Coloma

  • A Karen Brown Recommendation

It is an 8-mile drive along Hwy 49, through apple orchards and woodlands, to Coloma where the Gold Rush began. Set on the banks of the American River, the scant remains of the boom town of Coloma are preserved as Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park. It all began in 1848 when James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Sawmill. The remaining historic buildings are scattered over a large area, each separated by expanses of green lawn and picnic places along the banks of the river. The residential part of town is a sleepy little cluster of attractive houses set back from the river—it is hard to believe that there was once a population of over 10,000 here. The museum shows a short film on gold discovery and provides information for a self-guided tour. A duplicate of Sutter’s original sawmill, looking like a big shed, sits on the bank of the river. For a change of transportation, a number of companies offer one-day rafting trips down the most famous section of the South Fork of the American River. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip that we took with Beyond Limits Adventures. It’s a class 3 (intermediate) section of river that combines pretty scenery and whitewater as your raft plunges into Satan’s Cesspool, Hospital Bar, and Ambulance Driver. (Minimum age seven, season April to October, 800-234-7238, www.rivertrip.com.)

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