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    Gold Rush California: tour along the paths of the gold rush

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    Joel Fulleda

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    With this article we take you on a discovery of a somewhat special tour of California. We will go to the Gold Country to retrace the paths of the Gold Rush, or the gold rush that developed in this area of ​​the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Hundreds of people flocked to California to seek their fortune, giving birth to cities and businesses. Once this "fever" was exhausted, many remained carrying the testimonies of that period up to the present day.

    Knowing a country in depth means not only focusing on what is striking and which immediately distinguishes it, but also on its background and on everything that has contributed to its present. For this reason today we are focusing on a significant historical-cultural moment that brings us to the suggestive California overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the third largest state after Alaska and Texas.

    In the early nineteenth century a modest production of gold was in place without particular clamor. At that time, no one would have ever imagined that soon there would be a triggering turning point of gigantic dimensions. We are talking about the gold rush, the "gold rush", which exploded in 800 and ended in 1848.


    • History of the Gold Rush
    • nevada city
    • Grass Valley
    • Auburn
    • Coloma
    • Placerville
    • Sutter Creek
    • Jackson
    • Columbia
    • Sonora
    • Jamestown
    • Stockton
    • Sacramento

    History of the Gold Rush

    On January 24, 1848, a Coloma, a small town in the Sierra Nevada in the county di El Gold about 60 kilometers from Sacrament, an event occurred which radically influenced the history of California and consequently of the nation. Carpenter James W. Marshall was building a sawmill for Captain John Sutter when he noticed particular fragments in the water of the American River which turned out to be gold.

    The news, which should have remained secret, instead spread rapidly, giving way to the aforementioned "Gold rush"Which drew more than 80.000 immigrants to California during 1849. Floods of people in search of a better life, fortune and wealth came from many parts of the world: Great Britain, Europe, China, Australia, North and South America and the effects of this phenomenon were colossal. In the general excitement the gold diggers, called "forty niners"In reference to the year 1849, they attacked many indigenous settlements and unscrupulously removed the people from their lands.

    At that time agriculture and livestock expanded enormously to satisfy everyone's livelihood. San Francisco, from a small settlement of 200 inhabitants in 1846 to 36.000 in 1852. Streets, churches, schools were built all over California. In 1849, a constitution was drawn up, and in September 1850, California became a state.

    When the gold vein ran out, many tired miners returned home, while others evaluated California's potential very well, believing that its land was incredibly productive, and it did. From then on one of California's great riches did not come from the mines but from its farms. The fact remains, however, that the epic of the "gold rush" is a very important historical-cultural moment and of great interest, therefore, as for Route 66, also in this case we want to know and follow the most significant stages.

    Many countries that we want to visit, that have kept their nineteenth-century charm or that simply have a memory of it, are along the Hwy 49, Gold Country Hwy o Mother Lode (mother vein), while others are located further west, such as Sacramento and Stockton. All testify to a great and very hard period at the same time. This itinerary among wide panoramas, forests and streams that arise in the Sierra Nevada is unusual compared to the "classic" ones but in our opinion it is worth taking it. And it can certainly be combined with other northern California destinations by taking advantage of the fact that it is "in the area": ​​San Francisco, Sausalito, Muir Woods, Sequoia National Park. Yosemite, and Lake Tahoe, places that are unquestionably worth a visit. And those who, like us, deeply love the States, want to experience the pleasure and thrill of discovering towns with an ancient flavor and the charm of yesteryear.

    La Gold Country Hwy it is about 475 kilometers long and runs from Oakurst (just north of Fresno) to Vinton (in northern California near Nevada). The reference airports for our tour are San Francisco or Sacramento and as always we recommend renting a car once you arrive on site for greater autonomy. Compared to San Francisco and Sacramento, the mining towns on our tour are a maximum of three hours away.

    nevada city

    Our itinerary along the Hwy 49 it goes from north to south starting from the picturesque nevada city. From here San Francisco is about two hours and fifteen minutes, while Sacramento is about an hour. In a landscape of forests, Nevada City is one of the most interesting "gold rush" towns. This is also a film location thanks to the historic buildings and the beautiful autumn colors of the leaves.

    The entire downtown district, the Downtown Historic District enclosed by Spring, Bridge, Commercial, York, Washington, Coyote and Main streets it boasts well-preserved buildings and is a monument of the gold rush era. Outside the historic district we find the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum (5 Kidder Court). This museum with free admission tells the story of local transport, you can take historical tours and visit the railway yard. From November to April it is open only on weekends while in the remaining months it is operational daily.

    Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park (N. Bloomfield Rd.) Is a beautiful area of ​​forests and hills in the Sierra Nevada, a must-do excursion 40 kilometers from the city center; it is a significant historical testimony of the time of the "gold rush" which can be perceived both walking in the surreal atmosphere of the mining village, and along the path among the rocks injured by the excavations in a scenic context of considerable impact.

