The Sierras have a rich history, encompassing everything from the California Gold Rush to the infamous Donner Party to the birth of American conservationism. If history is your thing, you won’t find many places in the U.S. with a richer heritage or more colorful history. Here are a few stops that every history buff should have on their itinerary . . .
- Marshall Gold Discovery State Park – When James Marshall discovered gold in the Sierra’s in 1848 it changed the fate of the state of California, and of the entire nation, forever. Marshall Gold Discovery State Park celebrates the California Goldrush, the 49ers, and gives visitors a glimpse into what life was like during one of the largest gold rushes in American history. Pan for gold, raft the American River, and see Sutter’s Mill (or what’s left of it) during your visit!
- Donner Memoria State Park and Emigrant Trail Museum – The High Sierras were the last true obstacle for emigrants crossing the continent from East to West during Western expansion, and the story of the Donner Party is a black chapter in that larger story. There’s more to this State Park than tragic tales of wagon trains, winter storms, and cannibalism, however. Soak up the history of the Native Americans who once called this region home, the story of the trans-continental railroad, and enjoy camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities in a beautiful mountain setting.
- California State Railroad Museum – If you’re a train buff, head a little bit west of the Sierra foothills to Sacramento and visit the California State Railroad Museum. Voted one of the top railroad museums in the nation, the CSRM has permanent and rotating exhibits detailing the rich history of the railroad. Be sure to finish your visit with a ride on the Sacramento Southern, a working rail line that is a museum highlight for adults and kids alike.
- Columbia State Historic Park – Step back in time and experience a day in the life of a 49er! Columbia State Historic Park boasts period costumed tour guides, stagecoach rides, a blacksmith’s forge, a Wells Fargo express office, and shops and stores where you can trade your wares and wrangle for some authentic Gold-Rush souvenirs. And don’t forget to hit the Western Saloon for some ice cold sasparilla before you mount your horse and head out on the trail.
- Lake Tahoe and the Truckee River – The Sierras have an amazing natural history as well. Water spends on average 700 years in Lake Tahoe before finding its outlet into the Truckee River. (The lake itself is about 2 million years old.) So, when you see or wade into the Truckee River, know that that water is three-quarters-of-a-millenium old….