (N39º45’ W120º42’), is 4,400 acres west of the Mohawk Valley, accessible from state Route 89 at Graeagle. The major interpretive focus is as a museum of gold rush era California. The park preserves a historic gold mine on Eureka Peak, formerly Gold Mountain, which contained 65 miles of tunnels. There are hiking trails to the peak and to the adjoining Lakes Basin Recreation Area in the Plumas National Forest.

Private Sites

Heart K Ranch Preserve, Feather River Land Trust, California (N40º3’ W120º42’), is 884 acres of oak woodland and lakes in the Genesee Valley along Indian Creek east of Taylorsville. The property is surrounded by the Plumas National Forest.

Maddalena Preserve, Feather River Land Trust, California (N39º48’ W120º21’), is 575 acres of wetlands at the headwaters of the Middle Fork Feather River. It is adjacent to State Route 70 in the Sierra Valley.

 

Sierra Nevada forests, Part 1A: Plumas Area

Sierra Nevada forests (NA527), Part 1A: Plumas Area

Boundary Delineation

Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion is the most diverse temperate coniferous forest on Earth, supporting numerous species of pine and 75 giant sequoia groves. The Sierra Nevada forests are generally found between 35 to 40 degrees north latitude and 117 to 120 degrees west longitude in California and Nevada. The ecoregion is mostly in California with a small area of the Carson Range east of Lake Tahoe in Nevada included with the Sierra Nevada. Although various ecoregion delineation schemes differ in the boundaries of the Sierra Nevada, for the purposes of this discussion the southern boundary is considered to be Walker Pass and the northern boundary is considered to be the escarpment south of Susanville and Lake Almanor which drain to the North Fork Feather River. To the south of Walker Pass, the coniferous forest is sparser and transitions to that of the southern California mountains and foothills. To the north of Susanville and Lake Almanor is Mount Lassen, which is usually considered the southernmost of the Cascade volcanoes and is ecologically associated with the Cascade volcano chain. The eastern and western boundaries are clearer and there is general agreement on them. The western foothills are a chaparral-oak vegetation belt which quickly transitions to grasslands of the Central Valley and the eastern boundary is the Great Basin Desert (north of Independence) or Mojave Desert (Owens Lake and southward).

The ecoregion in this discussion has been further subdivided into four regions.

  1. Mother Lode. The northern Sierra Nevada is also called the Mother Lode, because it was the site of the gold discoveries which ultimately resulted in California being annexed by the U.S. and becoming a state. The southern portion of Lassen National Forest, Plumas National Forest, Tahoe National Forest, and Eldorado National Forest dominate the Mother Lode. The area extends south to Yosemite National Park area, but Yosemite is discussed separately. The westward-draining rivers are part of the Sacramento-San Joaquin freshwater ecoregion, one of the richest ecoregions west of the Rockies for fish, with 40 natives. It is the southernmost area for five anadromous fish and has five endemic fish genera, as well as a near-endemic salamander.
  2. Lake Tahoe and Northeastern Sierra (Carson-Truckee-Walker Rivers). The Lake Tahoe Area includes its own national forest area, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, as well as the Toiyabe National Forest portion in the Sierra Nevada. This area generally drains to the Great Basin through the Truckee, Walker, and Carson Rivers. The Lahontan freshwater ecoregion corresponds to this area.
  3. Yosemite. The central Sierra Nevada is the Yosemite area, consisting of Yosemite National Park, Sierra National Forest, and Stanislaus National Forest, as well as the Mono Lake and Mammoth Lakes areas to the east of Yosemite. Mono Lake is in the Lahontan freshwater ecoregion, while Mammoth Lakes is in the Owens River drainage and part of the Death Valley freshwater ecoregion. Westward-draining streams are part of the Sacramento-San Joaquin freshwater ecoregion. This includes the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers.
  4. Sequoia. The southern Sierra Nevada includes the dramatic canyons of the Kern River and the tallest peaks culminating in Mount Whitney. This area is dominated by Kings Canyon National Park, Sequoia National Park, Giant Sequoia National Monument, Sequoia National Forest, and the southern portions of Inyo National Forest. Westward-draining streams are part of the Sacramento-San Joaquin freshwater ecoregion, while eastern slopes are part of the Death Valley freshwater ecoregion.

