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Stories from the valley

Our Valley’s Treasure

Contributed by Steve Beckley

The Sutter Buttes, referred to as “The World’s Smallest Mountain Range”, are a special place for most Sacramento Valley residents and me. I was born and raised in Colusa County and feel that as long as I can see the Buttes I’m home. One of the best feelings I get is when I drive north on Hwy 45 to my home area in Grimes and they are in view. Also when you are landing at Sacramento International Airport or coming back into the valley from the Sierras, Shasta Cascade Region, or the Coast Range the first sighting of them says “Welcome Home”.

The Sutter Buttes are located about 50 miles north of Sacramento in Sutter County and rise up to 2117 feet about the valley floor breaking up the flatness of the area. The mountains are the remnants of 1.5 million year-old extinct volcano. They were considered a spiritual place by the Maidu Indians who called them “Histum Yani” or “Middle Mountain of the Valley” It was not until 1949, that they were officially named the Sutter Buttes.

There are several ways to experience the “Buttes”. You can drive or bicycle around them. I drive through and around them regularly. The drive is very relaxing and I see something new every time. There are a series of county roads that circle the Sutter Buttes and Pass Road actually goes through them on the south side. The loop is about 45 miles. I have been making that ride all my life as my parents when I was an infant would take me through the “Buttes”. Bicycle is a great way to see the area and, for many years, I participated with friends in Bike Around the Buttes in April, an easy 45-mile ride.

The property in the “Buttes” is privately owned and there is no public access. Thanks to the work of Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes access is offered via hikes and outings. On a recent Saturday evening, I attended the group’s Sunset Serenade dinner held on private property within the mountain range. The event started with hikes, and included a catered dinner, silent auction and raffle. It was a wonderful evening as the area is green and creeks were running. A very special time as I listened to a musical quintet, enjoying a glass of Cordi Wine, which is located in the “Buttes”.

There’s so much to see in the area: rock fences, livestock, orchards, site of old Titan missile base, views of the “Buttes” across rice fields, and of course a side trip to Gray Lodge Wildlife area. The history and geology of the area is fascinating. I recommend two books that will serve as guides to the area: Inland Island: The Sutter Buttes by Walt Anderson and Images of America, The Sutter Buttes by Michael Don Hubbart, both available locally in the area and on Amazon. Another great place to visit is the Community Memorial Museum of Sutter County where there’s information about the Sutter Buttes, and also a relief map which allows a view of the peaks and valleys.

The appreciation and love of the Buttes is a Beckley family tradition. As I was writing this article, I went to my bookshelf and got several books on the area that were my late dad’s. One of the books was a treasure as it contains many newspaper articles that he had clipped out over the years about the Buttes.

I hope you take a moment to slow down, drive through and enjoy one of the most unique treasures of the Sacramento Valley, The Sutter Buttes.