    A nevada city, in the month of September, in an evocative architectural and environmental context, the Film festival. The Christmas tradition is celebrated in the event called Victorian Christmas. The city center is transformed into a Victorian setting with artists wearing period clothes and singing the typical carols of the period, all surrounded by street vendors and carriage rides among lights and gas lamps. It seems to be inside a naive Christmas card.

    In downtown Nevada City stands the National Hotel (211 Broad St.) which dates back to 1852. This hotel with swimming pool combines Victorian style with that of the Gold Rush era, but the user reviews are not very positive. For this reason, if you intend to stay in the area, we also recommend the Broad Street Inn (517 W Broad St). In this district is also known the Nevada Brewery (107 Sacramento St.), a brewery, located in a historic building from 1882.

    Find all Nevada City hotels

    Grass Valley

    Our second stop is a Grass Valley, precisely atEmpire Mine State Historic Park, (10791 E. Empire St.) where there is one of the oldest, longest, deepest and richest gold mines in California. You can also admire many historic buildings including: the owner's house, the gardens and the entrance to the mine itself. Next to Visitor Center we suggest visiting the Secret Room which houses a model depicting the interior of the mine.

    Few knew of the existence of this room at the time the site was operational. The model of the mine was built by the site engineers to get a real picture of the development of the tunnels in the various levels and also of the other adjacent mines. Guided tours are available at various times of the day. Here everything "talks" about the "gold rush" and a visit should really be done! The property also boasts 13 kilometers of forest trails for walking, mountain biking or horseback riding.

    A Grass Valley there is a historic hotel that we recommend as an overnight stay and entertainment, theHolbrooke Hotel (212 W. Main St.), complete with a restaurant and saloon with live music.


    Auburn (moved a few miles west of Hwy 49) was named by the San Francisco Chronichle "one of the best stops on I-80". This town is renowned for its historical past linked to the "gold rush" and in this regard we point out the welcome that the town gives with a gigantic concrete statue, the work of a local dentist, which represents the one who discovered gold in village. To visit his Old Town (old city) where houses and buildings from the mid-19th century and the gold rush epic are concentrated.

    An example is the Placer County Courthouse (101 Maple St.), the courthouse built from 1894 to 1898. Inside the museum you will find accessories dating back to the "gold rush" and artifacts of the American Indians.

    In the center of ad Auburn you can stay overnight at Power’s Mansion (195 Harrison Ave.), a romantic B&B in a Victorian house complete with patio, gazebo and bow window. The building consists of 15 rooms each decorated in a different style. We recommend trying the dishes of Bootleggers Old Town Tavern & Grill (210 Washington St.). The restaurant offers dishes based on local products at reasonable prices. The restaurant, active since 1994, is family-run in a cozy and rustic setting with a beautiful wood-burning fireplace.

    About half an hour from Auburn, exactly a Foresthill, It is the Christmas Tree Vineyard Lodge (38400 Foresthill Rd.), A cozy rustic accommodation surrounded by forest, an ideal place to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of urban life. The structure is equipped with wi-fi.


    Coloma it is a small town of few inhabitants but it is of great importance for its role as "starting point" of the gold rush. It is located on the south branch of the American river, the favorite river for rafting enthusiasts of the West and was once the capital of theEldorado county.

    An almost mandatory stop is at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park (310 Back St.) which houses the statue of James Marshall, the aforementioned carpenter who discovered the first nuggets. For the modest cost of 3 dollars, the tour is made to the place of discovery and then visitors are also given the opportunity to get excited by finding gold fragments sifting through the river!

    A property surrounded by greenery in El Dorado county, among the rolling hills at the foot of the Sierra Nevada a Pilot Hill, is the 'Enchanted April Inn (5950 Salmon Falls Rd.) con camere in stile old country.


    Placerville is now the county seat of El Dorado; its name derives from the placers found in the river bed. It was also nicknamed hangtown due to frequent hangings but became an important supply center for the surrounding mining fields. Along the Main Street there are still historic buildings dating back to the time of the gold rush and we like to think of when in the past the pony express that carried mail from California to Missouri ran along this road. A few steps from downtown, the city center is located The El Dorado County Museum (104 Placerville Dr.), a museum where you can learn about the history of this county.

    A Placerville a quaint place to shop, eat and take a ride on a historic train is the Burke Junction Shopping Center (3300 Coach Ln. - Cameron Park) which reproduces the atmosphere of a western country. On the subject of gold rush in September theEl Dorado County Gold Week when gold sifting competitions alternate with concerts and entertainments of various kinds.

