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 (

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.