America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Columbia Gold Rush Town, California
Yes, there's more famous ones, the gold rush towns that dot California and the rest of the west after those 49ers found gold at Sutter's Mill. It's all over San Francisco lore. But today there may be no better example of an authentic gold mining town, restored and under the wings of the California State Park system than Columbia. Located in Tuolome County west of the bay, and only eighty-two miles south from Sutter's Mill, the thirty buildings that remain will take you back to the time when you struck gold and spent your money at the local saloon. It's been restored since 1946 and on the list of National Historic Places since 1961. Take the time to wander over there if you're on the path from Yosemite. It'll take you back to a time when those 49ers of football fame got a nickname and you won't have to tackle one thing. Photo above: Lithograph of Columbia in 1852 by G.H. Goddard. Courtesy Library of Congress/Yale University Library.
Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Columbia Gold Rush Town
Over a billion dollars worth of gold was taken from these mines between 1850 and 1870. That's a whole lot of gold dough. And unlike many gold rush towns that just went away when the gold dried up, Columbia has always been inhabited. It was known as the Gem of the Southern Mines with a quartz bearing gold area one mile wide. Today, over five hundred thousand people visit Columbia State Park each year, well beyond the attendance of many National Park historic sites, yet it's not well known outside the central California area. There's two hundred and seventy-three acres to explore with no auto traffic allowed on the park streets, original structures from one hundred and fifty years ago, and plenty of places to eat, even picnic areas if you've brought your own.
And the folks here, proprietors and interpreters, really take the 1850's seriously. They'll be dressed in period garb. Bring your own if you want to fit in.
Photo above: Main street of Columbia State Park, 2007. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
Where Is It
Columbia State Park is located three miles north of Sonora, California off Route 49. Street address is 11255 Jackson Street, Columbia, CA, 95310. From Sacramento, it's ninety-two miles southeast. From Stockton, it's sixty-six miles east.
What is There Now
Columbia State Park Museum (Knapp Building) - Learn the history of the town and mines that made them prosperous.
Stage Coach Rides - Take a ride on the Quartz Mountain Stage Line.
Fallon Theater - Opened in 1860, the Sierra Repertory Theatre currently puts on a variety of shows for you to watch there.
Hotels - There are two vintage Victorian era hotels in the park, which you can stay at, the City Hotel and the Fallon Hotel.
Other Businesses - Saloons galore, blacksmith shops, and places to shop for other items. Also there's a gold mining tour at the Hidden Treasure Gold Mine.
How Much to Visit
Columbia State Park - Free to enter. Free parking in the lower lot.
Quartz Mountain Stage Coach Ride - $7 Adults (13+), Youth/Seniors $6, 2 and under, Free.
Fallon Theater - $18-$35.
Open daily. It's a real town. Most businesses there are open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Columbia Museum is usually open from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with extended hours in the summer. Interpretation and programs are run by the Friends of Columbia State Park. Town tours are year round on weekends and daily from June 15 to Labor Day. Gold Rush Days are held every second Saturday afternoon.
Columbia State Historic Park
Friends of Columbia State Park
So what else is there to do near Columbia State Park? Well, just to your west are the thousands of acres of Stanislaus National Forest. For those on a gold rush tour, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, Sutter's Mill, is located eighty-two miles north off Highway 49 as well. Yosemite is seventy-nine miles southwest.