An Ancient Trail - A Maidu Auto Tour


As you drive along paved highways linking Quincy to Susanville, you will be following an ancient trail through the land of the Mountain Maidu Indians. The mountain landscape, rugged and uniquely beautiful, abounds with Maidu stories. According to tales of long ago. these mountain lands were created for the Maidu after a great flood. When the waters subsided, Worldmaker set out to inspect the land. following a trail that would become the major travel route for the Maidu people. Mankillers lived all over the world then, and Worldmaker had a memorable experience clearing the trail. When you follow the highway, you will be following Worldmaker's footsteps.

The Maidu also account for the difficult, rugged aspects of their terrain in stories about the "Coyote". A figure of fun, mischief, and downright maliciousness, Coyote interfered with Worldmaker's plans to make life easy for the Maidu, and brought death and suffering into the world. You will be guided along this ancient route and follow in Worldmaker's footsteps as he subdues monsters, shapes the meadows, and readies the land for the coming of the Maidu people. As you travel along the old Maidu trail, you will see how the landscape was modified by Coyote's mischief.

The tour is designed to start in Quincy or Susanville and follows Highways 70 and 89 through Indian Valley, turns on Hwy 147 at the south end of Lake Almanor, then via Hwy 36 to Susanville (the route may also be taken in reverse). The tour is 67 miles long and will take about two hours to drive. Several lovely walks and side tours are available en route, so you may want to schedule additional time. In downtown Quincy set your mileage log at 0 at the intersection of Quincy Junction Road and 70/89. In Susanville, set your log at the Highway 36 - 139 intersection (corner of Main and Ash).

Local traffic moves quickly along these roads, so drive slowly and exit carefully only at designated stopping places. Safe turnouts are numbered on your map and distances between are indicated.


0.8 miles north of downtown Quincy on Hwy 70/89. This lovely, wooded picnic spot provides an opportunity to arrange snacks, cameras, and other sight-seeing gear.

Walk to the edge of the park and note the charming Irregularity of meadows, marshes and streams that uniquely distinguish American Valley. The Mountain Maidu located their winter villages on higher ground all around the edges of the valley, close to the water and fuel wood. The swampy marshes that once covered the valley floor provided for an abundance of waterfowl. In the summer, they used the tules of the marshes to build summer huts, skirts, and mats. The Maidu stored supplies of dried fish, fowl, and deer meat, as well as acorns, roots, and grass seeds to sustain them through winter or to use for trade. Larger villages had a central dance house or roundhouse (similar to the one shown above), which was a semi-subterranean earth-covered lodge. This was the center of Maidu life.

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7.8 miles north of Gansner Park on Hwy 70/89 to posted turnout at Quarry Road Intersection on west side of Hwy. From this point you can view the rugged beauty of deep canyon and steep mountain slopes that characterize the Maidu landscape.

At the south edge of the turnout you will see a silvery-grey rock outcrop that slopes sharply down to meet the emerald waters of Spanish Creek deep in the canyon below. Deer and band-tail pigeons are attracted to the rock for its salt, and the Maidu say this was an especially good place to hunt. The Maidu also collected the rock salt for drying foods, in addition to using it for seasoning. Looking closely at the accumulation of broken rocks, you will see a crossroad of deer trails indicating heavy deer traffic along the rock formation.

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1.5 miles west of Deer Lick Rock. to the intersection of Hwy 70 and 89. Turn north on Hwy 89 and go 500 feet to turn-out on the east side of the road.
This is where Indian and Spanish Creeks meet the Feather River. This was a traditional Maidu camp site. Every spring the Maidu of American and Indian Valleys would congregate at this spot to collect salmon, crayfish, and eels. Some would be dried and stored away. Much would be enjoyed on the spot. Indian Creek tumbles over a series of low stone terraces. These terraces provided an easy place to catch eels; the water is shallow and the eels were caught by hand as they clambered up the step-like formation.

From here, as you travel north along Indian Creek you will be following the path taken by Worldmaker as he made the land safe for the Maidu people. Many remarkable landforms are located along this stretch, and the Maidu have many accounts about what happened during his journey.

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2.1 miles north of Hwy 70/89 Intersection. No safe turnout is available; stopping not advised.
Driving by the outcrop you may see the figure of a reclining woman naturally etched in white against the grey rock background. This is the shape of one of three monster women who lived here. You will also notice the women leaning against the rock with their hands extended, reaching for the water. This is what was left of the women (sometimes called "Chuchuya") who attacked everyone who tried to pass along the trail by washing them into the creek to drown.

Worldmaker got his animal helpers, the mink and fisher, to help him solve the problem. They trapped a monster snake living in a pool up the creek (location 6), cut off some of its tail fat and threw it into the malevolent women's roundhouse. When the fat hit the fire, the roundhouse blew up in a huge blaze. This took care of the Chuchuya women, but their image was left behind to remind us of their strength.

