California’s Gold Country is famous for making some 1849 miners very rich. Travel on California Route 49 offers one of the most scenic and historic drives you'll find in California.
|National Hotel, Nevada City CA|
From north to south, California Highway 49 winds for over 300 miles and offers the northern California tourist one of the most spectacular and unique scenic drives in all of the west. Below are a list of towns that you'll pass through on California Route 49. These are stops you'll be glad to add to your California trip planner.
The towns and sites detailed below follow CA State Rte 49 from north to south.
Nevada City is among the most interesting of California Gold Rush towns. Visitors from all over the world have traveled to Nevada City. This is a town where the entire downtown district is a National Historic Landmark. Aside from the many historic landmarks that take you back to the Gold Rush days you'll find unique restaurants, comfortable lodgings and fine shops, boutiques, galleries and museums that are all there for your explorations.
|Old Nevada Theater Building, Nevada City CA|
Today, the town has a population is just 2,800 but that is quite different than the years of the great Gold Rush. In 1850, there were 10,000 people living there. During the election of 1856 the 2,082 ballots from Nevada City were exceeded in California by only Sacramento and San Francisco.
When you visit Nevada City make sure to explore the famous National Hotel and the1861 Firehouse Number 1 Museum.
The famous mining district of Grass Valley is located in western Nevada County California. The Nevada City district adjoins it on the northeast and the Rough-and-Ready district is to the west.
Placer gold was first found in Wolf Creek in 1848 not long after shortly after Marshall's discovery at Coloma. The earliest mining was done by David Stump and two others who arrived from Oregon. The shallow placers were rich but were mined fast.
|Holbrooke Hotel, Grass Valley CA|
In 1884 the North Star mine was reopened and activities increased; the North Star, Empire, Idaho-Maryland, Pennsylvania, and W.Y.O.D. all were highly productive. The Idaho-Maryland mine had yielded a total of $12.5 million. From 1900 to 1925, the North Star and Empire mines were the largest producers, the Idaho-Maryland having been idle during the first two decades of the twentieth century. By 1928, the North Star had had a total output valued at $33 million.
In Grass Valley you'll want to be sure to explore the historic Holbrooke Hotel. The hotel was first built in 1852 and completely renovated in 1862 after a fire at the then Exchange Hotel. The Holbrooke took it's current name in 1879 and claims to be the oldest continuously operated hotel in California's gold country.
See the Western Trips articles on the links below...
A Visit to Nevada City California
A Visit to Grass Valley California
Virginia City Nevada and the Comstock Lode
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|Old Auburn Hook and Ladder No. 2 Firehouse|
Auburn California is located where CA State Hwy 49 meets Interstate 80. This of course makes Auburn very accessible from the Sacramento area. Auburn is located in Placer County which took it's name from the early placer mining of the late 1840's. Placer is the Spanish word surface mining.
The first name for this mining settlement was called “North Fork Dry Diggings". The name was changed to Auburn in 1849 and Placer County was created in 1851 just after California statehood.
With the American River Canyon at its border, Auburn sits nestled in the foothills of the Sierra at elevations that range between 1,000 and 1,400 feet.
The Historic Placer County Courthouse is easily seen traveling either east or west along Interstate 80. The courthouse is located right next to the Historic Old Town. The old Hook and Ladder No. 2 Firehouse is located within this historic district. A free guided tour of Old Town Auburn begins at the Placer County Courthouse at 101 Maple Street every Saturday at 10 am. For more information call (530) 889-6500.
Being situated in the Sierra Nevada foothills, the temperatures offer opportunities for colorful, scenic views during seasonal changes each year.
|Old Angels Hotel|
The town of Angels Camp was named after Henry Angel in 1848 who was the town's first store keeper.
During the year 1849, nearly 4,000 miners camped in the one mile area from Angels Creek to Utica Park.
