These crossings were
little more than the owners overturning their wagons and
putting them together for makeshift barges. Each had its own
unique history. Very quickly the crossings gave way to the
construction of the first bridges.
1849 -- The
successors of the first bridge crossings lie within the South
Yuba River State Park today and proudly stand as landmarks,
all of which are eligible for the National Register of
Rapid Development of Mining Techniques
At first, the gold pan extracted large nuggets for the few who
were lucky. But by the mid-1850's gold mining techniques were
rapidly advancing. The pan gave way to the rocker, then the
sluice box, then Long Tom (mentioned in Diary of a 49er).
Men became extremely
industrious, to the point that the "Miner's Tunnel",
built in 1879, is now on National Register of Historic Places.
It is 800 feet long through solid rock between Hwy. 49 and
Hoyt's Crossing. The purpose was to divert the flow of the
South Yuba during summer months, so that the miners could work
the dry river bed undisturbed.
The tunnel right of
way was sold by William Clymo in 1877 to John Jacka &
Company for $21.00 who formed the South Yuba River Mining
Tunnel Company. The Tunnel was sold in 1881 to George Emory at
a nice profit. The sale amount was $12,061. River bed mining
and ground sluicing became the norm, with men banding together
to form mining companies to consolidate their resources.
Evidence of these early mining activities are found throughout
the South Yuba River Project.
Placer gold mining amounted to about 90% of gold recovered in
all of California. But during the 1860's through 1880's,
mining techniques advanced toward a devastating level with the
emphasis on wide spread hydraulic mining .
Excelsior Ditch was completed. It took four years with
hundreds of Chinese workers building the headwater diversion 4
miles above present day Hwy. 49 Crossing and then 27 miles
southwest to the hydraulic mining areas of Timbuktu at the
cost of $250,000.
This project has
become a major visitor attraction. Today it allows
wheelchair-users and others to cross towering historic water
flumes to view panoramic vistas of the South Yuba River and at
the same time allowing disabled visitors one of the few
wilderness experiences in the Sierras.
Chinese gold miners began to form their own companies, working
older claims abandoned by Europeans. Many remnants of Chinese
claims are found from this period upstream from Bridgeport and
elsewhere in the project.
The method employed by
the Chinese at this time to mine small portions of the South
Yuba was to construct a coffer dam, called "wing-damming."
Where the entire river channel is worked, a dam is built
entirely across the river, as with the Miner's Tunnel (1879).
The dry river bed is then worked by the miners; the gravel
being thrown into sluices and washed, while the larger
boulders are lifted out of the way with derricks and piled up
on the bedrock.
1869 -- With
the completion of the cross country railroad, signified by the
golden spike driven at Promontory, Utah Territory
.........1869, Abraham Lincoln's dream was complete to bring
the Union together. But this act drew to a close the brief
rapid rise of the Bridge/Toll Road builders and their profits.
A vast majority of
commerce shifted to the railroad. Traffic was greatly
diminished on the Henness Pass and its major tributaries,
principal of which was David Wood's Bridgeport Covered Bridge.
Overnight the Virginia Turnpike and its famous bridge became
insignificant and was relegated to local business traffic.
The Depression Era Gold Rush
Some called the
depression era, 1930-1939 the second gold rush along the South
Yuba River, due to the arrival of many poor disadvantaged
people. These people barely eked out a living as "Snipers",
those who searched every possible crack and panned for small
amounts of gold.
They sold the gold to
Victoria's son, Alfred Kneebone, who operated the gas station
and grocery store, near the old Charles Cole dairy barn. He
paid the "snipers" $18.20 per oz. and processed the
gold bearing sands in his mercury retort behind the gas
station and then sold the gold for $20.70 an oz. in Grass
During the period of
1927-1936, Alfred Kneebone also operated a resort along the
South Yuba River about 1/4 mile upstream from the Covered
Bridge, on present park property. At that location were bath
houses, cabins, cold room for ice cream etc., and a large
dance hall. Visitors came to swim and used the warm beaches
much as the thousands of visitors do today. The Kneebone
family collected fees from a booth in the old barn, charges
were $.50 per car, a gate was lifted and away to the "main
swim" hole they drove.