Malakoff Diggins

Russ Steele recently reported that it appears the Malakoff Diggins State Park will remain open, at least on a part time basis. One of the reasons stated was that it would be too difficult to store all the artifacts at a new location. Whatever the reason, I’m glad to hear it.

I have many memories of Malakoff. When I graduated from high school in 1969, my first job was as a ranger assistant at the park. I got to wear a uniform, was issued a state key, which opened every lock in the park, and it paid $2.28 an hour, good wages back in those days.

I lived with another assistant in a cabin off the main road in town. We had no electricity, and an outhouse in back. ( I was warned to throw a few rocks at the door in the morning, in case some animal had decided to move in during the night. )

One day, we were called to the office for an emergency. Some visitors were riding their horses down the trail at Humbug Creek when one of them lost its footing on a spot where there was water running over the trail. The spooked horse leaped over some manzanita bushes and landed in a vertical mine shaft, the source of the water. The rider landed under the horse in the water filled hole, but miraculously managed to get his head above water and climb out. The horse was a different story.

The head ranger called the Washington Ridge Conservation Camp, requesting assistance from the ample supply of inmates. A van arrived shortly thereafter full of some of the biggest black guys I’d ever seen. We all headed down the trail and found the rider, wet but unhurt, sitting next to the shaft where his hapless steed flailed wildly in the cold and deep water.

We managed to get a pair of ropes around the horse, and after several attempts, the inmates pulled it far enough up the side to allow it to get some traction. Once out of the hole, the horse was still in shock and uncontrollable, so the owner picked up a log and smacked it across the head. The horse calmed down immediately.

It was quite an afternoon, and one of many I will never forget at Malakoff State Park.

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19 Responses to Malakoff Diggins

  1. Russ Steele says:

    Democratic state Sens. Joe Simitian and Noreen Evans today rolled out a proposal aimed at keeping the gates open at more than 50 California state parks set to close this summer.

  2. Ben Emery says:

    I don’t know where to send you links. So I will post it here. This a good interview by Bill Moyers about the best government money can buy.

  3. Ben Emery says:

    I am a river monitor for SYRCL and my spot is just above the Humbug Creek confluence on the Yuba. I know the trail you’re talking about all to well. I can only imagine how difficult trying to deal with the horse incident was with such a small and pitched trail to work on. Every time I hike in and out I am reminded we are very blessed to live in such a beautiful area. It wasn’t so beautiful when Malakoff was going full force, especially if you lived down river in Marysville and Yuba City.

  4. Judith Lowry says:



    I am interested in the Nisenan artifacts and sites.
    I confess that I have only visited the diggings once and have no wish to return.
    To the DNA in my Maidu peepers, that place is just freaky.
    I picked up a lot of bad feeling there.
    Look what they did to the land.
    That said, it would be interesting to know what SYRCL believes the place really represented, historically, to the Nisenan People of the Sierra Foothills, before the maelstrom of pitiless destruction that followed 1849.

    • Ben Emery says:

      I cannot and will not try to speak for SYRCL but will for myself. The capacity of my position has nothing to do with the prehistory of Malakoff area but instead monitoring temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, conductivity and turbidity. My interest of the damage done from the mining practices of Malakoff stem from my relatives having family farms in Sutter, Yuba City, Live Oak, Gridley, and the destructive nature of mining in general. I also lived in a historic mining town in CO and visited many ghost towns where the mines stop producing and the companies just abandoned the area leaving all the tailings and toxins for someone else to deal with or clean up, disgusting. So much for responsible business practices. I guess in some industries that concept is an oxymoron.

      We have had a similar discussion before about SYRCL in the past, please let me know the history of your relationship with the organization because the aspects of my relationship have very little to do with property rights but rather of trying to bring stewardship, restoration, preservation of the Yuba watersheds, and bringing back the salmon. Everyone I have ever dealt with in the organization has only displayed honest intentions of the mission statement. This doesn’t mean it always happens but from my personal experience it has been the case.

