Our History

~10,000 B.C.E
First Inhabitants
The first humans inhabited Calaveras County over 12,000 years ago however there is evidence suggesting that the native population settled much more recently. Members of the Great Basin tribes are known to have settled in the area within the last 2,000 to 3,000 years. Somewhere between 1,000 and 500 years ago, the Mi-Wuk settled in the area, mostly on sites occupied by their predecessors. The Mi-Wuk intensified the use of acorn as a staple food and utilized milling stations with multiple grinding holes. Due to the discovery of gold and a growing population, game virtually disappeared and most Mi-Wuk were forced out of the favorable village locations to more remote sites, many of them along the ditch systems, as water was a necessity for survival.

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~10,000 B.C.E
1848
Gold discovered in California
On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall, a carpenter and sawmill operator, stumbled upon a small shiny material while overseeing the construction of Sutter’s Mill on the American River. Due to the speculation around the claims of gold, the Gold Rush did not begin until December of 1848 when President James Polk proclaimed to the public that there was, in fact, gold!
1848
1851
Gold Rush in Calaveras County
Soon after the Gold Rush began in California, gold was found along the banks of the Mokelumne, Calaveras, and Stanislaus Rivers. Murphys, Angels Camp, Mokelumne Hill, and many other mining camps quickly popped up surrounding gold strikes.
1851
1851
Murphys Brothers
In fact, mining was how most of the towns in Calaveras were named. Murphys was named after the Murphys brothers (Daniel Murphy and John Murphy) who found rich gold deposits in that area.
1851
Angels Camp
Angels Camp was named after Henry P. Angel, who operated the first trading post in the area in 1848. Vallecito, meaning “Little Valley” was named by Mexican miners. Carson Hill was named for James Carson who an early miner in the area. San Andreas was named for the Hispanic Church established there during this time. Copper was found near Copperopolis, where it would later be utilized in the Civil War to produce shell casings for the Union Army in the North.
1857
Downtown Angels Camp
More than 160 years ago, more than 4,000 miners came to Angels Camp in hopes of striking it rich. While gold was initially the most valuable natural resource in the area, fortune seekers soon discovered the immense value of another natural resource – water.
1857
1852
Union Water Company Established
The gold mining diggings were often dry during summer and fall months. To continue mining year-round, miners needed a reliable, year-round water supply. Competing groups of miners joined together to form the Union Water Company.
1852
1852
Union Water Co. Flume
The rainy season brought luck to the miners, supporting their efforts to pan for gold, as well as giving them rain water to store for eating and bathing purposes. During the summer, however, just a few springs provided the camps with barely enough water to get-by. With the lack of a constant and steady water supply, miners struggled to wash gold from the gravel.
1852
1858
Union Reservoir
After the Union Water Company was formed, the company began to broaden its scope, reaching the North Fork of the Stanislaus River in 1854. By 1858, the Union Water Company had extended its system to the Stanislaus River’s headwaters to build Union Reservoir in the high country.
1858
1889-1929
The construction of Lake Alpine, UTICA Reservoir, and Spicer Meadow Reservoir
By the late 1880s, the Union Water Company was transferred to the Utica Gold Mining Company, and the new company continued expansion efforts. The Utica Gold Mining Company completed three large projects for growth between 1889-1929: the construction of Lake Alpine, Utica Reservoir, and Spicer Meadow Reservoir. Because of these expansion efforts, today, the Utica Water and Power Authority is able to rely on stored water from the Sierra Nevada watershed to deliver a reliable, year-round water supply to the communities it serves.
1889-1929
1893-1896
Ross Reservoir
At lower elevations, the company also built a stone dam between 1893 and 1896 to form Ross Reservoir, which is still being supported by the original stone dam.
1893-1896
How Were the Flumes and Ditches Built?
In order to move water from up-country watersheds to gold mining camps, earthen ditches and wooden flumes were constructed.
Ditches and flumes were constructed with picks, shovels, and mules – it was hard manual labor.

These ditches and flumes had to be constructed with great precision for the water to flow property. Too steep of a grade and the water would erode the soil away; not steep enough, and the water would not flow at all.
In addition to flumes, small dams and reservoirs were built at Elephant Rock Lake, Summit Lake, and Duck Lake to control and store water.
1866
Union purchases Calaveras County Water Company
In 1866, the Union Water Company purchased the flumes, ditches, and reservoirs of the Calaveras County Water Company, which had constructed a system in 1856 that paralleled the Union's system at a lower elevation. The Union then improved the Calaveras County Water Company's system and abandoned its upper system.
1866
Water-Powered Sawmill
Using natural energy, a water-powered sawmill was built down from the flume head to produce the lumber for the flumes. Flumes/canals were used to float lumber to new construction sites.

