Best Way to Columbia
There are several free parking lots around Columbia State Historic Park. Just remember that the roads leading to Columbia tend to be narrow and a bit twisty. So be careful when driving and pay close attention to the road. There are no street lights so if you're planning on driving at night, be sure to have both your headlights working and your night vision impeccable to avoid any mishaps. The Blacksmith Shop was very cool... the sights and smells very authentic. Loved Nelson's Columbia Candy Kitchen..
Columbia - Authentically Preserved Gold Rush Town
Columbia is actually a California State Historic Park. Gold was discovered around here back in the late 1800s and fueled a gold rush or should I say stampede. The gold kept coming out of the ground for over 10 years and resulted in a bustling, prosperous settlement.
Now the whole town has been declared a State Historic Park by a presidentail decree way back when. Ever since then, Columbia has been a popular field trip for Grade 4 students everywhere who come from all over Northern California to get a taste of what it felt like to live during the gold rush.
This sign was certainly eyecatching enough and aroused just enough feminist ire to coax me closer. The fine print does negate most of the message but it sure was like waving a red flag at a bull!
Late Visit to Columbia State Historic Park
I mainly came to Columbia to visit the State Historic Park. My problem was that it was my first destination of my travel, which began with problems of my rental car. So I had to return it just after starting my tour and lost about two hours, which were now missing at the end of the day. So I reached Columbia just a few minutes before the sites started to close for the day. At least I could have a look at some of the buildings and I did not miss the very interesting film about the history of Columbia.
At the evening I had a very new and hopefully just one-time experience: I left my car keys in the trunk of my car... very bad situation at 10 pm with all the stuff neccessary for the night inside it. Well, so I can now appreciate the help of the AAA, the American Automobile Association. Thanks!
I stayed at the Columbia Inn, probably they remember that evening there :) It is a very nice motel: Simple, but clean, and the staff is very helpful. See their webpage...
About the State Historic Park:
It is just a quarter of a mile away from the Columbia Inn and therfore perfect to be reached by feet. The park contains the original houses from the goldrush times with exhibitions about life at that time. You will understand much about how the region developed socially and economically, but also hear about the impact of the search for gold on nature (still you can see the scarves all around).
As a start for you to gather information about the park I strongly recommend the great pages provided by the State of California.
Columbia State Historical Park
I wanted to visit here for many years. It was on our mini world wind tour we took when Nick was just barley 1 Years old. We didn't stay any longer than a day, but stayed the night in Sonora, Ca. It was a beautiful day to explore and take in the grandeur of walking the streets of days going way back to the 1850's. Like most towns either because of gold, railroads, or agriculture, they sprung up almost instantly especially those lured in by the Gold Rush era. Columbia was started by a party lead by Dr. Thaddeus Hildreth, his brother George, and other prospectors made camp very near here. Soon gold was being discovered and a stream of prospecting pioneers streamed and as time went by, water was brought in and tents were slowly being replaced by actual buildings by 1852. 150 stores, shops, saloon, churches, and if I recall they had a small section of town where the Chinese immigrants settled providing tea or herb shops and laundry services. I recalled the details on one of the buildings, which was an herb shop.
Yet, this little town was kept alive by locals who knew what a precious commodity they had and kept the vandals, fires, and decay at bay. I do remember and was so happy to see that people actually were still living in many of the old buildings at the time.
Columbia has been noted by historians in yielding $87 Million in gold during its day, I can't imagine what that would be in today's dollars...chaa..ching!!
Gold Mining for Everyone--try it out.
"Gold panning for beginners"
If you visit Columbia on highway 49, you will find a small gold mining town. There are plenty of activities and museums about the gold rush in California. You can ride a stagecoach, watch a gunfight and pan some gold. The miners who tend this gold panning area, will show you their techniques for getting the gold out of gravel. This is a lot of fun and everyone comes away with a small bottle of gold.
This town is a state of California heritage site. Mark Twain and other famous American historical figures were here in its hayday.
Plan on spending at least the major part of a day here.