      To learn more about the river monitor program

    • Martin Bresnick says:

      Dear Judith Lowry,
      Please excuse this note – it’s the only way I could find you.
      There is a concert coming soon to Santa Fe:
      “In August, Arciuli will performing at the opening of Indian Market, the leading US Native American art event, with seven world premieres of major contemporary American composers. This extraordinary project, sponsored by the Apulian Airport Authority, will be premiering in Bari and broadcast via streaming video in several European airports. Featured composers are J.L. Adams, M. Bresnick, M. Daugherty, K. Gann, P. Garland, Huang Ruo, and Morton Subotnick.”
      I have written a work based on Ishi’s “Maidu Doctor’s Song” which will be associated with your remarkable painting of Ishi (I have unfortunately only seen a reproduction on line). I would be very grateful to exchange some emails with you. You can easily get in touch with me through my website .
      With best wishes,

  5. RL Crabb says:

    One day while we were cleaning up the ampitheatre, a van full of archeology students from Davis showed up and walked around the open area picking up arrowheads. I tried to follow their lead, but my untrained teenage eyes were unable to see the tell-tale signs. I can understand why you feel a connection to that place.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      I sure hope they picked them up then laid them back down, perhaps kicking some dirt over them so that the next fellow passing by wouldn’t see them.

      That’s just good LNT manners, though I suppose you’re talking about a time before LNT (google it).

  6. Judith Lowry says:

    Hi Ben,

    I have tried to type a response to your questions.
    It’s complicated and there isn’t room here to explain.
    I think it would be great to have a face to face talk about SYRCL.
    When is good for you?

    • Judith Lowry says:


      Never mind.
      I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.
      I withdraw my offer.
      As the saying goes, “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.”
      No hard feelings.
      Keep up the good work on the river.

    • Michael Anderson says:

      Judith, maybe he just changed the channel temporarily. You should try again.

      I have learned a lot about the Maidu and Nisenan from your comments.

    • Ben Emery says:

      I would love to sit down with you and talk about SYRCL and the Nisenan history. I believe we both live in Nevada City limits. Let me know what time and place you would like to meet.

      • Judith Lowry says:

        Thank you Ben,

        How is your Friday?


        • Ben Emery says:

          Actually I have a memorial service early in Santa Cruz on Saturday morning and am leaving directly from work on Friday to stay with my brother. Possibly Sunday afternoon, my wife and I are going down to Bay to Breakers on Sunday morning and will be back around 2pm. I have to feed animals in the evening but will be open between 3 – 5pm. I am open in the afternoon all next week except on Thursday I am picking my brother up at SFO from Cambodia.

          • Judith Lowry says:

            I have a busy week too Ben.
            I suggest you visit the Firehouse Museum on any Friday afternoon during the summer.
            There you will meet Shelly Covert, Secretary of the Nevada City Rancheria.
            She will be happy to inform you about the Nisenan culture and the struggles of the present day descendants of Nevada County’s First peoples.

          • Ben Emery says:

            My schedule is crazy all year long.

            Will do but would still like to meet with you about the SYRCL issue. I like to know all angles to most issues/ organizations and it seems there is something here that I haven’t a clue about.

  7. Ben, that’s an outstanding link. Shared.

    LNT Leave no trace, see also: Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time, and a few mosquitoes.

  8. Judith Lowry says:


    Thanks, sometimes my commitment turns to passion when I feel that something important, needing to be addressed, meets with apparent apathy.
    Ben’s okay, he’s just a river monitor, he’s not the droid I seek.

    This October 13, the Nisenan and CHIRP will be co-hosting Indigenous People’s Day in the Miner’s Foundry.
    It is already promising to be a stellar event with many distinguished guests, noted experts, authors, artists, poets and the Nisenan Descendants and NCT Tribal Council.
    If you truly care about the history of Nevada County, and its future, you won’t want to miss this one.

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