The Legacy of Historical Land Use & Abuse in the Yuba and Bear River Watersheds

The Legacy of Historical Land Use in the Yuba and Bear River Watersheds is the final live audio-visual presentation in the Just Enough Regional History series, by Hank Meals.  The series consists of five sessions designed to provide the fundamentals of historical savvy in the Yuba River region.  This final presentation will be taking place at 7p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3, at the North Columbia Schoolhouse in North San Juan.

The Yuba and Bear River Watersheds are still being used for a variety of purposes today. Photo submitted by Laura Petersen

The Yuba, Bear and American Rivers have played a major role in California’s history.  Personalities and incidents in this dramatic story have influenced science, industry and ethics on a world-wide scale with good and bad consequences.  With so much heritage surrounding us how can a person begin to appreciate it?

Local history buff, archaeologist and author, Hank Meals is offering a series of slide shows with live commentary on regional history at the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center on San Juan Ridge in October, November and December of 2019.  It won’t be the dense and dull history that you endured in High School, but “just enough,” Meals says, “to make you somewhat legacy literate.”  “So much of the commercially oriented history we’re exposed to consists of jumbled clichés, inaccuracies and cuteness – It’s simply not satisfying enough when the full stories are so engaging and illuminating. I’ve found that knowing what happened in your neighborhood makes you see a place differently, gives it extra texture and creates a sense of regional pride and ownership.”

The Legacy of Historical Land Use & Abuse in the Yuba and Bear River Watersheds

While most of us are aware of the obvious physical features of Yuba and Bear River country, there are a surprising number of landscapes that have been created by human activities. Some of the changes have been deliberate while others were inadvertent – most of them were once considered good ideas.

Women at the LaPorte mine

Here on the western slope of the north-central Sierra Nevada we are surrounded by the proximity of the past. The Yuba and Bear River watersheds have been manipulated by various groups of people for their own needs and desires, especially since the gold rush. A great deal of past human influence is still visible in the landscape and historic practices continue to affect its functioning, particularly in the areas of water management and fire suppression policies.

Stories that speak to indigenous land use, gold mining, water delivery systems, lumbering, transportation, freighting, homesteading, hydroelectricity, irrigation, grazing, fire suppression and recreation are imbedded in our region’s geography. If you spend time exploring outdoors, you’ll probably appreciate seeing more in the landscape than you did before.

Each 90-minute presentation in this series is rich with unique historical and contemporary photos, maps and diagrams.  Meals will provide commentary, answer questions and offer references and enthusiasm for the topics addressed. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Content and photos provided by Hank Meals