In Part I, the area of the Sierra Nevada forests around the Plumas and Lassen National Forests is discussed. This is the northern Mother Lode, including the Feather and part of the North Fork Yuba River watersheds.

National Forest (NF) System

The National Forest system in the Sierra Nevada forests ecoregion includes nine national forests; the Giant Sequoia National Monument; Kings River Special Management Area; Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit; Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area; seven experimental forests, watersheds, and research facilities; and the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, administered by the Forest Service. The trail is further described under the National Trails System section. Wilderness areas and national recreation trails within the national forest system are also described separately.

Challenge Experimental Forest

Challenge Experimental Forest (N39º28’ W121º12’) is 3,500 acres of Pacific ponderosa pine forest type between New Bullards Bar and Oroville Reservoirs in the Mother Lode. Experiments center on understory fuel reduction, tree spacing and forest sustainability. The elevation of the forest is about 2,500 feet, with the highest point Pike County Peak, at 3,700 feet. Access is provided by La Porte Road north of Maryville. The experimental forest is adjacent to the settlement of Challenge, which prospered surrounding a lumber mill between 1875 and 1887 (McDonald and Lahore 2013).

Lassen National Forest

Lassen National Forest, California, is 1 million acres, mostly in the eastern Cascades ecoregion. South of Susanville, Diamond Mountain (N40˚19’ W120˚42’) is the northern end of the Sierra Nevada and provides a scenic area overlooking the town. The Homer/Deerheart Scenic Area (N40˚14’ W120˚59’) is an escarpment south of Mountain Meadows Reservoir at the northern edge of the Sierra Nevada and contains three glacial lakes on Keddie Ridge. A hiking trail connects the three lakes.

A portion of the southern portion of Lassen National Forest is administered by the Plumas National Forest. This is known as the Flea Management Area. Paradise Lake (N39º51’ W121º35’) is operated by the Paradise Irrigation District. The dam and portions of the lake are on national forest lands. The lake has a 4.5-mile shoreline trail. To the south of Paradise Lake are two stands of McNab cypress (Hesperocyparis macnabiana) on national forest lands, one north of Magalia Reservoir and the other in the Concow Creek area (Mallek 2009). McNab cypress is a fire-dependent species endemic to California which has cones that only open when burned.

Plumas National Forest

Plumas National Forest, California, is 1.1 million acres. The forest includes the Bucks Lake Wilderness, Middle Fork Feather National Wild and Scenic River, Pacific Crest Trail, and Challenge Experimental Forest, all of which are described separately. The California National Historic Trail, Beckwourth Trail Route, crosses the forest from Beckwourth Pass to Lake Oroville, and is also described separately.

Eastern Escarpment

Washoe pine forests are in the northeastern portion of the forest overlooking the Great Basin, such as along Last Chance Creek. Other forests are of ponderosa pine, Jeffrey pine, and Douglas-fir. Last Chance Creek and the escarpment overlooking the Honey Lake valley (Diamond Mountain) are also known for petroglyph sites. Frenchman Lake (N39º54’ W120º12’), which is on Little Last Chance Creek, a tributary of the Middle Fork Feather River and part of the State Water Project, is in Little Last Chance Canyon north of Hallelujah Junction off of State Route 70. The Little Last Chance Canyon Scenic Area (N39º53’ W120º11’) is on Frenchman Lake Road (Forest Highway 176) downstream from Frenchman Lake. Adams Peak (N39º55’ W120º6’) and Thompson Peak (N40º16’ W120º33’) along the Diamond Mountain crest are maintained as primitive areas.

