Sapphire and Emerald Lakes are nestled comfortably among granite ridges in the heart of the Trinity Alps. The outflow from these bodies of water mark the beginning of the Stuart Fork Creek, which meanders through mountains and meadows until it enters Trinity Lake.
Wildlife is abundant in the Stuart Fork watershed. Black-tailed deer and black bear are common sights during the spring and summer. An even more common resident sighting is that of the rattlesnake. This area is known as one of the most populated rattlesnake area in the Trinity Alps Wilderness. Do not be alarmed, though; rattlesnakes in this area are shy and non-aggressive creatures who want nothing to do with humans. Should a rattlesnake be spotted, simply allow it to move out of the way or walk in a wide arc around it. Remember that, as visitors to this wilderness area, we are entering the rattlesnake's home, not the other way around.
At both Emerald and Sapphire Lakes the presence of past human activity is easily seen. The outflows of both lakes have old dams created from granite boulders and reinforced with steel. These dams provided water for the La Grange hydraulic mine. This mine operated from 1862 through 1918 and was at one point the largest hydraulic mine in California. Millions of dollars of gold was extracted during operation, but rising steel and labor costs forced the owners to abandon the search for more gold. Many large pieces of steel, now completely rusted, can still be seen scattered around the edges of both lakes, remnants of a time when the Trinity Alps was a busy center for mining operations.