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Travel Bargain destination in California Gold Country

Travel Gem of the Gold Rush

Columbia history Wells Fargo Express bargain family trip photoVery few things remain the same for 160 years, especially in our what's new, what’s next modern world of urban sprawl and Walmart suburbia. In March of 1850, at the height of the Califoria Gold Rush, a group of miners stumbled onto the limestone and granite out croppings between Sonora and the Stanislaus River, where they discovered the shiny dreams for which the 49’ers had come for and established Hildreth’s Diggings. Others heard of the strike and flocked to the verdant area. The town which grew was renamed Columbia. By 1852 the town was populated by more than 150 stores, shops and saloons, with a church, a school, Masonic Lodge and thriving Chinatown all surrounded by a tent city. Columibia was a "dry diggings" with no water for the crowd of miners to wash their claims, so water had to be brought from the river by flume, resulting in the first "water war" when hyraulic mining came. Columbia survived fires, and the brutality of the Foreign Miner’s Tax, meant to chase Spanish speaking immigrants from the gold claims, but it couldn’t survive the end of the gold.

California budget destination gold rush photoBy 1853 Columbia was one of the largest cities in California with as many as 30,000 residents in the nearby area. By the 1860’s most of the gold had been mined out. Miners tore down buildings and mined the lots underneath. But after less than 18 years this bustling vibrant gold rush town called the “Gem of the Southern Mines” had been reduced to near ghost town status. Never completely abandoned but located off the main highway State Route 49 known as the 49er highway, Columbia avoided the modern city development of other gold rush era towns. Nearly vacant, its buildings run down and ignored by the world, the town became a State Park in 1945, often used by movie companies for westerns. The streets of Columbia were used in “High Noon”, Clint Eastwood’s “Pale Rider” and a few dozen others along with the nearby historic steam rail in nearby Jamestown (see Movie Railtown 1897) .

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Fallon House Hotel Theater Columbia photoFor those looking for a journey back to golden era California and living history, Columbia, now a preserved historic town is the largest collection of gold rush buildings remaining in California’s gold country, recognizable for their unique red brick construction with heavy iron doors. A perfect vacation destination for familes and anyone interested in the colorful time in American history. A stage coach runs daily from in front of the Well Fargo Express office on Main St.. Sip Sasparilla from the tap of the St. Charles Saloon, watch the blacksmith pound red hot iron at the Parrott Blacksmith shop, and pan for gold along the still remaining flumes.

The first weekend in June a replica of the original tent town of 1852 is opened with costumed docents enacting the parts of miners and businessmen of the time at the”Columbia Diggin’s” and Gold Rush Days every second Saturday of the month.

City Hotel Columbia CA photoFor those that want to stay in 1850s style, there are two hotels in Columbia dating from the original times. The City Hotel and the Fallon House Hotel are both operated by Forever Resorts with a gourmet restaurant at the City Hotel and the Fallon House Theater connected to the Fallon Hotel where local plays are performed. The hotels offer a Couples Getaway romantic package including lodging, theater, champagne, ice cream, salon nightcap and breakfast for $210-265 per couple. Regular room rates are $85-140. City Hotel

Nearby are the gold rush era towns, Sonora the central town of the southern Sierra gold rush mines, Murphy’s now a popular and growing varietal wine area with 40 wineries offering tasting and tour events (see
Liquid Gold in California’s Gold Country
), the town of Angel’s Camp made famous by Mark Twain’s “Jumping Frog of Calaveras Country” (see Gold Rush, Wine and Jumping Frogs), California Big Trees State Park and the New Melones Lake recreation area. Parking is free at Columbia State Park and there is no admission charge.
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