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0.8 miles north of Soda Rock. Turnout is north of Indian Falls. Parking is on the east side of Hwy 89. A short, moderately steep hike down a signed trail brings you to an overlook above the falls. A picnic table is there, and the pool below the falls Is a favorite swimming hole.
Mountain Maidu elders tell that Thundering Falls used to be tall and beautiful. A lovely giant lady sat on a rock at the falls and her long hair rippled over her shoulder down into the pool. She sang an enchanting song that rebounded through the canyon. But, this was a trap. Anyone venturing close was snared by her long hair and drowned. When Worldmaker came upon the lady, he stomped her into the ground until just part of her head showed. This is why Thundering Falls is now so low.

In former days, salmon migrated up Indian Creek to spawn, and the falls was an important fishing place. Worldmaker wanted to put the falls in Indian Valley, convenient to the villagers nearby. But Trickster Coyote got in the way and put it down in the narrow canyon where it would be difficult to reach.

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1.3 miles north of Indian Falls to spot where canyon widens - pullout located on west side of road near a clump of small oaks.
At the edge of the pullout, look up to the rim rock to the southwest and you will see a large split boulder. The canyon you have just passed through is known for its strong winds, and the split rock is "where the wind begins". The Maidu in Indian Valley controlled the wind during late summer when the acorns were ripening. If the wind knocked down the acorns too early, the acorns would not grow to an adequate size for food preparation. To prevent the wind from reaching the oak groves, they plugged the crevice in split rocks with large stones. The rocks were removed during the winter, else it become angry.

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0.5 miles north of Split Rock; turnout on east side of road.
Here, in a quiet pool formed by an old Indian Creek meander, is where the monster snake lived. The monster snake crept out of his pool at night and crashed up and down the canyon. His wriggling formed the many meanders in Indian Creek and his thrashing about leveled the nearby hills into sand bars. Even today some Maidu will not swim here because the snake may wake.

The mink and fisher set a trap to catch the Monster Snake. When the snake was snared it jumped high in the air, but the quick little fisher jumped after it and cut off its tail. The snake bled a milky fluid which spilled out and left spots on the rocks along the creek. The fisher and mink got some of the fluid under their chins. This is why minks and fishers have white spots under their chins. In the winter, hoarfrost used to cover the trees along the creek. They say this is because the Snake's milk flowed over the ground here.

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Stories are significant guidelines for safety. No one should swim in the Monster Snake Pool because of the dangerous undertow.


3.2 miles north of Monster Snake Pool to the intersection of Stampfli Lane and Hwy 89. Proceed east on Stampfli 0.1 miles to a large turnout on the south side of the road.

The first low ridgeline to the north, in the center of Indian Valley, is Forgay Point. The Maidu call this Canoe-Hammering Point. A man-eating monster lived there and hammered all day long on a canoe hanging by the creek. This hammering was a trick to lure unwary people. The monster possessed a large collection of knives for chopping up people. He used special knives for different parts of the body. Woodchuck was his watchdog, and, from his vantage point at Split Rocks, he would whistle "sipa sipa" when he saw someone coming.

By causing the wind to blow, Worldmaker sneaked up past woodchuck before he could bark and surprised the man-killer. He tricked the monster into showing off his knives. The Worldmaker grabbed one, then cut off the man eater's head. After Worldmaker's visit, the Maldu found this a good place to live. But, even today they say you can still hear strange noises in the night...the sharp whistle of woodchuck, the echo of hammering.

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2.3 miles; 0.1 mile west on Stampfli Lane and 2.2 miles north on Hwy 89 over grade. Pull over on Forgay Road intersection.

From this point you have a good view of Keddie Ridge, a central point in Mountain Maidu stories. Can you see the profile of a sleeping Indian outlined along the top of the ridge? According to the elders, an old Indian giant was going all over the world measuring the depths of all the lakes and streams. When he measured Homer Lake, atop Keddie Ridge, he was so tired that he decided to lay down to rest. But the old Indian fell into a deep sleep and has never awakened. According to the elders, when the old Indian awakes it will mark the end of our time on earth.

Another Maidu story tells how Worldmaker came to cleanse the world of problems caused by the Trickster Coyote. Worldmaker covered it with a great flood. Before the waters came, he took refuge with all the people in a stone canoe that, as the water receded, came aground on the summit of Keddie Peak. Notice the two highest stony peaks on top of the ridge. These outline the prows of the canoe.

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7.4 miles northwest on Hwy 89 to road intersection.

The semi-open canopy of pine and cedar in this area provide rare habitat for the bear grass plant or whitegrass (Xerophyllum tena), the stems of which are used by the Maidu in making the white patterns on baskets. A member of the lily family, bear grass forms large grass-like clumps, some of which may be found under trees along Wolf Creek.

When Worldmaker walked along the trail he came to Whitegrass Mountain (Bear Grass Mountain). He scattered bear grass seeds on the nearby ridge. Worldmaker intended that people would come from all over to gather basket materials here. They would not fight, they'd be friends. And that's the way it is.

Bear grass is still gathered by the Maidu people. It is used as an important element for weaving baskets, a well known art of the Maidu people.

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3.3 miles northwest on Hwy 89 to Hwy 147. North on Hwy 147 0.5 miles to scenic overlook on west side of road.

