Here’s how the Great California Gold Rush of 1849 started: on a cool January day in 1848, less than a mile from the American River Resort, James Marshall found a large gold nugget in the mill race of a sawmill his men were building for Swiss settler John Sutter. Though the two men tried to keep the discovery a secret, a local store keeper named Samuel Brannan at nearby Sutter’s Fort had a different idea. Brannan traveled to San Francisco and, waving a bottle of gold dust and water, told tales of a large gold discovery in his town to anyone who would listen. Conveniently, he had also bought up all the iron pans for in the area for resale at his store (at an 8000% markup). Some believed Brannan’s claims, but the rush only came after President Polk’s State of the Union Address on December 5, 1848, in which he confirmed that Gold had been discovered in California. At the height of the Gold Rush that followed, over 10,000 people colonized in Coloma hoping for fortune. Today, the town is once again a sleepy river town, but, at the James Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, you can step back in time and learn why California is named the Golden State, and why there exists a Golden Gate. You can also try panning for gold yourself!
Here’s how one tourist described their visit to Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park:
“Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park is synonymous with the foothill town of Coloma and its boundaries are almost indistinguishable. The park is the town and the town is the park… at least that’s how it feels. Driving past the city limits sign, you are immediately thrust into the 1800s with an Indian trading post on one side and a blacksmith shop on the other. The Visitors’ Center houses everything from an old stagecoach with its lockbox secured for valuable transports to a soy bean grinder that the Chinese miners used to make tofu during their tenure at the gold site. The displays run the gamut from dusty and authentic feeling to kitschy and informative.” Camilla Mann
Learn more about the park at its official website.