Panning for Gold

James W. Marshall discovered gold on the South Fork of the American River while building a sawmill with John Sutter in 1848-the event that triggered the greatest mass movement of people in the Western Hemisphere and the spark that ignited the spectacular growth of the West over the next few decades. Today, adventurous groups on California excursion can see a wonderful replica of the original sawmill and more than 20 historic buildings in an authentic ghost town. Lessons are offered to eager explorers who may then try their hand panning for gold in the scenic American River; energetic types will enjoy rejuvenating woodland hikes or picnics in a stunning setting overlooking the picturesque river canyon, where Gold Rush Pioneer James W. Marshall rests, today. The discovery site, located in the still visible tailrace of Sutter’s sawmill, in present day Coloma, is one of the most significant historic sites in the nation; a landmark monument to Marshall’s discovery to points to where it all began. Unique events and exhibits are scheduled throughout the year and during Living History Days visitors are treated to an entertaining and history lesson as the park is filled with lively docents dressed in period clothing roaming about or manning demonstration stations featuring fascinating displays of basic pioneering and woodsman skills. Guided walking tours of the 576 acre Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, located 36 miles East of Sacramento on Highway 49 between Placerville and Auburn, are available year-round.

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