Route: I-80E, CA-49N, CA-89N, A414
Google estimated travel time was approximately 3 hours if we used I-80E for the majority of the trip. On the advice from a friend, we overruled Google Maps and took CA-49N, which would add an estimated 30 minutes to the trip. In Abby, the extra time was closer to an hour. Include the road construction, it was an additional 90 minutes.
CA-49N is a twisty, scenic drive through Tahoe and Plumas National Forests. The road follows various branches of the Yuba River at different points. The river looks to be a kayaker’s and fisherman’s paradise with boulders, fast flowing sections, and large pools. There are multiple opportunities to camp in Sierra County at National Forest campgrounds adjacent to CA-49N. We also saw a number of signs indicating boat launches down lake access roads.
Yes, the route we took came close to forming a circle at the end.
History: The Plumas Eureka State Park region was originally inhabited by the Northern Maidu, who lived along valley edges and hunted in the mountains during the warm seasons. They were known for their coiled and twined baskets and intricate bead-work.
In 1851, the isolation of the Maidu ended when gold was discovered on an exposed quartz ledge of Eureka Peak. The influx of European settlers brought disease, destroyed native food and plant resources, and inflicted violence that was catastrophic to the Maidu population.
Jamison City and Johnsville were established for the miners. Smaller mining companies closed as surface deposits diminished. A British company purchased and consolidated the mines in 1872. The mines operated profitable until 1890 and were sold in 1904. Operations tapered off until they were ended during World War II by the War Production Board Limitation Order. The mines’ 65 miles of tunnels generated more than $8 million in gold, which was processed by the Mohawk Stamp Mill.
To entertain themselves, miners held snowshoe and ski races. In the ski races, competitors could reach speeds of more than 80 miles per hour. It is believed that the mine tramways may have served as the world’s first ski lifts.
Campground: We weren’t sure what to expect with the Plumas Eureka campground. Experience with CA state parks is approximately 66% positive (Morro Bay, New Brighton State Beach, Half Moon Bay) and we were hoping that after this stay, 3 out of 4 parks would have exceeded expectations. We weren’t disappointed.
The park rangers are VERY serious about protecting bears from habituation to humans. You must read a statement upon check in regarding proper storage of food and trash at your site and the dangers to you and the bear if you do not follow the regulations; there is a $1000 fine if you are found to be in violation of the rules. Your signature on the registration receipt is required to acknowledge the information.
The campground is approximately a mile down the road from the mining museum, located at the base of Mount Eureka, that has the registration window. There is a mix of walk-in only and RV/trailer sites. all sites have a picnic table, fire pit, metal food storage box, and a large level area for tent set up. Despite the scale on the map, all sites are spacious and wooded with various types of trees (white fir, Douglas fir, ponderosa, sugar, Jeffrey, lodge-pole, incense cedar). There are even some giant sequoias and a creek running through the campground. Our spot number was 36, which was a little uneven, but was fixed with blocks under the front tires. Sites 9 – 14, and 19 – 20 are secluded and within easy walking distance to the showers.
The shower facilities were clean, and as of June 2016, free. We did not try them out. California was experiencing unseasonable cold weather and we saw snow flurries our first night. We’re not walking around wet, in the cold, while Abby had a functional shower. The toilet facilities have flush toilets, but no hot water.
Activities: There is a trail from the campground to the museum. The museum is located in the historic miners’ bunkhouse and has natural history exhibits, archaeological finds, mining artifacts, a working scale model of the stamp mill, and hands on exhibits for kids. You can even pan for gold. Some buildings are open in the mining complex, but check with the museum to confirm days and times.
The campground also provides access to the Talking Forest Nature Trail and Grass and Smith Lakes Trail. These trails to exit the state park and enter national forest land. Within the park, there are also trail heads to Eureka Peak, Madora Lake, and others into national forest land.
Fishing along Jamison Creek in the park is not always rewarding, but there are other streams and lakes in the area that offer better odds.
Overall: We enjoyed this park. We didn’t hike as much as we would have liked; we are always trying to hit a moving target as Alex abilities and nap schedule change as he grows. A positive experience.