gold country
Marshall Gold Discovery

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma is where the gold rush began. James Marshall was hired by John Sutter to build a sawmill on the South Fork of the American River. On Jan. 24, 1848, Marshall found gold flakes along the river, saying "Boys, by God I believe I have found a gold mine." When news of the discovery leaked out, the gold rush was on. By the summer of 1848, Coloma was a mining town of 2,000 and prospectors were busy digging up the entire Sierra foothills.

Living History Days - Throughout the year on "Living History Days" and special events, volunteers dress in the period clothes of miners, tradesmen, etc. and you can watch period demonstrations such as ice cream making, spinning, blacksmithing, gold panning, there are horse carriage rides and Gold Rush music.
In January is Gold Discovery Day, celebrating the event that sparked the California gold rush. Kids can learn about daily life of miners and pioneers in gold towns, play traditional 19th century games, take a horse carriage ride, and, of course, pan for gold.


Coloma Gold Rush Live in October, volunteers wear period clothes of miners, tradesmen, mountain men, soldiers, blacksmith, doctor, laundress, etc. Watch ladies making lace, darning socks, making a wool cape, baking bread and pies in a wood fire, churning butter, or spinning wool, a blacksmith hammering a toasting fork, photographer taking photos 1852 style, and cannon firing demonstration. Kids can play traditional games, such as hoops and stilts, learn how to pan for gold, make candles and rope, listen to fiddle tunes, snack on traditional candies and baked goods (cooked in a wood fire!), and take a wagon ride.


Sutter's Mill - Start your explorations at the wooden sawmill. It's a replica of the original and it's been moved from the original site along the river, but it's impressive. There are ranger talks and a sawmill demonstration, where you can see the parts move. Nearby are samples of the original handhewn timbers and a mill worker's cabin.
Gold Discovery Site - You can walk from the sawmill replica to the original mill site along the river, and further long to the small section of river where gold was found. It's a short walk and close by is the North Beach picnic area.
Museum (Visitor Center) - See video presentations about the discovery that changed California overnight from a sleepy frontier territory into a populous state. Dioramas show James Marshall discovering gold on January 24, 1848, Indians who lived in the area for centuries before the gold rush, and typical store.
In front of the museum, check out the old ore car, stamp mill, hydraulic mining nozzle, and miner's cabin.
Wah Hop Store – Step into an 1860 store for the Chinese community, it was bank, had herbal medicines, food and everyday items.
Blacksmith Shop - The blacksmith's shop was essential to the frontier town, to make hammers, saws, nails, shovels, axes, horseshoes and wagon wheels. At the blacksmith shop, there are demonstration using traditional tools, a wood fire and anvil to forge implements.
Pan for gold - Buy pans at Marshall Mercantile and pan for gold in the American River (cross the bridge to the other side of the river). Or, if you want results, you can pan for gold in troughs behind Bekeart's Gunshop.
James Marshall Monument - Although Marshall discovered gold, he didn't make millions and died poor in 1885. He did get a wonderful monument at the top of the hill, overlooking the American River. You can drive or hike up to the monument (2.3 miles from the North Beach Picnic Area). From the top you get a good view of the Sierra foothills. Nice picnic tables in the shade.
North Beach picnic area – At the north end of Coloma, North Beach is a large picnic area, with tables in the shade next to the river. Watch people rafting and kayaking down the river while you eat your lunch.
Go rafting – On hot summer days, one of our favorite things to do in the Sierra foothills is rafting on the American River. Choose from South Fork two hour family float trips to half day trips, Middle Fork rafting trips with rapids for thrill-seeking teens.
Guides, lifejackets, paddles, helmets, rafts, are provided, just wear lots of sunscreen, water shoes or sandals (no flip flops), and be prepared to get wet. Rafting companies are located on Highway 49 near to Coloma.

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