John Bidwell Waxes Poetical in the Spring

In 1851 John Bidwell wrote to a young lady of his acquaintance, “My Friend Miss E. Boyd,” describing his life in the goldfields of California. Here is his description of springtime in the Central Valley:

For miles and hundreds of miles up the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers the soil is as rich I suppose as any I ever saw, for miles you might travel following the course of either river in the early Spring and beautiful flowers fairly paint the landscape in their rich and varied profusion, broad prairies covered with wild oats & peas would often be along your road. Occasionally you would be obliged to cross some small creek; these are (many of them) well shaded with oak trees, & many an oaken bough sustains loads of grapes, green yet, but in a few weeks their rich purple would tempt your appetite after a better meal than you would be likely to get here . . .


The wildflowers may be mostly gone from the valley floor, replaced by roads and orchards and houses, but you can still enjoy a California spring as Bidwell saw it. Just go as soon as you can to North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve, here in Butte County, and enjoy the vista of lupines, goldfields, yellow carpet, bluedicks, red maids, owl clover, meadowfoam, and monkey flower. The small creek is there, the oak trees, and the cattle. Enjoy it while you can, for it will soon be gone until another spring.

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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