Yreka Trail

The discovery of gold on the Yreka Flats in late March 1851 brought miners  on  pack trails over the Scott, Salmon, and Siskiyou Mountains into the Scott and Shasta Valleys.

Early in the summer of 1852, John Onsby, of Yreka, received a letter from his uncle, stating that he and many others were coming over the “South Emigrant Trail” (Applegate Trail) bound for Yreka, and he asked that supplies be sent to them.  This is the first emigration to Yreka on the Yreka Trail and the first settlers that came by wagons and settled in far Northern California.

The Yreka Trail opened up far Northern California and Southern Oregon to gold mining, ranching, farming and lumbering.  The emigrants used the Yreka trail for eight to ten years.

In 1992  Richard and Orsola Silva began locating and mapping  the route of the Yreka Trail.  They started with no mapping programs or GPS technology.  Limited research was available at that time.  Most of the work on the Yreka Trail has been digitized with 7.5 minute quads and margin indexing.

The location of the 1854 ford of Butte Creek was mapped as an OCTA project many years ago. Using the General Land Office field notes, Williamson’s maps, and a survey of Butte Valleydone in 1864 by A.M. Jones, Richard Silva felt that after searching for 18 years he had found the location of the 1852 Yreka trail ford of Butte Creek.

H.T. Shepard, September 4, 1852 describes this crossing.
“Started at 6 went topine woods took dinner no water or grass then passed on
to Bute creek followed it three miles & camped round at little Lake quite stony today….”

The ford at Butte Creek would have been a logical camping spot on the trail since it was eighteen miles beyond the often mentioned camp at Willow Springs over a rocky road.



In June 2010, Jeanne Goetz, archaeologist on the Goosenest District of the Klamath National Forest, with the help of retired archaeologist John Hitchcock and Richard and Orsola Silva, led year four of the Yreka Trail PIT Project which focused on this section of the trail.




On the northeast side of the creek an area was found with many lead rifle balls and bits of lead that looked like someone made rifle balls at the site. Other artifacts such as a coffee mill, forks, knives and other wagon related hardware were were also found indicating a campsite .

This PIT project proved segments of the 1852 Yreka trail and although segments have been lost to logging it can now be mapped and classified and will be protected in the future.



Jump Off Joe – A rough, rocky hill on the Yreka Trail







Orr Lake

George McCowen August, 29th 1854

Three miles from camp crossed the creek (Butte Creek). Then again in about seven miles camped about 2 o’clock on a small lake to the right of the beaten track. Our camp was in a most beautiful place. Mountains on all sides covered with pines.