History & Culture

[Symbol]: heritage resources[Symbol]: interpretive

Heritage - It's About Time!


Umu'tca (conical bark house) in background, bedrock milling station in foreground, Summit Ranger District.Visitors stop in front of Brightman Ranger Station 1929- Photo by Louis A. Barrett Eagle-Shawmut Mine Stanislaus Flume on south side of South Fork of Stanislaus River Canyon. Empire Mill logging team with steam donkey

Awaiting discovery in the hollows, mountains and river valleys of our National Forest are the remnants of past cultures that confront us and remind us of the centuries-old relationship between people and the land. These heritage resources hold clues to past ecosystems, add richness and depth to our landscapes, provide links to living traditions, and help transform a beautiful walk in the woods into an unforgettable encounter with history.


As we embark on new efforts to maintain and restore the health of our watersheds and ecosystems, heritage resources offer crucial information and insights into the past that have bearing on sustainability. As we place priority on providing premier recreation settings, experiences, and customer service, heritage resources offer the "tie that binds" people to the land. And as we seek to engage the public in all of our endeavors, heritage offers the keys to understanding that unique "sense of place" that can bring people together to help shape the future.

During your visit to the National Forest you may encounter archeological and historic sites and artifacts. Like a jigsaw puzzle, each artifact and site, no matter how seemingly insignificant, helps tell the heritage story. These resources are protected by law. Persons who damage sites or remove artifacts will be prosecuted under Federal Law including the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. Penalties include fines, prison sentences, forfeiture of property and civil damage assessment. Please help preserve these remnants of our past by not disturbing or harming them.


The Stanislaus National Forest, created on February 22, 1897, is among the oldest of the National Forests. It is named for the Stanislaus River whose headwaters rise within Forest boundaries. The Spanish explorer Gabriel Moraga named the river "Our Lady of Guadalupe" during an 1806 expedition. Later, the river was renamed in honor of Estanislao, an Indian leader.

The archaeological record indicates that people lived in the Sierra Nevada since 9000 BC. The Central Sierra Me-Wuk were the most recent Native American occupants of this area. They lived in permanent villages and temporary camps, often located near springs or along small creeks.

During the gold rush, the area that would become the Stanislaus National Forest was a busy place, occupied by miners and other immigrants, homesteaders and ranchers, dam builders and loggers. Ditches were built, providing water to the mines. Several railroads were constructed to haul logs out of the woods. Evidence of these activities still exist.

Stanislaus Heritage