On the morning of January 24, 1848, James Marshall leaned down and picked up a bright pebble in the tailrace of John Sutter's sawmill, in a forested valley. So began a series of events unparalleled in the history of the United States. Over the next several years, tens of thousands of goldseekers rushed to the Sierra Nevada foothills, transforming this region forever. Between 1848 and 1873, more than a billion ounces of gold were removed from California soil.

Here, more than 150 years ago, the hills swarmed with miners eager to strike it rich. On every creek and at every bend in rivers up and down the Gold Country, instant towns mushroomed with names like Fleatown, Hangtown and Murderer's Bar. A decade later Pony Express riders thundered through the region, bringing mail from Missouri to Sacramento in a then unheard-of ten days. Today genteel communities attract hundreds of thousands of visitors fascinated by the lively legacy of these long-ago times.

The California Gold Rush started along the South Fork of the American River. Today this replica of Sutter's Mill stands close by the discovery site.

As gold became harder to find, miners turned giant hydraulic hoses onto the hillsides. The resulting erosion caused one of California's greatest environmental disasters.


Great History Articles on the Sierra Foothill Magazine Website

Native Americans thrived in the Sierra Nevada foothills until the arrival of the Forty-Niners. Our web page on Native Americans features a brief history, photos and some resources.

California's Gold Rush Millionaires

No, most of these men didn't mine gold. Read our series of online articles about how these pioneers became wealthy.

All That Glitters: Easy Pickings During the Early Years of the Gold Rush.

They came for gold, and found accommodations wherever and whenever they could. Prospects weren't always pleasant. Read our whimsical article about Gold Rush Housing.

Gold Rush Entertainment. Good thing the gold miners weren't picky about their entertainment. Miners were hungry for any kind of diversion, be it ever so humble or bizarre.

Gold Rush Entertainment. Good thing the gold miners weren't picky about their entertainment. Miners were hungry for any kind of diversion, be it ever so humble or bizarre.

Women in the California Gold Rush. Females were scarce in Gold Rush California, but they had a larger-than-life impact.


A Few Small Museums

El Dorado County Historical Museum 104 Placerville Drive, north of Highway 50 • (530) 621-5865 Crammed into this tiny building are pioneer and Native American artifacts. Outside you'll find steam engines, water wheels and more. There's also a library that contains an extensive collection of Gold Rush-era information.

Fountain and Tallman Soda Factory Museum 524 Main Street, Placerville. (530) 626-0773 (museum) (530) 621-5865 (Placerville Historical Society) Open weekend afternoons until 4 p.m. Here you'll find exhibits on Placerville's colorful past in this old brick building. There are artifacts from an early Chinese settlement as well as nineteenth-century memorabilia.

James Calvin Sly Museum Sly Park Recreation Area, Sly Park Road south of Highway 50 near Pollock Pines. (530) 644-2545 THis tiny museum offers a perspective on the Sly Park area over the last 4,000 years. You'll find Native American artifacts and early-day photographs.

Old Kelsey School Museum 6440 Garden Valley Road, off Highway 193 in the Georgetown Divide area • (530) 622-7590 Built in 1903, this country school is open only by appointment. The small museum houses Gold Rush and Native American artifacts.

Firehouse Museum. Built in 1861. Relics from Donner Party, altar from a Chinese Joss House, Native American artifacts, nineteenth-century toys and clothing. Open in summer seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Winter, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. 214 Main Street, Nevada City. (530) 265-5468.

Searls Historical Library. Law office os Niles Searls, Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court. Historic books, pho5tos, manuscripts. 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Saturday. 214 Church Street, Nevada City. (530) 265-5910.

North Star Power House & Pelton Wheel Mining Exhibit. Huge Pelton wheel, plus hardrock mining equipment. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., May-October 15, 7 days a week. Mill Street and McCourtney Road, Grass Valley. (530) 273-4255.

Grass Valley Museum. Restored school and orphanage, built in 1895. 12:30-3:30 p.m., Tuesday-Friday. 410 S. Church at Chapel Street, Grass Valley, adjacent to St. Joseph's Cultural Center. (530) 273-5509.

Grass Valley Video History Museum. Hundreds of videos of historic footage. Exhibits and photographs, too. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday-Sunday, May-October. Memorial Park, Highway 174, Grass Valley. (530) 274-1126.

Miners Foundry Cultural Center. Historic building covers manufacturing of mining machinery including the Pelton wheel. 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday-Friday. 3225 Spring Street, Nevada City. (530) 265-5040.

Teddy Bear Castle Museum. Bears, memorabilia, and more collected over 35 years by the American Victorian Museum. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. 203 S. Pine Street, Nevada City. (530) 265-5804.

Underground Gold Miners of California Museum. Call for hours. Underground tours available by reservation. (530) 287-3223.



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