James W. Marshall discovered gold on the South Fork of the American River while building a sawmill with John Sutter in 1848. This is the event that triggered the greatest mass movement of people in the Western Hemisphere and the spark that ignited the spectacular growth of the West over the next few decades.
Today, though the Gold Rush has long since past, adventurous groups can see a wonderful replica of the original sawmill and more than 20 historic buildings in an authentic California ghost town. Lessons are offered to eager explorers who may then try their hand panning for gold in the scenic American River. Energetic types will enjoy rejuvenating woodland hikes or picnics in a stunning setting overlooking the picturesque river canyon, where Gold Rush pioneer James W. Marshall rests, today.
The discovery site, located in the still visible water channel of Sutter's sawmill, in present day Coloma, is one of the most significant historic sites in the nation; a landmark monument to Marshall’s discovery points to where it all began. Unique events and exhibits are scheduled throughout the year and during Living History Days visitors are treated to an entertaining and educational history lesson as the park is filled with lively docents dressed in period clothing roaming about or manning demonstration stations featuring fascinating displays of basic pioneering and woodsman skills. Guided walking tours of the 576-acre Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park are available year-round.