Omega Hydraulic Diggings and Townsite (No. 629 California Historical Landmark)
California Historical Landmarks Program
Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:
1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region
2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California
3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.
California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.
In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.
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The Omega Hydraulic diggings was near the Alpha Diggings. These sites were named by gold miners in the 1850s. Neither site exists today because the hydraulic diggings overwhelmed the town-sites and they both disappeared. The Omega site is visible from the Omega Rest area as visitors look down the Yuba River Canyon at the hillsides below.
Hydraulic mining was especially damaging to the hillsides, rivers and habitat. The Sawyer Decision of 1883 ended the practice of hydraulic mining, and many gold mining camps that depended on that method as the primary mining strategy were quickly abandoned for more productive camps. For more information about the Sawyer Decision, see the Alpha Diggings site.
Today, the old trails through the Alpha and Omega diggings area are considered some of the best mountain biking trails in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
The historical landmark is located at the Omega Rest Area, six miles east of Washington Road in the town of Washington.
Nevada means “snow-covered” in Spanish. During winter months, Nevada County’s eastern border is wholly engulfed in the snows of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. In the 1840s and 1850s many emigrants arrived in California via the Overland Emigrant Trail which threaded through the infamous Donner Pass.
Time Period Represented