The mill actually straddled Sawmill Creek so that the sawdust could easily be disposed of and the lumber could float down the ditch and flumes to the construction sites. Other dams were built and water was guided to Angels Creek and as it followed the natural channel to Murphys a branch continued to Murphys Flat and Red Hill and another branch flowed through Owlsborough near the present-day Masonic Hall in Murphys.
Flumes & Ditch Systems in Calaveras County
Flume and ditch systems were built throughout Calaveras County to transport water from the Mokelumne, Calaveras and Stanislaus Watersheds. Large dich systems were constructed along the Mokelumne River Canyon to provide year-round water to Mokelumne Hill, Paloma and Campo Seco.
When Were the First Hydroelectric Power Plants Built in Calaveras?
As gold mining evolved from placer mining to “Lode”, underground hard rock tunnel extraction, the mining industry’s needs changed.

For Calaveras County to become industrialized, the Utica Gold Mining Company realized that they would need a way to obtain electric power. Luckily for them, their large ditch and flume system would be the perfect way to achieve that. Powerhouses were constructed in Murphys and Angels Camp delivering the first electricity to Calaveras County.
1895
First powerhouses built in Calaveras County
In 1895, the first powerhouse was built in Calaveras County in Angels Camp.

“Besides providing water to the Utica Gold Mining Company’s mill in Angels Camp, its canal supplied the mine, via a hydroelectric plant, with the first electricity produced in Calaveras County. In 1899, the Utica’s new subsidiary, Angels Electric Light and Power Company, built a hydroelectric plant on Murphys Creek, its generator powered by water delivered through a penstock from a Reservoir on the hill above. The powerhouse was built with blocks of rhyolite tuff, quarried on the Adams Ranch on Pennsylvania Gulch. It was 50 by 37 feet, with the downstream gable end closed by a temporary sheet metal wall to allow for expansion."

Photo courtesy of Martin Huberty
1895
1901
Inside the Powerhouse
“In this 1901 photograph, the company engineer relaxes while watching the two Westinghouse generators, directly connected to a 12,000-horsepower Pelton impulse waterwheel. Power was then carried over an 8-mile-long pole line to the substations at Angels Camp, where a battery of transformers stepped down voltage for distribution to its customers."

Photo courtesy of Martin Huberty
1901
1896-1899
Between 1896-1899, a powerhouse was built near Murphys, supplying the mines, mills, and homes in the area with their first electricity.
1896-1899
1899
The Utica Company’s Water and Power System Improvements
It was during Utica ownership that the majority of the expansion efforts were made. These were improvements to the flumes, ditches, and reservoirs. Additionally, the Utica Company, requiring even more water, dammed the waters of Silver Creek to create Silver Valley Reservoir from 1889-1892. Today, Silver Valley Reservoir is known as Lake Alpine.
1899
Lane, Hayward and Hobart, the Utica Mine & Utica Powerhouse
Under the ownership of Lane, Hayward and Hobart, the Utica Mine and Utica Powerhouse had created the space for one of the most successful mines in the United States. The Utica Mine alone produced an estimated $17 million at the price of gold in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Charles D. Lane gained control of the Utica Water Company in the late 1800s – nearly $500 million in today’s dollars. Lane is also credited with putting the Utica Mining Company together prior to acquiring the Union Water Company in 1887. He enlarged the flumes and canals that brought water to Angels Camp, constructed new reservoirs and powerplants, and brought electricity to the town in 1899.

Pictured Charles D. Lane
Powerhouse – Current Day
This powerhouse was constructed using hand-chiseled stone from a local rhyolite quarry. Rhyolite is a volcanic stone known for being light and easy to carve, but very strong for foundations and walls. In fact, the stone is so strong the building is still standing today and is being used as a private residence.
1990
Angels Powerhouse
The Utica Mining Company built this powerhouse in Angels Camp along Angels Creek in order to supply additional electricity to Utica and other mines in the area.

This powerhouse was the fourth to be built in California and the eighth to be built west of the Rocky Mountains. After only three years, the Angels Powerhouse was upgraded by the Utica Company’s subsidiary, the Stanislaus Electric Power Company.
1990
1904
Utica Gold Mining Company in the 20th Century
In 1904, the Union Water Company was sold to Hobart Real Estate Company and the Utica Gold Mining Company, 50 years from its date of incorporation.
1904
1900-1946
The Utica Gold Mining Company continued to expand and improve its ditch and flume system between 1900 and 1946.

Pictured: Photo of Utica Powerhouse
1900-1946
1910
Pictured: Flume Ditch Camp Shop
1910
Jim Hunter and Family
The reservoirs that Utica Water and Power Authority manages today, were named by our forefathers at the Union Water Company and Utica Gold Mining Company. For example, Hunter’s Reservoir located in Avery, was named after Jim Hunter, who was a Union Water Company employee responsible for managing and maintaining the reservoir that became his namesake during the early 1900s.
“[...] climb down the canyon of the Stanislaus. I was standing on the edge of the flume so by looking down at the river below you can faintly realize what dizzy heights we must get accustomed to. The flume may be seen about three miles off on the mountain side. It is about 1/3 of the distance up the mountain from the river.”

