Blue Point Mine
Once devastated, now rich in natural beauty
A brief look at the Blue Point Mine:
Yesterday: This now-quiet valley was once the site of the gold-rush era town of Sucker Flat – and of the Blue Point and Blue Gravel Mines, two of the richest hydraulic mines in California, which along with a number of other claims worked the gold bearing placers laid under these hills by the Pliocene Yuba River. The water for the hydraulicking came Nevada City and Grass Valley in the Excelsior and Tarr Ditches. The slurry was carried out in long sluice tunnels carved at great expense through hard basaltic rock. By 1877 a reported $13 million in gold had been mined, but the vast amounts of rock and gravel washed into the river caused tremendous destruction downstream. In 1884 the Sawyer Decision, supported by the valley’s farmers, stopped the thriving industry in its tracks.
Today: Left alone and all but forgotten for over a century, the property has largely healed itself. The town of Sucker Flat has vanished, and is occupied only by the cows which graze its grasses. Lush ponds and habitat-rich wetlands occupy the lowlands, while peregrine falcons and cliff swallows nest in the towering escarpments. Salmon are returning up to lower Yuba River, spawning in the cobbles and gravels deposited by the miners. In 2008 a reclamation project combined recycled green waste and mine tailings to create topsoil, which was spread across the valley floor and seeded, and the following spring the wildflowers returned. A project is underway to improve critically-needed salmon spawning channels where the Yuba River crosses Blue Point’s northern property line. The Yuba Narrows and Black Swan Ranches, abutting Blue Point to the north and east, have been acquired by the State of California and the Bear Yuba Land Trust, protecting over 700 acres of historic and natural resources and hiking trails for the use and enjoyment of the public.
Tomorrow: Although the adjacent Yuba Narrows and Black Swan Ranches are now protected, the Blue Point property is still private property and remains at risk. Blue Point carries a significant debt burden, and despite its rich cultural and historic riches is zoned for five-acre residential development, and has a valid use permit to operate as a quarry. The Excelsior Foundation has a larger vision for Blue Point – that its 505 acres of natural and historic resources, its ditches and trails, its escarpments and Yuba river access, be permanently protected and made available to the public, creating a total of over twelve hundred acres of conserved area stretching from Smartsville to the Yuba River and from Timbuctoo to Mooney Flat Road.
How you can help: The effort to preserve and protect Blue Point is beginning in earnest. You can join in the effort by becoming a Friend of Blue Point – we’ll keep you informed and invite you to special activities on the property. We can’t do this without your help!!!