From an outlook off Highway 20 the ruggedness of the Mendocino, Plumas and Tahoe national forests stretches out for miles. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

History is all around us, if only we would take the time to see it.

In all the years I have been driving between Chico and South Lake Tahoe I never took the time to check out the pretty scenic overlook on Highway 20 that would whiz past my window. I was always in a hurry going in either direction. I finally stopped last month.

The Omega Overlook, as it’s called, is on the north side of the highway, with plenty of parking. It gets its name from a hydraulic mine that was in the area during the Gold Rush in the mid-1800s.

“From the overlook one can see the Alpha and Omega Diggins, one of the largest hydraulic mine operations in the Sierra. Yuba River water was diverted to the Omega Ditch and into wood flumes hung from granite cliffs above the Yuba River,” according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The Omega Overlook provides stunning views. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

The overlook is in the Tahoe National Forest.

Hydraulic mining ended in 1883 with the Sawyer Decision because of the damage this type of activity caused the environment. The land, rivers and habitat were adversely affected.

From the parking lot there is a quarter mile paved (though not completely flat) circular path that leads to an outstanding overview of the area. A panel highlights what is visible in the distance: Sacramento Valley, Graveyard Hill, Sierra Buttes, Saddleback Mountain, Mount Alma, Mount Fillmore, Celina Peak, where the 2008 Scotchman and Fall fires were, and more mountaintops I’ve never heard of.

The vastness of the terrain is quite spectacular. While I always enjoy the drive along Highway 20, it feels closed in. Amazing how this little jaunt on foot changed my perspective of the area.

Today the trails left from the diggings are popular with mountain bikers.

Along the paved trail are other markers with information—like why snags are important, advantages to tree thinning, and what makes a mixed conifer forest.

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