(Printed with permission of Ralph, Squire, April 2001. The photographs included in this section were taken during a trip my husband and I took to the quarry. They are not a part of the trail guide.)
Trail to Marble Quarry (Bell Marble Works Quarry)
Start of trail: This is the old road used to truck blocks of marble from the quarry.
Note the trees: Near the corner of the store is a Siberian Elm (Chinese Elm) with a truck diameter of 3'. This is probably the parent tree to all others in the park. This species was brought to the area by miners from China and planted over the graves of clan elders. Could there be a body below it? Across the roadway are 2 Lombardi Poplars. On the edge of the lawn is a Zappatini Poplar. Behind the metal storage shed is a Black Locust. Behind the quarry directional sign is a young Sierra Live Oak. to its right is a tall California Black Oak. Next to the propane tank is a California Wild Rose bush.
From the large open area above the large boulders to the left, a rail trestle carried ore cars of marble chunks to a crusher, which was located where the play-yard is now. To the left is a large California wild Rose bush.
On the right is some Buck Brush and just beyond, some Coffeeberry. Twenty feet ahead, on the left, is a large Toyon bush. Behind it are some California Buckeyes. The Buckeye is the first tree to leaf in the Spring (mid March) and the first tree to go dormant for Winter (mid July). the seeds develop after the leaves drop and mature just before Thanksgiving. The large, dark brown seeds resembling an over-sized Chestnut, are bitter and inedible. The Indians, who ate acorns and pine nuts, threw Buckeye seeds into small creekside pools and ate the stunned fish that floated to the surface.
You just crossed a remnant of the original wagon road used before Yankee Hill Rd. was built.
On the left are a couple of large Mountain Mahogany trees. Straight ahead, note the majestic Ponderosa Pines.
Hanging from the limb of a Sierra Live Oak, is a sign denoting that the Bell Marble Works was established here in 1918, by Ed Hill, who had married one of the daughters of Mr. Bell, who owned the property, formerly known as the Knapp Ranch. You will get your first view of the quarry in about 100 feet. About 20 feet before you get to the observation railing, looking to the left, thru the brush, you will see a concrete pyramid 20 feet square and 10 feet high. On it was a 110 foot steel tower w/boom, used to move the 20 ton blocks of marble after being quarried. Read the attached article "Columbia Marble."
On the skyline above the far side of the quarry are a group of large Bull Pines. Can you see the difference between the shape and color of the Bull Pines and the Ponderosa Pine behind you?
This quarry operated from 1918 until 1932, when the property was abandoned due to bankruptcy because of the "Great Depression." Mr. Max Friedman bought the property, for the back taxes, in 1937. After dismantling the crusher and air compressor, he sold to the Segerstrom family, in 1939 for $1,500. They sold the remaining blocks of marble. The steel tower was torn down for scrap metal in 1942, by Fred Botsford. The campground was started in 1967 by Stanley Wynn and Eugene Savaria.
Growing on the rock outcropping beyond the railing and to the right of the quarry face, is lush poison oak. We have tried to keep the hiking trail free from Poison Oak, but it is prolific over the rest of the area. We do not recommend hiking off the trails. If you choose to do so, be advised that it is rugged wilderness and there is plenty of Poison Oak.
As you are leaving, note the view to the west. You can see some of the brick buildings on the main street of Columbia. We invite you to hike to town on our other trail and use the other self guiding section. (not included in the extract)
The hills on the horizon beyond, rise above a lava flow, portions of which can be seen near Jamestown or Moaning Cavern. The Columbia Basin, seen in the middle distance, is a unique remnant of the original erosion surface from 35,000,000 years ago (Eocene Epoch), when a huge river flowing across here deposited rich placer gold.
A later river channel, 15,000,000 years ago (Miocene Epoch), was filled by a lava flow about 2,000,000 years ago. The softer surrounding rock has since eroded and left the harder lava as a "table mountain", except for the segment west of Columbia, where the hills still rise above it.
Two things caused this phenomenon: 1) The miocene river had made a big "S hook" at this point, on the contact between the limestone and schist, trapping the Columbia Basin behind the hardened lave, which restricted the surface run-off. 2) The Columbia Basin is a "karst" terrain, where most surface waters disappear into under-ground drainages through sink-holes, etc. This forms caverns below and slows surface erosion.
Hence, the Columbia Basin sits 500 feet higher than either Sonora or the entrance to Moaning Cavern. The rich eocene placer gold was still in place here, to be discovered 2 years after Marshall's initial find at Sutter's sawmill in Coloma.
TRAIL TO COLUMBIA
(Only the first paragraph of this section will be included here.)
Start of trail: Our emergency fire exit is the original driveway to the old Bell family farm, which later became the Bell Marble works, in 1918. Trucks hauling marble to the railroad in Sonora exited here, and were weighed on a scales in the middle of Yankee Hill Road, opposite the quarry offices. You can see the concrete foundations of the office and scalehouse about 100 feet to the West, toward Columbia. In the early mining days, this area was known as the Knapp Ranch.
Click here to move on to Ralph Squire's article on "Columbia Marble."