Coloma State Park features what started the California rush

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COLOMA – The place that sparked California’s two-year journey from the wilderness to the state and skyrocketed San Francisco’s population by 2,000% in 20 months today is a broad, quiet place along Highway 49 which winds through the Gold Country from Nevada City in the north to Sonora in the South.

One in five graders in California know that it was at Coloma that James W. Marshall discovered gold on January 24, 1848 while working at a sawmill along the American River to supply lumber. at Sutter’s Fort, about 45 miles west of what is now Sacramento. This discovery brought California – which today has just under 40 million inhabitants – from a non-Indian population of 14,000 to 200,000 in two years.

Coloma – about a two-hour drive via Highways 99, 50, and 49 or a more enjoyable three-hour drive via Highways 120, 108, and 49 through the backbone of the Golden Country – is home to the Marshall Gold Discovery Park.

And while Coloma has a plethora of river recreation attractions, especially in the summer, visiting the El Dorado County community of just over 300 residents in the Lotus Valley region where it is located, there is something magical simply by venturing where gold was discovered to trigger the start of the still strong California growth almost 174 years later.

Brilliant, deep greens sweep the hills through the rainy season in the Sierra foothills in about three months will transform to reserved mute greens of oak leaves as the grass transforms to golden hues. The scenery itself makes it a classic Sunday or Saturday as you drive through or pass historic mining towns such as Jamestown, Sonora, Columbia, Angels Camp, Murphys, Jackson, Sutter Creek and Ione to name a few. some. The longer trip also takes you through the New Melones Reservoir which can hold 2.4 million acres of feet of water.

The national park features a replica of the sawmill that started it all, as well as more than 20 historic buildings, including a school, shops, housing, and mining structures.

Overlooking the park from a hill above is California’s first landmark. Fittingly, this is a statue of James Marshall pointing to the gold find site below.

Guided gold discovery walking tours are offered for individual family groups in the same household. You can check with the museum / visitor center at 530.622.3470 for more information. The cost is $ 3 per adult and $ 2 per child. Tours are not offered when the temperature exceeds 92 degrees.

There are two hikes you can do as well.

The Monument Loop Hike is a challenging 1.5 mile walk that includes a 250 foot climb. From the alternate start, the total loop length is 1.25 miles.

From the mill site, take the marked “Marshall Monument” path. After crossing the highway, you will pass a large rock outcrop behind the picnic area where Nisenan Indian women grind acorns for food. Look for mortar holes in the rock.

After passing the toilets (the alternative start), the path climbs for about 800 meters through the forest and the chaparral. At the top is the James Marshall monument, built over the discoverer’s grave in 1889.

The return hike takes you on the one-way road (or a short steep path) past Marshall’s Cabin to Church Street. Saint-Jean Church and Emmanuel Church were built in the 1850s and are now historic structures protected by the national park.

As you walk down the High Street, you’ll pass Noteware-Thomas House, a restored residence that’s sometimes open for tours. The stone ruins of the old El Dorado County Jail can be seen on Back Street as you return to the Visitor Center.

The Monroe Trail is approximately 2.3 miles long. It connects the Marshall Monument to the North Beach Picnic Area at opposite ends of Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. The south end of the trail climbs to 300 feet; the north end climbs to 400 feet. Almost a mile is at the top of a ridge. The entire length of the trail passes through natural areas.

You can also learn how to search for gold by taking a 15 minute lesson and then spend the next half hour searching for garnets, fool’s gold, and real gold flakes.

Gold panning lessons are offered at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. with appropriate physical distance and increased cleaning protocols between gold panning lessons. Places are limited and slots are allocated on a first come, first served basis.

There are picnic areas if you choose to pack lunch.

Alternatively, the small market towns along Highway 49 offer many quaint restaurants and cafes or, if you prefer, chain-style establishments in and around Jackson and Sonora.

The drive alone is well worth it, though history buffs and the curious will enjoy a leisurely stroll through and to the state park’s various sites. This is the place that inspired the phrase “and the rush for the world” as the Gold Rush triggered what remains the largest migration in the Western Hemisphere.


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