Brian's Musings

Blue Point – the greatest mine of all

In the valley between Smartsville and the Yuba River lies the ancient bed of the Yuba River, where it ran for millions of years, laying beds of rich, gold-bearing gravel and cobble hundreds of feet thick. These rich gravel deposits that captured the attention of the early miners, who realized there was more gold to be found dredging the cemented gravel hillsides south of the river than in the river itself. And so the great industry of hydraulic mining was born.

Blue Point diggings, 1870

Blue Point – the Tarr Mine Project of the 1920s

Farmers, environmentalists and fishermen praised the Sawyer decision of 1884, among the first federal court rulings on environmental protection. The court banned the dumping of silt, sand and gravel into the Sacramento River or its tributaries, effectively ending hydraulic mining. It was a crushing blow to the operators and investors who had sunk millions of dollars into mines from Sucker Flat up to the Malakoff Diggings.

Tarr Mine conveyor belt

Blue Point – What About the Gold?

The miners only got to a small portion of the gold at Blue Point. They spent years washing away the upper layers of gravel before getting to the richer, gold-bearing material that lay in the lower portions of the ancient river channel, close to basaltic bedrock. They were just getting to the richest gravels...

Bowl at sunset

Blue Point Basin Reclamation Project

When we acquired the 500 acre Blue Point Mine property, the first decision we made was to close down the open pit gold-and-gravel mine which had been operating on and off on the site for about 150 years.

Lupine in the Blue Point Valley

It’s All About the Stories

On Excelsior there are the remains of an old paddock – it was almost intact, still, when I first saw it years ago but since then a few of the fence posts have fallen of their own volition, perhaps helped along by cattle looking for new ways to scratch their backs,...

A Salute to Heavy Equipment

Let’s hear it for our heavy equipment operators, who perhaps have left their mark on our shared landscape more than any architect or landscape architect or designer or engineer.  These drivers of massive machinery are capable of filling wetlands, redirecting...

Heavy Equipment

Reflecting on the Ranchette

What is the ideal parcel size?  This is a question we ask ourselves frequently, particularly out here in Nevada County where large ranches are continually being subdivided for suburban émigrés.  At their worst, these “rurban” subdivisions can inflict the same...

Ranchette with trees, grass

On the View From Your Picture Window

Where do you really want to put that perfect view?  It’s why you bought your property, isn’t it?  And it might even be what makes your property more valuable than the properties on either side of you.  So why wouldn’t you want to put your house right on top of that...

Excelsior - Englebright & stone walls