This letter from the June 1866 "Placer Herald" newspaper, published in Auburn, records camping and mining activity in the upper basin of the North Fork.
June 16, 1866
Soda Spring Valley, Placer County
Eds. Placer Herald:-Dear Sir;-Having observed that you manifest considerable interest in the mining enterprises of this County, by devoting a column of your paper weekly in its behalf, I would offer a few mineralogical suggestions, which perhaps may be of some benefit to the Gold and Silver quartz seekers of this vicinity.
The above mentioned mining district was discovered some two years since, by J.N. Smith, an old resident of this county, whose geological investigations for several years have been confined to this District. Soda Spring Valley is located at the head of the North Fork of the American River, 6 miles south of the Dutch Flat Wagon Road, 10 miles west of Lake Tahoe, and 15 miles southeasterly from Meadow Lake. In natural beauty, picturesque scenery, and romantic landscapes this valley prominently stands out unique and wonderful in all the features that compose it. Your scribe, with a party of mineralists, who are now sojourners in this enchanted Valley, recently crossed the snow belt of the Sierra Nevada Mountains; leaving the Dutch Flat road at Tinker's Hotel, after three days of recruiting and procuring a sufficient amount of forage for our trip, we embarked on our pedal expedition via the trail. Two miles nearly over three feet of snow, brought us over the snow limit to the Summit which divides the waters of the South Yuba and the North Fork of the American. From this position the traveler could look downward into the valley of the American river, clothed as it is in its emerald robe, which contrasted strongly with the chilly regions of the country we had just traversed.
On our descent towards the river we crossed several small meadows, not exceeding in area 100 or 200 acres, which looked like oases growing amid the gigantic fir trees that surrounded them. These little plains were carpeted with rich verdure, the genuine grass which time and sun mature into legitimate hay. These meadows offer rich pasturage for the stock during the dry season, which is driven up from the valleys below, and herded during the months of July and August. We were soon in the valley of the American River about one mile below our point of destination. Taking up the stream, half an hour's walk brought the balmy air of Soda Valley to our nostrils. We were in the valley of our Golden anticipations, surrounded by lofty mountain peaks at the North, triumphant piles of granite lifted in grand proportions at the South, and at the East rising in snow covered majesty were the skyward peaks of the Sierras, until our vision became confused by distance. Vegetable creation was spread out profusely at our feet-flowers that baffle description-innumerable mountain violets opened their variegated petals to bid us welcome to the haunts of their retirement. Notwithstanding a year had rolled off a cycle into the abyss of eternity since our last visit here, yet all was familiar as if it were but yesterday we had visited this enchanted ground. The boisterous cataract in the river opposite our camp, still tumbles its volumes of protoxid of hydrogen down the granite stairway of fifty feet--rolling off Sacramento-ward in color resembling lacteal very much.
People may speculate upon the grandeur of Niagara. Excursionists and adventurers may descend upon the unparalleled magnificence of Yosemite. Philosophers and clerical dignitaries may expatiate upon the precipitate waters of the various localities of the world; which fill the mind of man with wonder and kindle a flame of vivid fancy in the furnace of the dullest imagination-which causes the most skeptic to quake at the unmistakable evidences of a Divinity. But the ceaseless overpowering water avalanche at our side is sufficient to enliven the most inveterate infidel to lift his soul in reverence to him "Who made the world and heaped the waters far above the loftiest mountains."
We come now to the vast mineral resources of this District which are as yet undeveloped. But little, since its discovery, has been done, but sufficient labor to hold valid the titles of the claimants. Judging from the rock, which is merely croppings we would not hesitate to say that our candid opinion is that Soda Springs, as a mining District will rank foremost in richness of rock, facilities for crushing, and convenience for working. Water privileges are remarkably fair; the gigantic timber surrounding the valley, will be a great inducement for capitalists, and the apparent inexhaustibility of the lodes, all conspire to offer unexceptionable inducements to men who are interested in quartz. Several parties on prospecting tours, visited Soda Spring Valley within the past few days, from Meadow Lake, Lake Mountain City and Virginia City, pronouncing the prospects far better than at Meadow Lake or the above mentioned mining districts, judging from the returns. The most prominent ledges are the Granite, the American, Pittsburg and the Cataract. The Silver Dip and Golden Dip Deerlick ledges, discovered a few days since, are very rich in appearance, specimens of which can be seen at Tinker's Hotel. Messrs. Webber, Smith, Benedict, & Co., have just completed their block house 26 by 18 feet. Several companies are busy now doing necessary work, prospecting, etc. Several tons of rock are being taken to Summit City or Meadow Lake by parties, intended to be crushed. A wagon route is surveyed and work commenced, running from the valley north, intersecting the Dutch Flat road at Tinker's on the Central Pacific Railroad.