Thursday, June 19, 2008

Letter to Tahoe National Forest

Below, a letter to Tahoe National Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn, urging him to take action to re-open the Lost Camp Road, restoring public access to the China Trail. If you wish, you can copy and paste the text below into an email to Supervisor Quinn, at, with whatever you might wish to add. The Tahoe needs to take its historic trails much more seriously.

June 19, 2008

Tom Quinn
Forest Supervisor
Tahoe National Forest
631 Coyote Street
Nevada City, CA 95959

re: Lost Camp Road

Dear Supervisor Quinn,

In T16N, R11E the historic road to Lost Camp, giving access to Tahoe National Forest (TNF) lands, and to historic TNF trails, has been gated closed. The gate seems to be in the SE 1/4 of Section 14, the road continuing south into Section 23, which, being an odd-numbered section, one might expect would be one of the old "railroad" sections; but it contains a large patented mining claim (the "Lost Camp Mine"), and apparently was never deeded to the railroad. The Lost Camp Road passes through Section 23 into sections 26, 27, and 34.

Just north of the large patented claim in Section 23, in Section 14, a series of small parcels exist. The owners of these parcels have blocked the historic road with a gate.

The historic trails now blocked include the China Trail, constructed in 1862, leading from Lost Camp to Sawtooth Ridge, crossing the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River, and long maintained by TNF rangers; and the trail leading down the crest of the ridge dividing Blue Canyon from the North Fork of the North Fork of the American River to the Rawhide Mine. Yet other trails are affected by the owners of the small parcels in Section 14, mentioned above, notably, the Bradley & Gardner Ditch, or Placer County Canal, constructed in the 1850s to bring water to the hydraulic mines in Dutch Flat. This old mining ditch, although somewhat damaged by timber harvest activities, makes a wonderful trail, and has been used as such since its construction.

I should say that this is quite a remarkable area. The deep canyon of the North Fork of the North Fork American, and the river itself, are extraordinarily beautiful. If you look at a map, you will notice several tributary streams, all converging: Fulda Creek, Sailor Ravine, the East Fork of the North Fork of the North Fork, Burnett Canyon, and Willmont Ravine. All of these have fine waterfalls. I call this locus of convergence the Gorge of Many Gorges. It is just upstream from the crossing of the North Fork of the North Fork by the China Trail.

Most people, perhaps, who once used the China Trail, were fly fishermen. The tranquil beauty of the deep canyon, the sparkling clarity of the river, the cliffs and tall trees, and the trout, have brought hikers back year after year, decade after decade.

I wish Tahoe National Forest to meet its responsibilities and act quickly to re-open the Lost Camp Road and the China Trail. This road and this trail were among TNF's "system" roads and trails for many decades. This road and this trail are depicted on official TNF maps dating back at least to the 1930s, and are depicted on the General Land Office map of 1872.

The China Trail is a foot trail, despite the recent efforts of loud, lawless, garbage-strewing OHV users to convert it to a motorcycle highway. Since the OHV users have gone so far as to damage the historic China Trail, their use of the area must be curtailed entirely. There should be an OHV closure not only on the China Trail itself, but on the Lost Camp Road south of the railroad tracks.

When Tahoe National Forest was created, over a century ago, it inherited a fine system of trails, many dating back to the Gold Rush. The forest rangers faithfully maintained and blazed these old trails for many decades. For reasons beyond the scope of this letter, those trusty rangers of days gone by were replaced by people who wished to harvest timber, no matter what the cost to trails, to scenery, to recreation, to heritage resources, to wildlife.

That is, we went from a time when TNF actually protected its system of historic trails, to a time when TNF itself ruined many a trail, in the course of timber harvest activities. We went from a time when TNF would promptly intercede to keep one of its historic system trails open to the public, even where it crossed private property, to a time when TNF quietly, secretly, without any public comment, dropped historic roads and trails from its list of "system" roads and trails.

The Lost Camp Road and the China Trail must be re-opened and restored to the public, with an OHV closure on both road and trail.


Russell Towle
P.O. Box 141
Dutch Flat, CA 95714


Lisa said...

indeed, the "trails system" has been shattered by apathy bourne of our tv generation. I hope the forest service will listen to you and reopen the trail. Loved your blog.

North_Fork_Trails said...

Thanks Lisa. I hope the trail opens up and again, and you have a chance to visit this remarkable and magical place.