Beckwourth Area—Upper Reaches of the Middle Fork Feather River

The Lakes Basin Recreation Area (N39º42’ W120º41’) is on Forest Highway 24 between the Mohawk Valley and Sierra City. The glaciated landscape includes U-shaped canyons and glacial moraines. There are 20 lakes connected by hiking trails. Three rustic lodges—Elwell Lakes Lodge, Gold Lake Lodge, and Gray Eagle Lodge—offer accommodations. Frazier Falls (N39º42’ W120º39’) is accessible by a one-half mile hike on County Road 501. Long Lake (N39º42’ W120º41’) is a water supply reservoir for the town of Graeagle. The Red Fir Nature Trail (N39º42’ W120º37’) is a one-mile loop on the road to Mills Peak. Lake Davis (N39º53’ W120º29’), part of the State Water Project, is on Big Grizzly Creek, a tributary to the Middle Fork Feather River. The reservoir is north of Portola, with recreation areas managed by the Plumas National Forest.

South Fork Feather Area

On the South Fork of the Feather River within the Plumas National Forest, the South Feather Water and Power Agency has developed an extensive hydroelectric system. The uppermost facilities on the South Fork Feather River are at Little Grass Valley Reservoir (N39º43’ W121º1’). Downstream, the South Fork Diversion Dam (N39º39’ W121º7’) diverts water via a 2.7-mile tunnel to Sly Creek Reservoir (N39º35’ W121º7’). Sly Creek Reservoir also receives supplemental water from Slate Creek Diversion (N39º37’ W121º3’) via a 2.5-mile tunnel from the Yuba River watershed. Power is generated at the Sly Creek powerhouse and discharges into Lost Creek Reservoir (N39º34’ W121º8’). Lost Creek dam diverts water to the Woodleaf Tunnel which discharges at the Woodleaf Powerhouse on Forbestown Reservoir (N39º33’ W121º12’). From Forbestown, the water enters the Forbestown Power tunnel and discharges from a powerhouse into the reservoir created by Ponderosa Diversion Dam (N39º33’ W121º18’). Water is diverted to Miners Ranch Reservoir and a powerhouse below Oroville Dam outside of the national forest.

Southwest of La Porte, the Valley Creek Botanical Area (N39º40’ W121º2’) is 180 acres of old growth mixed conifers. The Yuba County Water Agency developed the New Bullards Bar Reservoir (N39º24’ W121º8’) on the North Yuba River. The reservoir partially occupies Plumas National Forest lands. The reservoir is part of the Yuba River Development Project. On the upper end of the reservoir on Deadwood Creek (N39º32’ W121º6’) is a hydro plant on Plumas National Forest lands operated by Yuba County Water Agency.

North of La Porte are the remains of gold mining towns, now included in the national forest. St. Louis (N39º42’ W120º56’) and Howland Flat (N39º43’ W120º53’) are on County Road 690. St. Louis was founded in 1852 and once had 900 residents all that remains is a cemetery. Howland Flat was founded in 1850 and had 1,200 residents along with hotels and breweries. Porter Flat (N39º42’ W120º51’) is reached by County Road 800 and was along Canyon Creek on the Tahoe National Forest boundary. Gibsonville (N39º44’ W120º55’) is on County Road 900 and also boasted a hotel, saloon, and bowling alley in the 1850s.

Middle Fork Feather Area

The Feather Falls Scenic Area (N39º39’ W121º17’) is a 5,350-acre area along the lower canyons of the Middle Fork. The largest is Feather Falls on the Fall River, the sixth highest in the U.S. at 640 feet and reached by a National Recreation Trail or by walking upstream from the shoreline of Lake Oroville. There are other waterfalls on the Feather River as well as Bald Rock Canyon. Overlooking the deep canyons of the Middle Fork are granite domes. One such unique batholith is Big Bald Rock (N39º39’ W121º20’), on Bald Rock Road north of Oroville Lake.

South of Quincy on Forest Highway 10 along Hopkins Creek (N39º46’ W120º50’), there is columnar jointing of basalt in hexagonal columns similar to what is visible at Devils Postpile National Monument near Mammoth Lakes further south. Little Volcano (N39º51’ W120º54’) is a dolomite outcrop with a cave and panoramic views on Forest Road 24N13.

