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Buried Colusa Buttes
All hikes require pre-registration. They are generally from 8 a.m.-3 p.m. and require you to bring your own food and water. For more information, mmfhikes@yahoo .com or 671-6116. For a complete list of hikes, visit www.middlemountain.org.
Nature Study-Brockman Canyon: Explore the depths of a secluded canyon area of the Buttes. Your guide will help you to see the details and learn about the natural elements that exists here. Cost is $35. This hike is challenging.
Wildflower Study: Spring rains cause the dry Buttes hillsides to turn into a verdant, colorful, wildflower garden. Bring your hand-lens and wildflower field guide. Bring food and water. Cost is $35. This hike is moderate.
Gentle Stroll: Take a leisurely stroll especially suited for casual walkers and nature lovers. Prepare for some moderate climbing and mostly uneven ground. There will likely be late wildflowers. Bring food and water. Cost is $35. This is an easy hike.
Ridge Ascent-Bragg Canyon: The Steidlmayer family hosts walks deep into the Sutter Buttes. This ascent will take you up the walls of the upper canyon; the route will vary. Only register for this hike if you are in top physical shape. Bring food and water. Limit is 15. Cost is $45.
Ridge Hike-East Shaeffer Ranch: The Shaeffer Family will host hikers on their ranch on the north side of the Buttes. Hikers will explore this ranch that has been in the same family since the 1860's. Hikes will be on the east ridge, with possible views of North Butte and Peace Valley. Bring food and water. Cost is $35. This is a moderate hike.
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About 9,430 feet below Colusa County's valley floor lies a hidden range of buttes.
"Drilling in the valley has discovered some 'poor relatives' of the Buttes that never emerged from the thick valley sediments," said Walt Anderson in his 2004 book, "Inland Island: The Sutter Buttes."
The range is thought to be about 4 miles west of the Sutter Buttes. It is oval in shape, 12 miles long, and 3 to 4 miles wide from east to west.
See a slideshow of images: http://www.colusa-sun-herald.com/sections/slideshow/?id=17796891
The buried Colusa buttes is a structure with volcanic rock similar in composition and age to the Sutter Buttes. But this range never popped its head above surface.
"The highly viscous bodies of rhyolite up-arched the Cretaceaous-age beds to heights exceeding 1,500 feet, but the bulge that must have been present at the surface has since eroded back to the level of the valley floor. A lot can happen in a million years or so."
Rhyolite is a volcanic rock found in the Sutter Buttes and discovered by natural gas drillers to exist below Colusa County.
Cretaceaous is a geological time period that follows the Jurassic period.
The Sutter Buttes is considered an isolated range in the Sacramento Valley, unrelated to the Sierra's or the coastal range to the west.
The range is relatively young, at near 1.3 million to 1.6 million years old. The Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, by comparison, is considered to be between 200 and 300 million years old.
"Think of the valley as pages laying on top of each other in a book. Then, a volcano pushed blocks of them on the edge, you can stand and walk from one era to the next," said Anderson.
The volcano type is not a cone volcano, which you think of as a mountain with a steaming top. Rather, the erupting came from below.
"Think of toothpaste, you take the cap off and push from the bottom and toothpaste oozes out. That's what happened in the Buttes, they just sort of oozed out," said Anderson.
Anderson is an environmental studies professor at Prescott College. He lived in Colusa from 1977-1985 and has written two books on the Sutter Buttes.
His books tell a naturalist history, exploring the plants, animals and rocks of the area, as well as the role of humans in the Buttes. He discusses the Buttes from many angles, including through the lens of geology, in an accessible manner.
"As I have learned the stories of the geologists, I have gained immense respect for their abilities to decipher the clues scattered throughout the hills. ... If we carefully attend to their stories, we can see the land in new ways."