by Wes Dempsey, Fall 1997
The Feb. 2, 1967 ER showed a map of Upper Bidwell Park with the headline “Scenic Trail” and said that “a six-mile foottrail, designed to open up the beauties of Upper Bidwell Park to dedicated hikers or desultory strollers alike, is the next project of the Chico chapter of the Sierra Club”. The article further noted that “authorization was granted Tuesday by the Bidwell Park and Playground Commission.”
A note in the Yahi Group records relates that “the Yahi Trail was completed and dedicated in 1967”. It also lists that among those involved in its planning and construction were Clarence Mclntosh (a CSUC History prof who was Chair in 1969), Clay Delgardo (a postman who was Chair in 1967) and his son Dave (In high school then but now a school principal), Judy Conley (Chico’s first woman City Council member) along with unnamed Boy Scouts.
The trail at that time began at Day Camp and pretty much followed existing fisherman trails along the creek or the edge of the bluffs until Devil’s Kitchen where it joined the park road for a short way and then dropped down to the base of the cliffs. A new way had to be brushed out through some difficult going to the Brown’s Hole parking lot and on to the turnaround at the end of the park. In recent years, a new beginning was established by the Park department a short distance west of Alligator Hole with a stairway constructed leading downward from the park road.
The guiding philosophy from the outset in laying out the trail has been that it follow existing ways as much as possible with a minimum of digging and construction. At confusing junctions a 2-inch orange dot was painted on rocks beside the trail; many of these marks (albeit faded) can still be found. Rocks were strategically placed along each side in some places. Periodically, the trail had to be cleared of poison oak and brush. Right now, considerable work needs to be done from Devil’s Kitchen to the turnaround as the trail has almost disappeared.
Early on, John Kingsley (a Butte College Geology instructor) wrote “A Guide to the Geology of the Yahi Trail”. Bill Guyton (CSUC) updated this with his publication “The Geology of Upper Bidwell Park” that is still used by college classes. In 1986, Vern Oswald (CSUC) published his authoritative “Vascular Plants of Upper Bidwell Park” which included a fine map that depicts the Yahi Trail. The latter two publications are still available. Hopefully, Dave Nopel and I will soon have our map and nature guide “A Guide to the Yahi Trail” available to you.
Along the trail you pass by the site of the CARD Day Camp (Camp Chi-da-ca) that was started in 1951 and to which many of us sent our kids for nature study (and to get them out of our hair for a couple of days!). Indian mortars of the Maidu are found along the creek here and many more in a cave about a quarter mile north. A streamflow measurement station with a cable and “dolly” existed for many years a short distance upstream but only the concrete supports remain. Someone installed a nature trail along here in the 50’s and two of the signs identifying Manzanita and “Red” Alder (they meant “White”) may still be there. At Bear Hole, a Diversion Dam was built by the WPA in the late 30’s, presumably as a “make-work” project during the depression. Below it, a concrete flume carried the water to a ditch that followed the contour lines to just south of Horseshoe Lake (but not to it) and thence on to the Golf Course. Both the dam and the ditch are well preserved and make a fun hike in themselves. Beyond Salmon Hole, a fish ladder was constructed in 1958 by Fish & Game with 10 dams along a 300′ stretch of the creek. Above, along the Yahi Trail, you can still see remains of a concrete lift used during construction.
The recent high water did extensive damage to the lower portions of the trail, particularly between Day Camp and the beginning. Chris Betts (the park volunteers coordinator) has done a nice job of opening it up however and the trail is easily traversed. Opening the link between Horseshoe Lake and the beginning desperately needs to be done and might make a worthy project for us. The route, by the way, follows the Diversion Ditch mentioned above. Another big job for a hardy crew is to reopen the trail between Devil’s Kitchen and the end of the park. Any volunteers?