North Fork Feather Area

Hydroelectric developments of Pacific Gas & Electric and the City of Santa Clara dominate the drive along State Route 70. A tunnel from Butt Valley Reservoir delivers water to Belden Forebay (N40º5’ W121º9’). Another tunnel delivers water to Rock Creek Reservoir (N39º59’ W121º17’), and subsequent hydroelectric tunnels deliver water to Cresta Reservoir (N39º53’ W121º21’), and Poe Reservoir (N39º50’ W121º26’). The jointly owned reservoirs of the City of Santa Clara and Pacific Gas & Electric (Bucks Lake Hydroelectric Project) include Three Lakes Reservoir (N39º58’ W121º13’), Bucks Lake (N39º54’ W121º12’), Lower Bucks Lake (N39º54’ W121º14’), and Grizzly Forebay (N39º53’ W121º17’). These hydroelectric facilities are also in the North Fork Feather watershed of the Plumas National Forest. On County Road 306 east of Butt Valley Dam are the historic mine site of Swiss Mine (N40º7’ W121º7’) and the gold mining town of Seneca (N40º7’ W121º5’).

The Butterfly Valley Botanical Area (40˚0’ W121˚0’) harbors four species of insectivorous plants in its 500-acre extent, including the California pitcher plant, two species of bladderwort, and sundews. It is also known for a diversity of orchids and lilies. Forest Road 25N12 crosses the botanical area, reached by turning off of State Route 70-89 north of Quincy.

On State Route 89 at Indian Falls is Soda Rock Geological Area (N40˚3’ W120˚58’), a travertine mineral spring. An old growth sugar pine stand (N39º55’ W120º58’) is just south of Quincy off of Forest Road 24N21. The Spanish Creek Mines (N39º57’ W121º2’) are on the Quincy-Oroville Road west of Quincy. North of Spanish Ranch on Forest Road 25N17 is the Bean Hill Mine (N39º58’ W121º5’). Both were hydraulic gold mining operations during the 1850s. Round Valley Reservoir (N40º7’ W120º58’), which is a water supply reservoir for the city of Greenville, includes a nature trail. Long Valley (N40º7’ W121º1’) is a waterfowl nesting area. Mount Hough-Crystal Lake (N40º3’ W120º53’) is a scenic site on County Road 403 north of Quincy. Devils Punch Bowl (N40º1’ W120º48’) is a volcanic crater with a pond on the slopes of Grizzly Peak.

Mud Lake Research Natural Area is in two units, and was established to protect disjunct stands of Baker Cypress, normally found in wetter forests. One stand is on Wheeler Peak (N40˚6’ W120˚42’) and another is six miles north (N40˚11’ W120˚41’). Kettle Rock (N40˚8’ W120˚44’) is maintained as a scenic and geologic site. Antelope Lake (N40º11’ W120º36’) is on Indian Creek, a tributary to the North Fork Feather River. It is reached from Forest Highway 172 (Janesville Grade) off of US Route 395 south of Susanville.  It is part of the State Water Project, and recreation areas are managed by the Plumas National Forest. West of Antelope Lake is the Kettle Rock-Taylor Lake area (N40º9’ W120º43’) noted for its scenic views. North of Antelope Lake is the Diamond Mountain Limited Vehicular Access area (N40º15’ W120º37’), established to protect eastside vegetation.

Reservoirs and Hydroelectric Power Projects

This section includes reservoirs federally authorized (hydroelectric projects), reservoirs located on federal lands, and reservoirs constructed by federal agencies. Because of the large number of hydroelectric developments in the Sierra Nevada, reservoirs are listed by river basin.

Feather River, North Fork

Antelope Lake, California State Water Project (N40º11’ W120º36’), is on Indian Creek, a tributary to the North Fork Feather River. Recreation areas are managed by the Plumas National Forest.

Mountain Meadows Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric, California (N40˚16’ W120˚57’), is also known as the Hamilton Branch hydroelectric development and is south of Westwood. Power is generated at the Hamilton Powerhouse (N40º16’ W121º5’) on Lake Almanor. It contains 5,000 acres of marsh and is high value waterfowl habitat. It is part of the Lake Almanor Important Bird Area for willow flycatchers and sandhill crane, which use the wet meadows.

