Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
On January 24, 1848, an event occurred in Coloma that would radically impact the history of California and the Nation. James W. Marshall was building a sawmill for Captain John Sutter, using water from the South Fork of the American River. He noticed several flakes of metal in the tailrace water and recognized them to be gold. Though he tried to keep it a secret, the word spread quickly, and triggered the California Gold Rush of 1849.
Until then, Coloma had been a remote outpost, named for a nearby Southern Maidu Indian Village. (Early spellings of the name included “Colluma” and “Culoma”.) Its population soon swelled to many thousands.
Marshall’s monument, the original gold discovery site and several historic buildings became part of California’s state park system in 1927. Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park features a museum, many original and restored buildings, and costumed volunteers. At the museum you can learn how to pan for gold, and you can buy a gold pan there as well. Bekeart’s Gun Shop, located in the Park, offers similar activities and old-fashioned trade goods.
Other Park activities include video presentations in the museum and sawmill demonstrations at the working replica of the original Sutter’s Mill (pictured above). With a map from the museum you can guide yourself on tours of the town, the cemetery, the Monument Trail, and the Monroe Ridge Trail.
Walking and Hiking
The American River draws those looking for quiet walks and picnics by the river. Our four riverfront parks offer a variety of picnic spots and a wide range of hikes, from easy strolls for the family to strenuous hikes to the ridge top.
Mountain Biking and Road Biking
Bring your bicycle when you come to visit! There are lots of quiet country roads to explore, and back roads for mountain biking. The new Cronin Ranch Regional Trails Park, offers miles of bicycling and equestrian trails.
South Fork American River Trail – 25 mile Coloma to Salmon Falls Multiuse Trail
It is now possible to enjoy hiking, running, and mountain biking or horseback riding on the new South Fork American River Trail from Coloma to Salmon Falls at Folsom Lake in combination with your American River Whitewater Raft trip. Non-rafters can enjoy hiking along the South Fork Trail while you are rafting the river.
The scenic stretch of (mostly) untouched nature has long been among the West’s premier locations for whitewater rafting and kayaking. But for those on foot, horse or mountain bike, there hasn’t been a way to traverse the full length of the winding south fork stretch that many say puts the “gorge” in gorgeous. A multiuse trail featuring seasonally wildflower-saturated grasslands, oak woodlands, riparian habitats, sage-covered ridges and views of the American River below now exists.
The American River Conservancy (ARC) and the federal Bureau of Land Management joint venture opened the trail for use by hikers, runners, mountain bikers and equestrians. Alan Ehrgott, ARC’s executive director said “This area is important because it’s a true wildlife corridor, and 18 percent of the native plant categories (in the state) are in that space.” Preserving this lush segment of the Sierra foothills was a major motivation. ARC also wanted to provide Northern California outdoors enthusiasts a long stretch of trail that connects at the southwest end to existing Folsom Lake State Recreation Area trails. We are also working on an alternate path near Salmon Falls to accommodate equestrians, who don’t have access to the final two miles of the new South Fork trail.
“This is a real gem, especially for us here in El Dorado (County),” said Elena DeLacy, the ARC’s conservation and stewardship project coordinator. “I mean, the Tahoe Rim Trail is iconic. But this trail is truly impressive, too. It’s the only place in the county where you can go from an urban area and completely get lost in nature.”
Mountain bikers and runners of all abilities will find the South Fork trail navigable, if challenging. It ranges from an easy two-mile stretch (Gerle Loop near the Magnolia Ranch access point off Highway 49) to the steep single-track portion near Salmon Falls. “There are some hills and switchbacks, but totally rideable,” Bean said. “If you aren’t super-fit, you might have to push your bike on a couple of little hills. But that’s part of the challenge.”
View 25-mile river trail in a larger map
View the American River Trailer Video
Fishing the South Fork of the American River
The great fishing here is one of the river’s better-kept secrets. The primary game fish are the rainbow and brown trout. Lucky anglers might catch brown trout up to eight pounds in size, although rainbows between 10 and 12 inches in length are more common. Nongame fish in the river include the Sacramento pike minnow, Sacramento sucker, California roach and riffle sculpin. Landlocked kokanee salmon were introduced in 1998 in Folsom Lake and some make the run as far as the Chili Bar dam.
The California Department of Fish and Game plants catchable rainbows every year at the state park in Coloma from the opening of trout season in April into summer.
Good bank fishing access is available through trails downstream from the park and just above the Highway 193 bridge at Chili Bar.
Anglers 16 years or older must have a fishing license (available in local stores). Basic fishing supplies are available locally at Sutter Center Market, Ponderosa Park, Camp Lotus and Coloma Resort.
Pan for Gold in the South Fork of the American River
Folks in the know say that in spite of the best efforts of thousands of miners who extracted gold from the Sierra Nevada foothills in the last century, lots of gold remains.
The gold miner sloshing his gold pan has become an icon of the Gold Rush, and lots of people enjoy reliving this simple process of gold panning, although serious present-day goldseekers use more sophisticated techniques such as small-scale dredging. But the gold panning ritual lives on.
So where to pan? Possibilities are limited. On private property, you may pan as long as you have the owner’s permission. At the area’s main private campgrounds, for example, registered guests may pan. In Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, panning (hands and pan only) is allowed only on the northeast shore of the river by the Mt. Murphy Road bridge across from the park museum. A concession at the Bekeart’s Gun Shop features trough mining and gold pan rentals.
Several local businesses sell gold pans and related supplies, among them American Whitewater Expedition’s Store, Ceccardi’s Feed Store, Sutter Center Market, Ponderosa Park, and Coloma Resort.
Wine Tasting at Coloma Valley Wineries
David Girard Vineyards – 40 acres of grapes planted on 85 acres, spectacular views and award winning wines. Visit the tasting room by appointment and during special events throughout the year.
Gold Hill Vineyards – Premium beers and wines. Tasting room open Thursday through Sunday, from 10 am till 5 pm and by appointment.
Hart to Hart Winery – At this lovely setting on Highway 49 north of Lotus, stop by the tasting room, open Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. till 5 p.m.
Meteorite Hunters Descend on Coloma
There is a new rush hitting gold country in 2012, but these miners weren’t looking for nuggets. Instead, the hills were filled with meteorite hunters searching high and low for rocks from space.
In the small town El Dorado County town of Coloma, meteorite hunters by the hundreds have converged to try to find fragments of a meteor that came crashing down.
If they find a piece of the meteor, it could be worth more than gold.
Annual American River Music Festival
Presenting the finest in American Roots Music in a beautiful and inspiring setting.
For the complete schedule, artist bio’s, cool videos, see photos, listen to music, and BUY TICKETS click the link below!