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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 391

Volunteers help BLM mark sites of historic log flume

During the 1870s, the rapid development of California towns and cities radically increased the need for construction lumber. Prime mountain forests provided the best sources available, but there were few roads into these areas. Therefore, elaborate flume systems, including Tehama County's 42-mile-long Blue Ridge Flume, were created to carry cut lumber to valley centers for distribution. Flumes were artificial water channels, often built of wood, that could float the lumber to its destination. Flume tenders lived along key spots. Following abandonment, the flume system was largely dismantled, but vestiges still exist. (text continues below)

two people use a metal detector amid tall brown grass
Volunteers used metal detectors to investigate more than a mile of the historic Blue Ridge Flume's route

Fifteen volunteers, ages 10 and up helped the BLM continue to delineate the alignment of the historic Blue Ridge Flume and reveal its historic complexity.  Metal detecting and recording teams evaluated approximately one to two miles of the flume. Teams also installed interpretive signs.

One interesting discovery was the location of a flume break and dumping of split rail fencing that was being carried along the flume in addition to cut boards.  Other than the ever-present cut nails and gun cartridges, some interesting artifactual finds included stove parts, an oxen shoe and a woman's pendant.

One day was devoted to a study of a section of the historic Belle Mill Road, an early wagon and stage road in Tehama County that paralleled a sister flume.  Here metal detecting teams discovered wagon parts, horse and mule shoes, and a woman's hat pin, among other items. 

The week of work helped BLM in its pro-active management of heritage resources and incrementally increased our knowledge of these linear historic features. Detailed metal detecting work, while sometime exhaustive, continues to be fundamental and indispensable to the historical archaeologist.  The PIT volunteers proved their value in this project and were educated in the local history and archaeology and some of the methods of discovery employed by the archaeologist.

Teams noted parts of the route with markers on posts set in the ground...
Hikers head away from a marker on a post set in the ground

...and these metal markers in the ground
A round metal marker with lettering marks part of the route of the flume

An artist's sketch of what the Blue Ridge Flume looked like in its heyday:
A black and white sketch of a long trestle crossing a river valley 

Some remore areas were more accessible by water, so the teams took to rafts in this creek...
Volunteers take to rafts on a creek

...and headed out onto the river.
A raft farther away on the river, with trees and grasslands rising on each side

- AnaStasia Lytle, outdoor recreation planner, BLM-California Redding Field Office, 7/09

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 391

Last updated: 07-15-2009