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Gold/Mining museum

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Santa Clara...
posts: 128
reviews: 26
Gold/Mining museum

Any recommendation for an interesting museum/park around Sacramento/Placerville area which depicts gold mining or gold rush history? I am trying to decide between the Marshall Gold discovery museum in Coloma or the Gold bug mine park in Placerville. Any other ideas are appreciated.

Thanks

16 replies to this topic
San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 10,549
reviews: 41
1. Re: Gold/Mining museum

Coloma and the Gold Bug are only about 8 or 10 miles apart. If you have several hours, do both.

Coloma is the actual town where the first gold discovery was made. Much of it is re-created, but you’ll see lots of old ruins, building foundations, mining equipment and artifacts sitting around. It isn't just a single museum, although it has a good visitor center with exhibits. It's right on the American River, and there is a re-creation of the mill where Marshall found the little yellow specks. There is a place in town where you can learn to pan for gold. A few years ago, a lesson cost about $7.00 or $8.00, and it isn't over until you've found some flecks of gold along with bits of iron pyrite and red garnet chips, which occur naturally in the area. Then you can cross a bridge over the American River to a bank where the public is allowed to pan.

Gold Bug is a city park in Placerville, and the only city-owned gold mine in the US. There are historic buildings and a hard rock gold mine tour. Panning along river or stream banks is placer mining. The ore has been washed out of its original location (lode) and deposited downstream, where someone like Marshall finds it. "Placer" is the anglicized form of the Spanish word for "place." Hard rock mining is where you get the gold at its source, typically digging or hammering or blasting it out of the earth. For the Gold Bug mine tour, you get a helmet and flashlight and then burrow into the innards of the planet trying to find the "Mother Lode."

All the towns along Hwy 49 are crammed with Gold Rush history. The stretch from Auburn to Placerville (including Coloma) to Sonora is particularly rich with museums, historic sites, and preserved Gold Rush era buildings (many now used as hotels or B&Bs, restaurants, shops, or private homes). My favorite areas are around Sonora, Columbia, Angels Camp, and Murphys. I go to Columbia fairly often, and I almost always go to the museum in the historic town area. The Mother Lode goes all the way to Mariposa if you want to go that far south, and the California State Mining and Mineral Museum is there.

I see that you live in Santa Clara. If you want to make a connection between home and the Mother Lode, take a little afternoon excursion to New Almaden Quicksilver County Park. The connection is that New Almaden was one of the richest mercury (quicksilver) mines in the New World, and mercury was an essential part of refining gold and silver ores in the 19th century. It was extremely nasty and toxic to mine quicksilver and to refine precious metal ores with it, but people did it because of the promise of riches. The Almaden museum is open only on weekends, but it does a great job of portraying the history and how it ties in with gold or silver mining. The park itself is open daily, and you can walk around the old town and see historic buildings or hike in the park and see some of the old mining structures. The toxic waste issues have been addressed, but it’s still not a good idea to eat the dirt there, or to eat fish caught in the reservoir.

Santa Clara...
posts: 5,420
reviews: 13
2. Re: Gold/Mining museum

Thanks for the lessons FR. I wonder how many people even know why the SJ newspaper is called the Mercury News.

San Francisco
Destination Expert
for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
posts: 10,549
reviews: 41
3. Re: Gold/Mining museum

** "I wonder how many people even know why the SJ newspaper is called the Mercury News." **

I don't.

I have to admit I've never thought about it. Was it named for the mineral, or for the figure in Roman mythology who was considered the "messenger" god?

Santa Clara...
posts: 5,420
reviews: 13
4. Re: Gold/Mining museum

You are being facetious right? :) I didn't make the connection until I recently learned about the history of the Almaden quicksilver/mercury mine in San Jose.

Sorry bun... let's get back to talking about gold. Do I remember correctly that your parents are visiting from China? Lots of history about Chinese Americans' contributions to 金山.

Edited: 1:42 am, November 16, 2013
Martinez, California
Destination Expert
for Sacramento, Puerto Vallarta
posts: 8,542
reviews: 94
5. Re: Gold/Mining museum

Back to the OP ---- how long will you be around our territory? Can you do both? Trying to choose just one is restrictive. Traveling Highway 49 (the Golden Chain) on a road trip, over a week or so, would probably satisfy your curiosity somewhat (or inspire a renewed interest or frustrate you, as there is so much more), as FR writes.

My ancestors all came to California for the Gold Rush in 1849 and into the early 1850's so we routinely wandered around Northern California to little towns and museums and historical sites and cemeteries regularly on week-ends and long vacations when we were children, tracing their steps and tracking their history.

My point is ---- if you're really interested in the subject, only visiting one would just give you a small slice of the topic, if that's OK with you. You could spend months.

It would help if we knew what your main interest is ---- and are you taking a road trip for a few days, or do you intend to stay in some of these little towns --- or are you writing a report or....????. Please help us help you, in your specific interests.

Glad to hear others outside the area have a passion for the topic. Thanks for asking.

Santa Clara...
posts: 128
reviews: 26
6. Re: Gold/Mining museum

This is awesome!! Thanks so much guys, especially Roadrunner!

Santa Clara...
posts: 128
reviews: 26
7. Re: Gold/Mining museum

Chinita

Errrrrr... I am originally from India! :P

Santa Clara...
posts: 128
reviews: 26
8. Re: Gold/Mining museum

Marly

Thanks! For the time being I just want one place, to show my parents (visiting from India) a bit of gold rush history. But I like your idea of a week long road trip!

Pacifica, California
Destination Expert
for Pacifica
posts: 5,322
reviews: 4
9. Re: Gold/Mining museum

"I wonder how many people even know why the SJ newspaper is called the Mercury News."

Because two newspapers, the San Jose Mercury and San Jose News, merged. The name of the new paper was San Jose Mercury News.

California
posts: 453
reviews: 61
10. Re: Gold/Mining museum

One other possibility would be the railroad museum in Sacramento - http://www.csrmf.org

As the name indicates, it's about the railroad - but a lot of the railroad's history in California ties in the with Gold Rush so there's a lot of information about that time period at the museum.

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