Pacific Southwest Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Traverse Creek Botanical Special Interest Area
Forest: Eldorado National Forest
District: Georgetown Ranger District
Description: Traverse Creek Botanical Special Interest Area (SIA) was designated in 1988. The purpose of the designation was to protect its unique assemblage of plants as well as geologic and archaeological features.
The 220-acre SIA consists of a shallow valley surrounded by moderately steep serpentine hills. Serpentine soils predominate in the western and southern portions of the SIA. These soils generally have high levels of magnesium, nickel, and chromium. Only plant species tolerant of or adapted to these conditions are capable of growing here, thereby, giving rise to the unique plant assemblages. Soils derived from metamorphosed sedimentary rocks predominate in the canyon bottoms in the eastern and northern portions, where they overlay the serpentine bedrock. This diversity of soils contributes to the overall diversity of plant communities within the SIA.
Chaparral predominates within the SIA and includes leather oak, holly-leaf redberry, and California bay. Foothill (or gray) pine is intermixed in the chaparral. Mixed conifer grows at the north end of the SIA. Diverse riparian areas support Oregon ash, brown dogwood, willows, western azalea, leopard lily, and sedges. On the west side of Bear Creek Road, serpentine supports an early-season wildflower display that includes goldfields, evening snow, bitterroot, and milkwort jewelflower.
From the parking area at Meadowbrook Day Use Area, several short trails and loops (1/4 to 3/4 miles) can be accessed to explore the varied plant communities and their wildflowers. The Stifle Claim Trail starts at the north end of the parking area and runs along a riparian area bordering Traverse Creek. The Traverse Creek Loop Trail transitions from chaparral to Sierran mixed conifer forest. A short spur parallels the riparian vegetation along Rock Canyon Creek. The Chaparral Loop Trail passes through serpentine chaparral as it connects the Traverse Creek Loop Trail and the Mar Det Trail. At the south end of the SIA along Bear Creek Road, the Mar Det Trail, designed for equestrian use, can be caught for a six-mile trip to Camp Virner.
The richness of geologic resources rivals that of the botanical resources. Most of the area near Traverse Creek SIA was mined for gold during the Gold Rush of 1849. Chinese miners who reworked the creeks followed the first wave of placer miners. Next hard rock miners established rock and mineral claims in the serpentine hills. These miners sought the emerald-like gemstones known as vesuvenite, and chromite. Past mining is evident in the shafts, exploratory diggings, and tailings found within the SIA.
Viewing Information: The best time for wildflower viewing depends on your interests. Early in the spring (early to mid-April), bitterroot (Lewisia rediviva), evening snow, goldfields, and Layne’s butterweed bloom. Later in the spring (late May to early June), Purdy’s brodiaea (Brodiaea purdyi), Bridge’s triteleia, charming centaury, superb mariposa lily (Calochortus superbus), live-forever, and milkwort jewelflower bloom. tripod buckwheat’s (Eriogonum tripodum) yellow flowers adorn the serpentine bedrock in late June and early July. Wildflowers along Traverse Creek, Rock Canyon Creek, Slat Creek, and a seasonal stream include western azalea (Rhododendron occidentale), death camas, white brodiaea, and creek lotus.
Safety First: This area has been mined over many decades. Stay on the trails to avoid open shafts or drop-offs. Beware of rattlesnakes. Trails can be rocky; wear sturdy shoes with ankle support. Much of the serpentine is open, exposed, and hot; bring plenty of water, a hat, and sunscreen.
Directions: From Georgetown in El Dorado County, travel 4.3 miles south on Highway 193. Turn left onto Meadowbrook Road. After 1.3 miles, Meadowbrook Road ends at Bear Creek Road. The parking lot is accessed by a short zigzag to the north (left, then right) as you cross Bear Creek Road.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Eldorado National Forest, Georgetown Ranger District
Closest Town: Georgetown, California.