    Since the gold rush has brought with it a large wave of migration it is not surprising to find ethnic restaurants in addition to local ones. From Waterfall (384 Main St. - downtown), Mexican and Californian cuisine blend harmoniously. In the refined and affordable venue, old-world architecture blends with urban chic style. This is the ideal place for fine wines, a margarita or tequila, but also healthy fruit juices.

    THEHistoric Cary House Hotel (300 Main St.) nicknamed the jewel of Placerville. This historic hotel with old world charm is located downtown. 8 kilometers east of Placerville is located The Davies Family Inn at Shadow Ridge Ranch (3700 Fort Jim Rd.), An elegant mid-800th century rustic wooden structure where you are pleasantly transported back in time with the most modern comforts. This location is very popular for weddings.

    Sutter Creek

    Sutter Creek, immersed in its being part of the "gold rush", maintains the facade of gold rush town with a pleasant balance of old and new adapted to the needs and requirements of visitors from all over the world. To the Visitor Center (71A Main St.) the competent staff is happy to give detailed information related to the past of this small community which owes its name to the stream which in turn took its name from Mr. Sutter, owner of the land from which the whole story began. .

    A Sutter Creek we recommend relaxing under the umbrella in the garden of the Gold Dust Pizza (20 Eureka St.). The name of the place is very impressive: "gold dust". The pizza is good and well filled. Let's not think of it as what we are used to in Spain, but in its kind of high dough it is very tasty.


    A Jackson, along Main Street, it is pleasant to stroll among the historic buildings on which commemorative plaques of the past have been affixed. In the vicinity of the village you can take part in one of the tours that are organized at the Kenendy gold mine to delve into the heavy reality of the "gold rush". From March to October, on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays the site is open with free admission.

    Guided tours cost $ 10 and show how gold was melted and turned into ingots for shipping to San Francisco via Wells Fargo's carriage services. We also visit the premises where the miners changed their clothes before going down to almost 1600 meters underground. In the Jackson area the gold-bearing vein was considerable and for this reason the city was of great importance, but now the main activities are tourism, the wood and wine industry.

    A Jackson the meat dishes of Stanley’s Steakhouse (2 Water St.) combined with classic dishes and original creations. This restaurant is located at the National Hotel, a hotel that represents an icon of the "gold rush" period, restored to its splendor after a skilful restoration.


    The whole city of Columbia is a living museum where lecturers dressed in period clothing are happy to explain local history to visitors. Main Street is the main thoroughfare with 19th century buildings dating back to when it was a thriving mining town.

    Lo State Historic Park (11255 Jackson St.) is the faithful reconstruction of a town at the time of the "gold rush" with the addition of shops, restaurants and two hotels. Visitors have no difficulty traveling back to the time of the mines: the activities and customs of the people are those of the time and the carriage on which it is possible to ride is XNUMX years old.

    A Columbia in October theHarvestFestival at the State Historic Park (11255 Jackson St.) where in an autumnal atmosphere, among decorations and handicrafts, music and dancing, a season full of meaning and exaltation of nature is celebrated.


    The past of Sonora it dates back to when the miners were encamped among streams and gorges; in fact, one of the largest camps, Camp Sonora, later became the city of Sonora in 1848. In the village, a walk among the 800th century buildings in brick and stone, some with balconies, allows you to breathe the history we are looking for in our tour.

    A Sonora we suggest a stop at Diamondback Grill, an excellent restaurant in a building dating back to the "gold rush" period with walls made of exposed stone. In the downtown we point out the Burbon Barrel (208 S.Green St.), a pleasant pub where you can have a bite to eat and listen to live music (ATTENTION! The place is closed). We recommend staying overnight at The Inn on Knowles Hill B&B (253 Knowles Hill Dr.), a building with historic decorations, located on a hill overlooking the village.

    In the neighboring county of Calaveras, ad Angels Camp every year in May the Skulls Frog Jump Jubilee (2465 Gunclub Rd.), A prize event in which the jumps of the frogs, also referring to the homonymous work by Mark Twain, are the protagonists. They say you should see it at least once.

    A Little valley don't miss a zip line ride in Angels Camp's Moaning Cavern (5350 Moaning Cave Rd.), a space large enough to hold the Statue of Liberty. In addition to the zip line (at this attraction) there are mysterious caves to visit.


    Even the town of Jamestown it is a living history museum. Here you can visit the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park (18115 5th Ave.) where, on weekends from April to October, you can take tours on a vintage train, walk freely outside to study the locomotives up close and take tours to visit an ancient railway depot . A stroll down the main street of the city is like erasing more than 150 years of history.

    There are buildings with different architectures; in wood, typical of the period of the "gold rush", but also others built in stone with iron shutters to resist the fires common at that time. Scenes from films including Wild, Wild West with Will Smith and Back to the Future III with Michael J. Fox have been shot in and around the village.