Pictured: Photo of Stanislaus Canyon and Letter
1942
Mines Closed
After the mines served by this system closed in World War I, the company signed agreements with various water users’ associations for delivery of water for agricultural and domestic purposes. When the last of the mines closed in 1942, the company began negotiations with PG&E which purchased the entire system in 1946, which ushered in a new era for the system.
1942
1946
The PG&E Era
In 1946, PG&E purchased the entire system from the Utica Mining Company.

“In 1940 the Utica Gold Mining Company’s power and water properties were separated from its mining properties and operations of the power and water properties were continued under the name of the Utica Power Company, a joint venture of the Hobart Estate Company and Emma Rose. When Emma Rose, who owned half of the Utica Mining Co., died in 1946 the Utica Power Company was sold to Pacific Gas & Electric. PG&E was issued two licenses by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Of those, the Angels Project begins at the Angels Diversion Dam about three miles downstream from the Murphys Afterbay. From the diversion, water flows down the Angels Canal through Ross Reservoir to the Angels Forebay and then to the Angels Powerhouse. Additional diversions from the canal are made to the Dogtown Ditch, South Ditch to Redhill Road, and other small users, and to the City of Angels water treatment plant.”

Information courtesy of Maureen Love-Allen Elliott. Pictured: Photo of PG&E headquarters
1946
1946-1995
PG&E System
Between 1946 and 1995, PG&E maintained and upgraded the water conveyance system and hydroelectric power plants. More than 25 workers, including ditch-tender who walked the systems daily, were needed to keep the system in working order along with support from helicopters for system repairs. During this era, there was an additional nine miles of flume between Avery and McKay’s diversion on the Stanislaus River. This section was abandoned in the early 1990s with the completion of the Collierville Tunnel.

Pictured: Photo of system under PG&E ownership in 1947
1946-1995
1995
The Utica Power Authority Era
In 1995, the Calaveras County Water District (CCWD) purchased the system from PG&E and UPA was formed in late 1995.

Pictured: Photo of the UPA sign atop the Murphys Powerhouse
1995
1995
Joint Powers Authority (JPA)
In December 1995, the Utica Power Authority (UPA) was formed as a partnership between CCWD, Union Public Utility District (UPUD) and City of Angels Camp (COA).
1995
2012
Name Change to Utica “Water” and Power Authority
This decision was made to emphasize the importance of the pre-1914 water rights held by UWPA and up to 33,000-acre-feet of water that runs through the system each year, serving residential, commercial, industrial, agricultural and power production needs throughout the region.

Pictured: Photo of the old UWPA Logo
2012
UWPA Logo
2021
Utica Water and Power Authority in 2021
The Utica Water and Power Authority faces numerous challenges, including an extensive backlog of deferred maintenance, an upcoming FERC relicensing deadline, declining power prices and an increasingly expensive regulatory burden.

Pictured: Photo of the new UWPA Logo
2021
2021
Utica Water and Power Authority in 2021
With more than 25 years of deferred maintenance and infrastructure dating back to the 1800s, the cost of replacing and repairing the conveyance system and hydro plants is extremely high.

Pictured: Photo of current flume system
2021
Capital Improvements
UWPA relies on substantial contributions from Joint Powers Authority (JPA) members – UPUD and COA – to balance budget each year.

Regulations from FERC and DSOD continue to become more stringent and fees are increasing annually.

A small staff of 10 operates the entire system, down from 25+ who operated the system under PG&E ownership in the late 1900s.

Pictured: Photo of current outage image

The Future Utica Water and Power Authority

Despite the challenges UWPA faces, the organization remains optimistic about the future.

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In 1848 Gold was discovered in California

1.2 - James Marshall, discovered gold
James Marshall who discovered Gold
1.4 - Map of Gold Region in CA 1849
Map of Gold Region in California

On January 24, 1848, James W. Marshall, a carpenter and sawmill operator, stumbled upon a small shiny material while overseeing the construction of Sutter’s Mill on the American River. Due to the speculation around the claims of gold, the Gold Rush did not begin until December of 1848 when President James Polk proclaimed to the public that there was, in fact, gold! These miners became known as the 49ers, while the Mexican and Chilean miners who had arrived by the summer of 1848 were known as the 48ers.

fun fact

Do you know the difference between Placer and Lode Mining?
Placer Mining is the process of sifting through gravel to separate out pieces of gold, which is often done in rivers and streams with pans and gold rockers, as well as by later hydraulicking. Lode Mining involves digging tunnels underground to extract gold directly from gold-bearing veins. During the early Gold Rush years, placer mining was the main method used by miners in Calaveras County.

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