Exploring Gold Country And The Central Valley

Located at the geographical heart of California, the Gold Country is also central to the state’s allure as the land of overnight success. Long before the gilded world of Hollywood took shape, this was a real life El Dorado, where a thick vein of solid gold, known as the Mother Lode, sat waiting to be discovered.The Gold Country is largely rural, despite being the birthplace of modern California with the Gold Rush of 1849 and the designation of Sacramento as state capital.

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Before the miners arrived, this quiet region, located on the far fringes of the Spanish colonial empire, was sparsely populated by members of the Miwok and Maidu peoples. With the discovery of gold flakes in January 1848, however, the region turned into a lawless jamboree, and by 1852 an estimated 200,000 men from all over the world were working in the mines. But by 1860 most of the region had fallen silent again, as the mining boom went bust.A few years after the Gold Rush, the region experienced another shortlived boom. The transcontinental railroad was constructed through the Sierra Nevada Mountains by low-paid laborers, many of whom were Chinese. In the early 20th century, the Central Valley became the heart of the state’s thriving agricultural industry, which today exports fruit and vegetables worldwide.

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Stretching for more than 100 miles (160 km) north to south, the region’s landscape is ideal for leisurely hikes or afternoon picnics. The Gold Country also offers one of California’s best scenic drives along Hwy 49. The route climbs up and down rocky ridges between pastoral ranch lands, lined with oak trees and crossed by fast-flowing rivers. Many of the picturesque towns it passes through, such as Sutter Creek, have survived unchanged since the Gold Rush.