Yuba City's western horizon is dominated by the Sutter Buttes, renowned for being the "Smallest Mountain Range in the World."
The range is actually circular with a diameter of 10 miles and covers an area of about 75 square miles. The mountains are the remnants of a volcano that has been dormant for over a million years. South Butte, the highest peak is 2,117 feet above sea level. North Butte is 1,863 feet and West Butte is 1,685 feet above sea level.
Before modern levees and dams were built to contain the rivers, winter storms and spring run-off frequently turned the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea making the Sutter Buttes an island refuge for Indians, settlers and wildlife.
The Buttes have had many names over the years. The Maidu Indians called them "Histum Yani" which translates as, "Middle Mountains of the Valley" or "Spirit Mountain" ... depending on the source. According to Maidu legend, after death, the spirits of their people rest in the Buttes.
Gabriel Moraga, a Spaniard trying to locate possible mission sites, was the first European to see the Sutter Buttes in 1806. Another Spaniard, Luis Arguello, led an expedition in 1817 to explore Northern California by water. He called the Buttes "Los Picachos" or the peaks. He also named the Feather River "El Rio de la Plumas", because he saw many feathers of wild fowl floating on the water.
Other names for the Buttes were "Marysville Buttes", "Sacramento Buttes", and "Los Tres Picos." They were finally named the "Sutter Buttes" in 1949.
Today, most of the Sutter Buttes is private land and not open to the public. However, you can drive through and around the Buttes. It is a beautiful drive any time of the year! Each year, in the spring, over 1,000 cyclists converge to "Bike Around the Buttes" an event sponsored by the Diabetes Society of Yuba Sutter.
If you want to experience the
Buttes up close, organized group tour hikes are available. You can
also play golf in the Buttes at South Ridge Golf Course, but watch
out for the infamous 16th hole!