Have you ever driven on I-5 going north toward Mt. Shasta? If you have you might have glanced at an intriguing pile of rock east of you just by the Colusa exit. Then, of course, the magnetic quality of Mt. Shasta bends your eyes back and you’re drawn in by the tractor beam of that unbelievably majestic dormant volcano which commands the view for hundreds of miles before you even get close.
If you can rip yourself away from that pull, the Sutter Buttes in Colusa County are very much worth the side trip. Even though the Buttes are privately owned so you can’t drive up into them and even though it has not been officially named as a park - but will be some day when California is back in the money - it’s still a great drive. From far away on I-5 they look completely different than when you get up close. It’s a great anomaly in the middle of the almond orchards and cattle ranches.
Get there by taking CA-20 to Colusa and then turn south on CA-45/20 toward Meridian and over the Sacramento River. After Meridian keep going and when you find West Butte Road turn left. Follow your nose north, then east, then south and back west until you have circumnavigated the range. It’s not hard to do this because the "Smallest Mountain Range in the World" really has one road around it and there’s only one way over it. The range dominates your view for the entire way. If you want to drive through it the best way is to take Pass Road. This very scenic road gets you as close to the interior of this little range as you can get. The whole trip doesn’t take long unless you want to stop and take pictures. Then you can stop as much as you want and it might take all day. We did it in an hour from the time we started to circumnavigate until we came back on our loop. We took a few pictures. They’re at the end of the text.
The following is taken from the Yuba City website:
The range is actually circular with a diameter of 10 miles and covers an area of about 75 square miles. The mountains are the remnants of a volcano that has been dormant for over a million years. South Butte, the highest peak is 2,117 feet above sea level. North Butte is 1,863 feet and West Butte is 1,685 feet above sea level.
Before modern levees and dams were built to contain the rivers, winter storms and spring run-off frequently turned the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea making the Sutter Buttes an island refuge for Indians, settlers and wildlife.
The Buttes have had many names over the years. The Maidu Indians called them "Histum Yani" which translates as, "Middle Mountains of the Valley" or "Spirit Mountain" depending on the source. According to Maidu legend, after death, the spirits of their people rest in the Buttes.
Gabriel Moraga, a Spaniard trying to locate possible mission sites, was the first European to see the Sutter Buttes in 1806. Another Spaniard, Luis Arguello, led an expedition in 1817 to explore Northern California by water. He called the Buttes "Los Picachos" or the peaks.
Here are some pictorial highlights of our recent trip.
|A view from the West Side of the Buttes|
|A picturesque old barn|
|Many rocks make good fences|
|John C. Fremont and his bunch camped here. Near here.|
|A camel wonders what he's doing here.|
|Pass Road is breathtaking.|