Rush to discover history and fun in Northern California
On January 24, 1848, a carpenter named James Marshall was in the midst of building a new sawmill in the South Fork of the American River when he happened to notice something shiny in a ditch. He soon determined that the nugget he found was a precious metal, and news of the discovery triggered the legendary Gold Rush. Within a year, "gold fever" had spread across the continent, sending a wave of settlers west to find their fortunes.
Today, the area of Northern California that was so popular with the so-called 49ers is now popular with a different breed of discoverer. A visit to Gold Country, California, is rich in history and adventure.
Tourism Region with Lots to Offer
Gold Country is made up of nine counties, each with a unique offering of beautiful attractions, stunning landscapes and a deep, rich history. You can visit that very spot where Marshall found the first gold nugget in Amador County and, in fact, you can still pan for gold in nearby Sutter Creek. Take the kids to the town of Volcano to explore the Black Chasm Cave, home to stalactites, stalagmites and other geological wonders.
The landscape has changed somewhat in Gold Country. The mines have turned to vines in the Sierra Foothills and the gold found in this region comes out of a bottle. Full, intense Zinfandel attracts a different breed of treasure seeker to Gold Country, and some of the best "Zin" in the world comes from this region.
Interestingly, wine making can be linked back the gold rush. Miners needed liquid refreshment at the end of the day, so there was a huge demand for alcohol. Farmers in the area began planting grapes, and the Sierra Foothills' wine industry was born.
There are hundreds of wineries to choose from, each making special varietals, some with fairly famous labels, while others are what you might call mom-and-pop operations. You definitely need to plan a few days to follow some of the region's wine trails and taste the difference elevation, humidity and temperature can have on the final product. You won't be disappointed.
At the northern part of the region lies Sierra County, where you will find beautiful bluffs, wildflowers in the spring and superb skiing and snowboarding in the winter. Hiking, biking and birding are favorite pastimes of all who visit the area. Visitors can see Osprey fishing and otters playing in the Downie and North Yuba Rivers.
Sierra County isn't the only place in Gold Country that has natural wonders. Go whitewater rafting in Placer County on the American River, fishing in Nevada County or horseback riding in El Dorado County.
One of California's favorite destinations is located in Gold Country. Lake Tahoe in El Dorado County has so much to offer it's hard to know where to start. Skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking and golf are just a few of the activities that await you at North America's largest alpine lake.
If you're a bit more laid back, pack a picnic lunch and travel up to the mountain on the back roads. Be sure to take your camera, because you're bound to encounter vistas that you'll have to capture with a photo and sunsets that you'll never want to forget.
With everything there is to do at Lake Tahoe, people sometimes forget there is actually a lake in which to fish, water ski, boat, kayak and swim. The crystal blue mountain waters await your next adventure.
In the heart of Gold Country lies Sacramento, California's state capital. If you need a little city time, this is the place for you. Shopping, dining, farmers' markets and amusement parks will keep you and the kids or grandkids busy for a day or two.
Sacramento is rich in history, and there are nearly 30 museums in the Sacramento area. Check out the California Auto Museum, the California Aero Space Museum, the California State Indian Museum and the California State Railroad Museum, just to name a few.
If you feel like shopping, you'll need to check out the Old Sacramento Historic District, where you'll find over 125 small boutiques that offer souvenirs, fine art, gifts, jewelry and home décor. The area is set in Gold Rush era buildings with a boardwalk in front of each, just like in the old west. You'll find dozens of restaurants, clubs and museums, all set against the backdrop of the Sacramento River. This is a must-see for any visitor to the capital.
Yosemite National Park
The southern part of Gold Country houses one of the most amazing natural wonders—Yosemite National Park. With over 800 miles of hiking trails, 282 miles of roads and countless species of vertebrates, including fish, mammals, birds and reptiles, Yosemite is an outdoorsman's paradise.
You can fish, raft or kayak on the Tuolumne and Merced Rivers. You'll also want to stop and take in the beauty of the natural glaciers in Yosemite. Be sure to share your pictures.
For More Information:
Gold Country Visitors Association
California Travel and Tourism