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Take your imagination to old La Porte.

When you visit old La Porte, 65 miles northeast of Marysville, try to imagine it as it was during the gold-mining boom of the 1850s: 14 saloons, 2 theaters, 3 hotels, a Chinatown, 2 churches, jammed streets, and Lotta Crabtree starting her career.

The town]s rise and fall was rapid yet memorable. The geology of the area was particularly suited to hydraulic mining, which brought enough gold--60 million dollars' worth in 16 years--to build a prosperous town. But when the Anti-Debris Act of 1883 prohibited hydraulic mining, the hoses were turned off and the people moved on. The town was left a victim to fires and its isolation.

Today the moonscape of scarred earth remains, as does an inviting low-key hamlet at 5,000 feet. La Porte 100 years later

While you won't see the hustle of 1860 or ever restored buildings boasting their proud and colorful history, you will find a hotel and restaurant, an old schoolhouse, a general store, a post office, and homes still perched on water-blasted cliffs.

The Union Hotel, built at the turn of the century on the original site of the Union Hotel of 1835, has a good restaurant. A room with double bed and bath costs $28. Call (916) 675-2525 for reservations.

For a look at some landmarks, take a mile-long stroll around town. Walk up Church Street between the Union Hotel and the store. On the your right is the cemetery. Walk gently through it to School Road and the shady picnic grounds by the 1880 schoolhouse.

Back down School Road, watch for a granite monument on Main Street marking the old emigrant trail and commemorating the discovery of gold in 1850 at Rabbit Creek, La Porte's original name. Ghost towns and back country and a cool place to picnic or camp

Three miles beyond La Porte lies Little Grass Valley Reservoir, with fishing, boating, and swimming in refreshing water that warms to the 70s in summer.

Here you'll find picnic areas, swimming beaches, boat ramps, and four Forest Service campgrounds ($5 per night). For details, write or call Challenge Ranger Station, Challenge 95925, (916) 675-2462.

The surrounding countryside, spectacular and rugged, is accessible by dirt roads not for the faint of heart or for temperamental vehicles. The tumble-down traces of old mining camps. now almost completely absorbed into the wilderness, can be found beyond La Porte on these roads: Howland Flat, Port Wine, Poker Flat (of Bret Harte fame), Queen City, St. Louis, and others. They're all marked on a USFS map of Plumas National Forest, available for $1 at the ranger station in Challenge or general store in La Porte.

If you don't mind some dust, drive into the back country to ferret out these ghost towns. Or continue out La Porte's back door to Quincy on a 30-mile-long dirt road. Here you will get a better feeling for this wild, remote country.

If you have time for a hike, the Pacific Crest Trail crosses Gibsonville Ridge 9 miles from the reservoir, watch for the sign. Continuing on the Quincy Road, you'll see 7,457-foot Pilot Peak, wild-flowered, snow-patched Onion Valley, and the dramatic gorge where Nelson Creek slices through rock and forest.

To return to the Central Valley, you can loop through Quincy on the Feather River Highway (State 70). Or head south on State 89 to state 49 and Grass Valley, or stay on 89 to Trackee and 1-80.
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Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Jul 1, 1984
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