Much of the attraction to Graeagle is its proximity to countless waterways in all their mountain glory. Water is everywhere, from the tiniest ripple of an easily forded summer creek to the hidden depths of glacier carved lakes, all abundant with recreational opportunities or transcendent in their meditative calm.
The granddaddy of them all is The Feather River.
The source of the Middle Fork of The Feather River lies just 15-miles from My Front Porch at coordinates 39°48′49″N 120°22′46″W, bubbling up from the heart of the immense Sierra Valley. The Feather River and its tributaries supply much of central and southern California with water. The Feather River is also unique in that it is the first waterway to flow westward all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
But the Feather River has a much more romantic side than one might suppose. Named el rio de las plumas by the Spanish explorer, Luis Antonio Arguello, the name literally translates as the river of feathers. The name reportedly refers to the area’s abundant waterfowl, but there is one obscure note in Arguello’s diary that refers to a hostile native tribe firing an all night barrage of arrows (with feathers?) across the river at the advancing Spaniards.
The river’s first mapping by Arguello was part of an expedition with a dual purpose, one military the other for love.
Cry Me a River
The Last Spanish Expedition in California
For a long time the Spanish government in California worried about foreign encroachment, a justified concern as things turned out, but at the time our story begins, their main concern was Russia. The man in charge of the northernmost outpost in California, San Francisco, was none other than Luis Antonio Arguello. Luis and his famously beautiful sister, Concepcion,lived at the Presidio.
One foggy day, the Arguellos received a visitor, Nikolai Rezanov ,a Russian trader and diplomat. All thoughts of conquest in Nikolai’s heart suddenly turned toward the beautiful Concepcion and a passionate love affair ensued. Nikolai was bound by duty to return to Russia, but vowed to return (My note: Don’t they all.).
Concepcion waited….and waited… She waited for many, many dots(…) . In grief and anguish she appealed to her brother, Luis, who was about to depart into uncharted territories north to basically spy on the Russians, “Please, please! bring me word of Nikolai.” , or words to that effect, probably in Spanish.
Anyway, long story short, Luis discovered The Feather River, but alas, not poor Nikolai.
Concepcion waited…and waited…for many, many more dots, and then of course became a nun. Eventually she did discover Nikolai’s fate, a kind of bittersweet ending: He had set out on horseback from Asia to Europe (obviously the wrong direction), got sick, refused to stop and eventually fell off his horse and died. Thus the Spanish School of Riding was founded by a grant as Concepcion’s last behest. (I made that last part up.)
However The Feather River keeps on rollin’. I’ve got many more tales to tell about her “Wild” side. C’mon up and join me for more adventures to come on