A Chico History Weekend

This has been a weekend full of Chico history events.

John Bidwell 1850

John Bidwell in 1850

Saturday morning I gave a talk at the Chico Museum on “Early Days at Rancho Chico,” all about John Bidwell’s activities during the 1850s. I crammed as much history as I could into 60 minutes, because there was so much to talk about. It was well attended — about 60 people came.

In the afternoon I took the tour, led by Dave Nopel, on “Rocks and Ruts.” We met at the Junction, where Broadway, Main, Park, 8th and 9th Streets all meet, and where the Humboldt Road begins. From there we followed the road through town, taking a jog around the freeway, and on up into the hills to see wagon ruts and rock walls. Along the way Dave, who “knows all there is to be knowed” about the Humboldt Wagon Road, told us about its humboldt roadorigin and significance. He should know — he literally wrote the book about it, along with Marti Leicester.


It was a beautiful day to be looking at the foothills. At several places along the old Humboldt Road the ruts can be seen, worn into the soft lava cap by the iron rims of the wagon wheels. This was a route traversed by freight wagons, lumber wagons, and stagecoaches. The road never paid off for John Bidwell the way he hoped — the railroad took the shipping business that he was planning to send by this road to the mines in Nevada and Idaho. But it became a significant route for the lumber trade and for valley residents seeking relief from the hot summers in the mountains.


Wagon ruts can still be seen next to the paved Humboldt road in some places.

Butte County residents are familiar with the rock walls that can be seen along roads and in fields around Chico. These were built to fence in cattle, clear rocks out of fields, and keep cowboys busy during slow times. They are fine examples of the art of rock wall building and a part of our history. They will stand firm unless disturbed. Unfortunately, the rocks are steadily disappearing.

Folks, leave the rocks where they are! They are being stolen. A group called Respect the Walls is working to preserve this heritage by documenting and seeking protection for the walls. They have a website and a Facebook page. Please help them by not taking any more rocks.


A rock wall along the Humboldt Road, about half the height it should be.

Then today (Sunday) I took a tour of downtown Chico with Randy Taylor, sponsored by the Chico Heritage Association. Another great tour, focusing on the buildings — the ones that have changed, the ones that have stayed the same, and the ones that are gone — along Main Street and Broadway.

If you like historical tours it’s not too late. There is one of the South Campus neighborhood with John Gallardo on Saturday,May 28th at 1 p.m. Find out about the Language Houses and other residences next to the Chico State campus.

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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