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Sutter Buttes
Mountain Range
The Sutter Buttes rise over the town of Sutter, California
Country United States
State California
Region Sacramento Valley
District Sutter County
Coordinates 39°12′20.606″N 121°49′12.898″W / 39.20572389°N 121.82024944°W / 39.20572389; -121.82024944
Highest point
 - elevation 628 m (2,060 ft)
Geology volcanic neck
Timezone Pacific (UTC-8)
 - summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
Topo map USGS Sutter Buttes
Sutter Buttes, California

The Sutter Buttes are a small circular complex of eroded volcanic lava domes which rise above the flat plains of the Central Valley of California in the United States. The highest peak, South Butte, reaches about 2,130 feet (650 m) above sea level. The Buttes are located just outside of Yuba City, California in the Sacramento Valley, the northern part of the Central Valley. They are named for John Sutter, who received a large land grant from the Mexican government. The Sutter Buttes also hold the title of being the world's smallest mountain range.[1]


Natural history

The mountains are about 10 miles (16 km) from north to south and east to west, and are the smallest mountain range in the world.[1]

The Sutter Buttes were formed over 1.5 million years ago by a now-extinct volcano. Some geological references suggested that it represents the southernmost of the Cascade Volcanoes [2], but there are significant differences in age and form compared to the other volcanoes in that range. The questions about their origin and connection to other regional volcanic activity are the subject of ongoing research.

The Sutter Buttes contain many flora and fauna species. Wildflowers are represented by numerous taxa; included in these many wildflowers is the Yellow Mariposa Lily, Calochortus luteus.[3]

Native American lore

The Sutter Buttes figure prominently in the creation stories and other traditions of the indigenous Maidu and Wintun peoples. The Maidu (or Nisenan) lived to the east of the Buttes and the Wintun (Patwin) to the mountain's west. No tribe claimed ownership of the Buttes and there are only season encampments in the mountain. Indians did visit the mountain regularly to gather acorns and other foods or to hunt game. The Buttes were also a center of regional Native American religion. According to anthropologist Alfred Kroeber, the Patwin village where the city of Colusa now stands was the “hotbed” where the Kuksu Cult was established. This religion spread through much of northern California. Ceremonies were performed in earthen dance lodges where spirit impersonators would re-enact ancient mythological events. The Maidu, who lived in their shadow for thousands of years, called them Esto Yamani, which means "the Middle Mountain", the Wintun called the Sutter Buttes Onolai.

Recent history and access

Public access to the Sutter Buttes is limited. Much of the land is privately held by cattle and sheep ranchers, but a number of naturalists and local organizations, including the Middle Mountain Foundation and the Yuba Historical Society[4], lead hikes through most areas. Since 1929, the State of California had considered purchasing the land for protection and public use.

In 1963, a missile silo complex containing three separate Titan I ICBM missiles was constructed near the base of the Buttes. The site was only active from 1963 to 1965, and it was decommissioned and mostly dismantled in 1965. The site has been host to many vandals and trespassers since the early 1980s to the present.[5]

In 2003, the California Department of Parks and Recreation purchased a 1,785 acre (7.2 km²) tract in Peace Valley toward the north side of the Buttes with the intent of developing it for public access. Power lines connecting to Path 15 and Path 66 run on the eastern edge of the Sutter Buttes.


See also


  1. ^ a b Stienstra, Tom (2004-03-18). "State buys parcel in Sutter Buttes But public access to Peace Valley could take years". San Francisco Chronicle (Hearst Corporation): pp. B-1. Retrieved 2009-05-29.  
  2. ^ Charles A. Wood. 1990
  3. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2009
  4. ^ "Introduction (Yuba Historical Society)".  
  5. ^ "Titan 1". California Cold War Museum & Memorial. Retrieved 2008-12-12.  




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