A historic section of the Western States Trail through the Sierra Nevada.
Michigan Bluff-Last Chance Trail.The Michigan Bluff to Last Change section of the Western States Trail was built in 1850 and later became a maintained toll-trail, perhaps one of only a few toll-trails in the state.
As early as 1850 pack-trains carried supplies down the trail connecting the mining camps of Michigan Bluff, Deadwood, and Last Change. During this period these camps were dependent upon local friend companies who supplied the camps with foodstuffs, clothing, mining tools, drugs, and other supplies, particularly during the winder months, when access in and out of the camps was difficult. Supplies were brought in by large pack-trains of mules, rather than by wagons which could not negotiate the circuitous narrow trail. By 1952 this trail was in full use and cut in half the time it took to reach Deadwood and Last Chance from the Foresthill Divide.
(photo caption) Between 1849 and 1850, mining camps located along the present-day Foresthill Divide were difficult to reach by foot, or by wagon. By 1851, the business communities of Michigan City (later Michigan Bluff), Deadwood, and Last Chance, were doing well, and the population was increasing, as was gold production. Many of the camps such as Deadwood and Last Chance could only be reached by foot, pack trains, or by horseback along a precipitous trail. Millions of dollars in value and several tons in weight of gold was packed out by mule trains over many years along the Michigan Bluff to Last Chance trail.
(photo caption) High upon the brow of two river canyons, clinging to its steep slopes in Michigan Bluff. Once an active city of commerce of 3,000 people, its mines shipped out $100,000 in gold each month from 1851 to 1884. Leland Stanford, railroad builder, U.S. Senator, Governor, and donor to Stanford University, laid the foundation for his fortune here from 1853 to 1855.
Blasting, washing, and sluicing for gold was devastating as the face of the country changed. What would have taken centuries to accomplish by natural processes was produced in a few years. Soil to the depth of 150 feet was washed from acres of land, exposing only bedrock. Slopes stripped of trees and chaparral were subject to severe erosion and landslides. The miners washing an ancient river channel found the city perched on the canyon edge beginning to move. Michigan City began to settle and slip threatening to precipitate the town into the abyss. In 1859 the city was moved to its present site.