Gayle Madwin (queerbychoice) wrote,
Gayle Madwin

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Yuba Goldfields: Photographs

The weekend before last, Susan and I went to the Yuba Goldfields so she could collect sand and gravel to make miniature glaciers with in her freezer for her students. The Yuba Goldfields are essentially the downstream equivalent of Malakoff Diggins, the last place I posted photographs of. During the gold rush, miners blasted apart the mountains at Malakoff Diggins with water cannons to look for gold, and all the debris from Malakoff Diggins washed down into the valley via the Yuba River. There was so much debris that it raised the entire riverbed drastically - so much that even all the way down in downtown Sacramento, which is several hours' driving distance from Malakoff Diggins, the I Street bridge over the Sacramento River had to be raised 20 feet because the riverbed was so full of debris from gold mining.

The Yuba River flows into the Sacramento River, which flows into the San Francisco Bay. A lot of the debris ended up in the San Francisco Bay, and a lot was left behind all along the way. The debris that washed ashore where the Yuba River first enters the Sacramento Valley formed what is now known as the Yuba Goldfields: 10,000 acres piles with loose gravel blasted out of the mountains upstream. The piles of gravel were re-mined for gold throughout much of the 20th century, and are now being marketed as aggregate to use in making cement.

Considering the massive environmental damage wreaked here, I was amazed at how many native plants I found thriving here. The very moment I stepped out of Susan's truck (R.I.P., Susan's truck), I was immediately greeted by the scene below. That's a native pine on the left, and native buckbrush directly to the right of it. I'm not sure what the other plants visible here are, but except for the grasses, they're all probably native. The whole area was also covered with lupine, which unfortunately wasn't in bloom yet, but it'll be gorgeous in another week or two (maybe it already is by now!) when the lupine bushes are all covered with purple flowers. For now, the buckbrush was already in bloom (there'll be better pictures of it later), and I also saw red maids, blue dicks, and purple vetch (all of which are native wildflowers).

I wish I knew what the reddish, leafless bushes all along the river were.

Susan went directly to the shoreline, just west of the bridge, and remained there the whole time, while I wandered in all directions, looking for things to photograph.

I found vetch! And I was wearing my new red coat that Susan helped me shop for in February.

I found red maids! This was the first time I'd ever identified red maids in person. I didn't know what they were until Susan took me back to her duplex and I ran a Google image search on red maids because I thought these might be them. And they were. Red maids are a native annual that grows mostly in disturbed areas, which the Yuba Goldfields certainly qualify as being.

This is what the shoreline looked like when I faced west. I didn't go any farther west than this because there were people fly fishing along the shore just out of sight here.

Instead I walked east of the bridge, where the bridge cast its shade. Also east of Susan. That's Susan's white bucket on the shore there, at the far left.

And here is Susan scooping sand and gravel into her white bucket, while I wander off to the left, behind the bushes.

I found a path under the bridge, and followed it.

The bridge cast a shadow far up onto the shore.

Walking in the shadow of the bridge to avoid sunburn, I found more buckbrush in bloom - the bushes here with white flowers on them. Buckbrush also grows wild in my parents' yard, up in the foothills.

I also found some amazing red rocks.

Then I wandered back down to the river itself.

See the little round inlet in the bottom center of the photo above? The photo below is a closeup of that inlet.

The rocks underwater in that inlet were all covered with green algae.

I waded across the shallower parts of the inlet.

. . . And out to the very end of that projecting line of rocks.

From this peninsula, I photographed a valley oak on the shore, and the shadow of the bridge.

Then I resumed walking east along the shore.

In the distance, you can see one of the huge, pyramid-shaped piles of gravel that are common throughout the Yuba Goldfields.

There's a strange assortment of rocks in this area, with all the rocks being very red in some rock piles, and all the rocks being very grey in other rock piles right nearby. I think the red ones started out here originally, and the grey ones mostly came from upstream.

I found my way back to the path.

This was a magnificent valley oak just above the river.

And here is the river below it.

There was a gravel path, which I followed.

It led past more buckbrush (the low bushes in the foreground) and what I think were native plum trees (the flowering tree in the background).

Here's a small plum tree growing right out of the slope next to the river.

There were turkey vultures overhead. Susan told me later that she had counted eight of them.

Eventually we were both ready to go home. Here is Susan hauling her bucket of sand and gravel uphill.

It was very heavy when filled with sand and gravel, so I went down to help her with it. That was the end of the photographs, and the end of our visit.
Tags: native plants, photographs, susan
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