Before the construction of Lake Almanor, Big Meadows was an open, grassy valley. Its wealth of fish, waterfowl, tubers, and seeds provided food for Maidu winter village settlements.

The Worldmaker's inspection tour followed the trail along the Feather River through Big Meadows. Here he encountered a giant frog monster and some fiery little devils that he transformed into giant boulders in the meadow. These points are presently covered by Lake Almanor. Lassen Peak, prominent on the far horizon, marked the northwestern limits of the Maidu territory. Its bubbling mud pots and hot sulphur springs were a source of awe and wonder to the Indian people.

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10.6 miles north on Hwy 147 (along Lake Almanor East Shore through town of Clear Creek) to the A-21 Interchange. 0.1 miles (500ft) north on Hwy 147 (and north of intersection). Note: this viewing point is on private property and is now posted.

Posing as a poor, helpless old fellow, a man-eater had a barbecue pit set up in the bottom of Clear Creek Canyon, at a narrow place where the trail cut along the canyon wall. He hung on top of a rock where he had a good footing, and when a man passed, the old fellow would beg, "Help me down. help me down." When the traveler stopped to help, the old man-eater would push him into his barbecue pit.

As Worldmaker passed along the trail, the old fellow called out for help, but just as the old man-killer pushed, the Worldmaker twisted to one side, and the man-killer fell right into his own barbecue pit and cooked himself. Even today you can see the fire-reddened rock at the bottom of the canyon.

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0.6 miles north on Hwy 147 to Hwy 36 Intersection; proceed 6 miles east on Hwy 36 to turnout on south side of road.

When the Worldmaker came to Mountain Meadows he decided to take a rest. The place was lovely and peaceful, so he decided this would be a good place for the Maidu to come and gather roots. He scattered seeds for all sorts of useful plants around the meadow: camass and tules in the wet marshes, brodiaea, and yampa on the low rises. In consequence, the Maidu came from all over to gather roots in Mountain Meadows. On the far south horizon you can see the outline of Keddie Ridge and the sleeping Indian giant.

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8.7 miles east on Hwy 36 over Fredonyer Pass to Wlllard Creek road intersection. Turnout south of Intersection for convenient view of meadow.

After crossing over the forested slopes of Fredonyer Peak, Worldmaker came to another small meadow that was greatly pleasing to him. He stopped here for lunch and cast the remains of the plants he had been eating across the meadows and said "This is a place where the Maidu will come to gather roots". And then he rested in this peaceful place for a little while.

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5.8 miles east from Fredonyer Pass on Hwy 36, cross over Susan River Bridge, turn and park at trailhead for Biz Johnson trail. Walk along easy, prepared trail to your right, to the Susan River Canyon rim.

When Worldmaker came to Devil's Corral, he found the canyon was filled with hoards of little devilish imps. They hid out in all the crevices in the rocks and crags. Worldmaker called to the mud swallows for assistance, and they came to him from up and down the Susan River. The swallows gathered mud from the river and sealed up all the cracks and crevices and trapped those little imps in the canyon walls. You can still hear the little devils wailing and moaning in the rocks, especially by night. Today, the swallows still build their mud nests in Devil's Corral. As you walk under the bridge you can
see how they have adapted to the man-made feature, with their nests neatly lined the beams on the bridge.

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5 miles east on Hwy 36 to the top of the steep grade that drops down into Susanville. Stop at turnout on south side of road.

Where the mountain forests give way to the semiarid sagebrush deserto Indians. The boundaries of these territories meet in Honey Lake Valley, a small oasis whose oaks and waterways were shared (and sometimes disputed) by people speaking different languages and following similar lifestyles.

The Maidu say that the Worldmaker passed through what is now Susanville, formerly the eastern-most winter village settlement of the Mountain Maidu, and was last seen going north over Antelope Grade (presently Hwy 139). If you are traveling from Quincy, this marks the end of the Mountain Maidu Trail. But, if you're starting from Susanville, it is only the beginning.

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This brochure is dedicated to the Maidu Elders and storytellers, past and present, and the People as one People in peace and happiness.

For more information on the Maidu people and their culture, contact the various Mountain Maidu organizations or visit:

The Plumas County Museum
500 Jackson Street
Quincy, CA 95971
(916) 283-6320

The Chester-Lake Almanor Museum
Chester Public Library
Chester, CA 96020

The Indian Valley Museum
Mt. Jura Gem & Museum Society
Taylorsville, CA 95983


The Plumas National Forest
159 Lawrence Street, Box 11500
Quincy, CA 95971 (916) 283-2050;

The Lassen National Forest
55 South Sacramento
Susanville, CA 96130 (916) 257-2151

Roundhouse Council
P.O. Box 217
Greenville, CA 95947 (916) 284-6866

Plumas County Indians
P.O. Box 102
Taylorsville, CA 95983 (916) 284-6527

Susanville Rancheria
P.O. Drawer J
Susanville, CA 96130 (916) 257-6264

Plumas Corporation
HWY 70, 1/2 mile West of downtown
Quincy, CA 95971 (800) 326-224