The cry of "gold" of course brought the miners but as with some other areas the placer gold was worked out in just a few years. The story after that is that a man by the name of Bennegar Rasberry had his muzzle loader rifle jam. Rasberrythen fired the rifle into the ground where the ramrod split a stone to reveal the glittering gold inside. This reportedly was the beginning of Quartz Mining in Angels Camp.
As mentioned above, easy to find placer gold brought prosperity to many gold rush camps. In and around Angels Camp placer gold was found in China Gulch, Six Mile Creek, Cherokee Creek, Greenhorn Creek. Angels Camp became a trading center for the neighboring mines. Angels Camp had a population of over 300 by the spring of 1849.
Angels Camp mining continued for a great while however all the mines in the town closed during World War I and were never to reopen. In addition to the Angels Camp Museum you'll want to stop at the Angels Hotel. The Angels Hotel was constructed with one story in 1852 and a second story was added in 1857. This is the historic hotel where Mark Twain reportedly heard a story that he later turned into the famous The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.If you have the opportunity of visiting the Angels Camp area during May you'll want to consider attending the world-renowned Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee. The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee is held each year during the third weekend in May. This “County Fair” features exhibits, entertainment, rodeo, horse events, livestock exhibits and a carnival.
|CA State Route 49 along the American River|
Sonora California is called the "Queen of the Southern Mines".
Many of the first miners to reach California's Tuolumne County were discharged Mexican War veterans and miners from the state of Sonora, Mexico known as Sonoranians. During 1848 there weren't yet the multitude of gold seekers and the relatively easy placer gold was quite abundant.
Animosity between Americans and Spanish speaking gold miners increased at the end of the Mexican War. This was a period when Americans considered California their territory giving them the right to grab its riches. As more miners came to the area the Mexican Sonoranians were forced from their diggings and moved along the gold laden creeks.
On March 17, 1849, Sonoranians vacated their camp and moved to a new camp on Wood’s Creek. Today this is the site of Sonora High School. When the Americans realized the Sonoranians had moved to a new camp, they began to follow and prospect for gold nearby. In the area of today’s Coffill Park, Americans found rich diggings. The camp was engulfed by Sonoranians and others and became known as Sonoranian Camp. Later this settlement took on the name of Sonora. The old Indian trail which extended from the Wood’s Creek diggings down to the American diggings later became today’s Washington Street. This was the center of commerce for the miners and later for the City of Sonora.
Among the sites in Sonora to add to your trip planner is the Sonora Inn at 160 S. Washington Street. Built in 1895 the hotel was first named the Hotel Victoria. Add to that the Tuolumne County Museum at 58 W. Bradford Street and the Railtown 1897 Historic Park located just about five miles south of Sonora along California Hwy 49 in Jamestown.
|Main Street, Jackson CA|
The Kennedy Gold Mine is named for Andrew Kennedy, an Irish immigrant, who reportedly discovered a quartz outcropping in the late 1850's near what is now Highway 49. The Kennedy Mining Company was formed in 1860 when he and three partners began digging shafts near today's mine property entrance.
Today visitors can walk up the well marked trails to get a good look at the huge tailing wheels erected in 1913 that carried vast amounts of gravels up and over the hills into a settling pond. Only two of the original wheels are still standing, one on each side of Jackson Gate Road. The others lie in ruins, victims of the elements and age. Picnic areas and restrooms are available.
|Historic Firehouse, Jackson CA|
Also consider making a stop at the Amador County Museum located at 225 Church Street. See their Gold History exhibit and their Native American and Chinese American exhibits. The Amador County Museum was built as a home in 1859 by Armstead C. Brown, one of Jackson's earliest settlers.
Driving State Route 49 through the old California Gold Country offers the traveler great photo opportunities, historic state and national landmarks, unique historic hotels and B & B's and a wide array of specialty shops. Whether your Ca Rte 49 vacation includes the entire route or just a portion of it you're certain have a scenic and fun western trip.
(Article and photos copyright 2014 Western Trips. Angels Camp, American River and Jackson photos in the public domain)