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.
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.
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…
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.