Lake Almanor, Pacific Gas & Electric, California (N40º11’ W121º5’), is the major storage reservoir on the North Fork Feather River, extending over 28,000 acres, and is part of the Upper North Fork Feather River project. Water from Lake Almanor is diverted from the Prattville intake (N40º13’ W121º10’) into a tunnel for generation at the Butt Valley Powerhouse (N40º11’ W121º11’), at the upper end of Butt Valley Reservoir. It is part of the Lake Almanor Important Bird Area, hosting the largest population of willow flycatchers in California, along with greater sandhill cranes and several grebe species.

Butt Valley Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric, California (N40º7’ W121º8’), occupies 1,600 acres behind a dam on Butt Creek and stores water for release into the North Fork Feather River. Water is diverted through two 1.8-mile tunnels to the Caribou Powerhouses 1 and 2 (N40º5’ W121º9’) on the North Fork Feather River in the Plumas National Forest. The Caribou powerhouses discharge into Belden Forebay.

Belden Forebay, Pacific Gas & Electric, California (N40º5’ W121º9’), is a 42-acre reservoir on the North Fork Feather River in Plumas National Forest. It receives water from the Caribou Powerhouses and generates power at the Oak Flat powerhouse on site, and diverts water through a 6.3-mile tunnel to Belden Powerhouse (N40º0’ W121º15’). Belden Powerhouse is on the North Fork Feather River along State Route 70.

Rock Creek Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric, California (N39º59’ W121º17’), is 118 surface acres and receives water from the Belden Powerhouse. It serves as a diversion dam for a 6.5-mile tunnel to Rock Creek Powerhouse (N39º54’ W121º21’). State Route 70 is routed under the electrical switchyard, which tunnels under it. Both the reservoir and powerhouse facilities are along the North Fork Feather River and State Route 70.

Three Lakes, Pacific Gas & Electric, California (N39º58’ W121º13’), store water for delivery to Lower Bucks Lake. The lakes are in the Plumas National Forest and Bucks Lake Wilderness. Water is diverted into a pipeline which ends at Lower Bucks Lake.

Bucks Lake, City of Santa Clara, California (N39º54’ W121º12’) is on Bucks Creek, a tributary to the North Fork Feather River in the Plumas National Forest.

Lower Bucks Lake, City of Santa Clara, California (N39º54’ W121º14’), is on Bucks Creek and stores water for diversion into one of two tunnels. One tunnel ends at Grizzly Creek and the other at Grizzly Powerhouse (N39º53’ W121º17’). Grizzly Powerhouse discharges into Grizzly Forebay. These facilities are within the Plumas National Forest.

Grizzly Forebay, City of Santa Clara, California (N39º53’ W121º17’), is on Grizzly Creek and diverts water into a tunnel for delivery to Bucks Creek Powerhouse (N39º55’ W121º20’), which is on the North Fork Feather River. The reservoir is on Plumas National Forest land.

Cresta Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric, California (N39º53’ W121º21’), is a 95-acre reservoir on the North Fork Feather River, which receives water from the Rock Creek Powerhouse. Water is diverted into a four-mile tunnel for generation at Cresta Powerhouse (N39º50’ W121º25’). The powerhouse discharges to Poe Reservoir on the North Fork Feather River. The reservoir is partially on Plumas National Forest land.

Poe Reservoir, Pacific Gas & Electric, California (N39º50’ W121º26’), is 53 acres on the North Fork Feather River in the Plumas National Forest and receives water from Cresta Powerhouse. It diverts water into a 6.3-mile tunnel which ends at Poe Powerhouse (N39º43’ W121º28’) on the upper end of Lake Orovile.

Lake Oroville, California Department of Water Resources (N39º32’ W121º29’), is part of the state water project. The dam is the tallest in the U.S. at 770 feet. The Lake Oroville State Recreation Area surrounds the four major embayments of the reservoir, those along the West Branch Feather River, North Fork Feather River, Middle Fork Feather River, and South Fork Feather River.

(to be continued with hydroelectric projects on South Fork Feather River, trails, wilderness areas, and state and local sites)