The Beckwourth Mapping Team, in its fourth year of updating the Beckwourth Trail, in conjunction with the Plumas National Forest, focused on the trail west of Quincy. The Beckwourth trail follows the Oroville Quincy Highway, also known as California State Highway 162, along the ridge that runs between Bucks Lake and Oroville. The paved road often covers large segments of the trail as it crosses from ridge tops, through saddles, and back up ridges.
In April the Beckwourth mapping team worked Taylor Gulch West of Spanish Ranch. We were able to confirm much of the trail on top of Taylor Ridge. In May we returned to the western side of Taylor Ridge and Big Creek. In, across, out of Big Creek uphill through brush and over downfall was made more difficult by the wet and rainy weather. The Team enjoyed lunch at an unoccupied hunting camp around a warming fire. The expedition was successful as we verified several sections of trail from the items located and the topography.
In June and August the team worked confirming various sections on the both the east and west side of Grizzly Summit, the high point of the trail between Bucks Lake and Lake Oroville.
We also found, or I should say rediscovered, several sections of trail ruts that were worn into the soapstone that is predominant along several ridges in the area. We were able to clear out brush and help the Forest Service catalog and update the documentation of those ruts. Although close to the modern highway and sometimes right under it there are still sections of Class 1 trail the team was able to verify. The discovery of wagon ruts in soapstone trail segments was exciting.
Under direction and guidance with the Forest Service archaeologist we also collected several artifacts that will be on display in Plumas County museums in the near future.
One of the continuing questions that the team tried to answer was the exact location of the French Hotel, a stopping place for immigrants as noted in several of their journals and diaries. Although we were not able to confirm the location in 2015, we have been able to work with the Forest Service and will be helping them in archaeological excavations in the near future at a site that appears promising.
September and October we were not able to get out into the mountains and work on the trail due to the South Lake Tahoe convention. Many members of our team were directly involved in putting on that event.
This year’s plans include working closer to Quincy. We will be working West of Elizabethtown along the ridges that border Snake Lake and down to Spanish Ranch. Though these areas have been heavily turned by a miners, ranchers and loggers, and we are hoping to locate and update several MET Class I sections that the Hammonds had identified on previous occasions. Fortunately, we have also forged working relations over the winter with Sierra Pacific Industries and Soper- Wheeler Lumber Company. We’ve gained access to some of their parcels the trail runs across and will be identifying and marking those trails for the future.
Jim Beckwourth’s trail is a historical gem in close proximity to large areas of northern California populations. With easy access to segments from the highway and in conjunction with other stakeholders we hope to promote recreational and educational outreach so that people can discover and appreciate the efforts made by emigrants to reach the golden hills and valleys of California.