    We move away from Hwy 49 but not from our goal. We are south of Sacramento, a Stockton San Joaquin county seat, accessible from I-5 or SR99. The discovery of gold along the American River caused Stockton to transform from a small village into a bustling trading center used as a base for shipping supplies to miners in the Sierra Nevada hills. The story tells of a German immigrant, Mr. Weber, who apparently was the architect of the development of the city. This gentleman tried to start the gold research business but he realized that in that area the business of supplying the workers of the mines was much more profitable and he concentrated on that.

    The port is still important today, and many Northern California agricultural products travel by water. Today the area known as Weber Point & Waterfront (221 N. Center St.) is a significant part of the city center with festivals, concerts and celebrations but still remains a testament to the past. To better understand the importance that the river has had and still has in the city, we recommend getting on board Opportunity Cruises (445 W. Weber Ave. - Riverfront) to navigate the canals for a narrative and educational tour. You can also take sunset cruises and organize special events. A relaxing walk along the Joan Darrah Walk in the area of Marina (333 Tuleburg Levee) shows the navigable canals. Stockton was the first community in California to have an English name.

    Off route 49, while recalling the times of the gold rush a Stockton, we recommend a stop at Lumberjacks Resturant (3113 W. Benjamin Dr.) with its generous portions of strictly homemade American cuisine at affordable prices. The property also owns other locations in Grass Valley, Nevada City and Sacramento. University Plaza Waterfront Hotel (110 W. Freemont St.) is a hotel that benefits from being, as the name implies, close to the waterfont. The property is covered by the wi-fi network. The rooms and suites are furnished in a modern style and on request you can have rooms with a view of the waterfront.


    Sacramento, the capital of California, is located west of Hwy 49, in the area called Central Valley, at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers. This large city is the sixth most populous in the state. Its distinctive icon is the bridge Tower Bridge which joins Sacramento to West Sacramento. During the "gold rush" it was an agricultural and commercial center, a place of large distribution and a terminal for trains, carriages, pony express and telegraphic communications.

    La Old Sacramento, with its Victorian buildings with Spanish and Mexican influence, takes us back in time. In the 60s it was refurbished to maintain its important historical memory and as a result it is now also of great appeal to visitors. Inside we point out the California State Railroad Museum (111 I St.) whose purpose is to tell the determining role of the railroad between California and the rest of the nation in a set up of restored locomotives and wagons. To the Sacramento History Museum (101 I St.) it tells the story of the first inhabitants, of the pioneers during the "gold rush" and life on the farms.

    Leaving the Old Sacramento we head to the Sutter's Fort (between K and L St.), a reconstruction of what was originally built around 1890 based on a map published in Germany in 1847. Inside there is a collection of objects dating back to the first inhabitants of California and the arrival of the pioneers. We also report the Trolley Tour of the company Sterling Transportation.

    This company offers city tours in vintage trams (from which to get off and on at will), immediately recognizable by the white color. The vehicle is equipped with a sort of rear "balcony" and wooden benches inside. The route runs through downtown, midtown and Old Sacramento. The tram makes routes that also allow you to reach buildings where local sporting events take place. This company also offers cars, limousines, buses and jets both for simple city trips or for private events in grand style.

    Discover all the activities in Sacramento

    In the old town, the historic district of Sacramento, the event called takes place in September Gold Rush Days. All this goes back to the period of the 800th century. Costumed characters of the era roam the streets while musicians play tunes of that time. Horse and carriage rides can be made. The atmosphere of the time is perfectly recreated. Delta King (on the Sacramento River) was once a fully operational ship and has now been transformed into a charming hotel and entertainment venue.

    Inside there are two exceptional restaurants, one casual and one refined, an oenology school and three theaters, one of which with Mystery Dinner. We point out a shopping center for its architectural peculiarity even if it differs from the theme of our itinerary; and the Downtown Commons (660J St.) commonly referred to as DOCO. Its creators indulged themselves with art games, large spaces, brightness. If there is time to see, and those who want to take a break after or during shopping can go bowling or try one of the various restaurants.

    Find a hotel in Sacramento

    Each town has made its contribution to the gold rush epic so stop along the way where your curiosity is stimulated, for example even in countries that have not been explored here such as Georgetown (if you are passing by and looking for a place to sleep, consider a stop at the B&B The American River Inn at 6600 of Orleans St.).

    Past, present and future come together allowing us to experience an unforgettable adventure in the midst of countryside, forests, waters, historic districts of the time of the pioneers, wineries with excellent wines, restaurants with fresh products, shops and charming B & Bs. Walk, discover, explore everywhere as the first pioneers and gold diggers did; perhaps the precious metal will not be found and one will not become rich, but every corner will surely reserve a nice surprise that will enrich the knowledge of this fantastic land.


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