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Nevada County  Visitor Information: 

An area rich in historic gold rush memorabilia and the traditional charm of Old West hospitality, Nevada City and Grass Valley reflect the original beauty of legendary days of the past. Nevada City, originally called “Deer Creek Dry Diggins” by its early settlers has many restored buildings, shops, carriage rides and local wineries. Grass Valley's Northstar and Empire Mines were truly the largest producing mines in the west for hard rock gold. True to the appellation “Queen City of the Northern Mines” Nevada City is an active center, including The Miner’s Foundry Cultural Center located on Spring Street which presents many major events for the area. KVMR FM is supported by a crew of volunteers and beams its signal all the way to the Sacramento Valley. The Nevada Theatre built in 1865, the oldest continuous running theatre in California is invariably well attended for theater productions, films and events.

Nevada City: Historic District, Shops, Restaurants. The Queen City of the Northern Mines. A story-book town that holds its place among the historic revival phenomena of the Gold Rush period. Picturesque with Victorian homes. It's streets are erratic miners' trails coming down from the hills.
• Firehouse Museum No.1 214 Main St. 265-5468. Indian and mining era artifacts.
• Searls Historical Library214 Church St. 265-5910. By appointment.
• Miners' Foundry Cultural Center 325 Spring St. 265-5040. Stone building (1856)
• Nevada Theater 401 Broad St. 265-6161. Oldest surviving theater in CA.
• National Hotel 211 Broad St. 265-4551. Oldest running hotel in CA.

Grass Valley: Historic District, Shops, Restaurants. Streets originally built for horse and buggies, are quite narrow. The Empire Mine nearby stands as the areas most profitable mining operation, once visited by great dignitaries.
• Northstar Mining Allison Ranch Rd. & Mc Courtney Rd. 273-4255. Seasonal Museum tours of mining and powerhouse exhibit.
• Grass Valley Museum St. Joseph's Cultural Center, Church & Chapel St. 272-8188.
• Lola Montez Home 248 Mill St. 273-4667.
• Holbrooke Hotel 212 W. Main St. 530/273-1353. Built in 1852, this hotel has lodged many famous visitors.

Penn Valley: Small hamlet near Lake Wildwood, a popular private resort and residential area. Museum of Ancient 530.432.3080 Ancient cultures, impressionists, and Modern Art, African, historical art. Daily Wildwood Business Ctr 

Rising Star Ranch photos by Tabitha Mouck

Rough and Ready: Historic District, Shops, Restaurants. A small town Rough and Ready was once a busy mining town. After the fires of 1856 and 1859 had all but wiped out the place, only twenty-four houses were left in the town. A few older buildings still stand. The Fippin blacksmith shop, is on the left of the road towards Grass Valley off Hwy 20. Known for its attempted secession from the Union in 1850.

Rollins Reservoir: Rollins Lake Waterskiing, fishing and most types of water recreation. 800 acre lake east of Nevada City and Grass Valley. Boat ramps available. Rainbow and brown trout, largemouth and smallmouth bass, with very large catfish and smaller warm-eater varieties including bluegills and sunfish. Access from Highway 174 between Grass Valley and Colfax. Access off Highway 174 between Grass Valley and Colfax.
Scotts Flat Reservoir: Boating, Swimming, Fishing. Boat rentals available with concrete boat launching ramp, and marina in operation. Rainbow and brown trout, smallmouth and large mouth bass and kokanee. Complete boat-launching facilities are available. Access off Highway 20 east of Nevada City.

Whitewater:South Yuba (Washington to Edwards Crossing). This Class III and Class IV whitewater run is a very accessible reach of the South Yuba River. Characterized by gravel bars; with bedrock and a boulder gorge. Access at the Washington Road Bridge just north of Washington.

South Yuba (Edwards Crossing to Purdon Crossing). This section of the So. Yuba River available only when river flows are high (350 cubic feet per second or more). The river is Class II and Class IV whitewater, and is used only by groups of well-skilled boaters. Access at Edwards Crossing on North Bloomfield Road north of Nevada City.

Swimming:Kelcher and Golden Quartz picnic areas. The So. Yuba River provides swimming, season runs July through September. Both picnic areas are upstream on the So. Yuba from Washington; cross the bridge at the north side of Washington and turn right.

Blair Lake This lake in Malakoff Diggins State Park provides swimming July through September. Access via North Bloomfield Rd. north of Nevada City or Tyler Foote Crossing east of North San Juan.

Highway 49's Nevada City/Grass Valley are an hour’s drive from Sacramento or Lake Tahoe. Towns along the Golden Chain invite visitors to take a step back to the days of discovery and California’s 1849 gold rush.

Exploring Grass Valley and Nevada City
The calendar may say 2005, but all around the Northern Sierra Gold Rush towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley it looks, feels and even sounds like the 1850s.

A trend in historical tourism is bringing more visitors to scenic and history-rich Nevada County on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada, between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. The peaceful towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley are located just five miles apart, far from the busy interstate highway system, along the northern reaches of Highway 49, the state’s “Golden Chain Highway.”

Here, amid deep green forests at the 2500-foot elevation, visitors can explore quaint villages with fine examples of restored Victorian architecture, museums filled with gold mining, railroad and Donner Party memorabilia, and living history demonstrations where costumed characters step from the past.

Through the years artists and musicians have been drawn to the area and Grass Valley and Nevada City have evolved into a Sierra foothills entertainment center. Arts and culture abound and live music can be found just about every evening. Concerts, festivals, parades, even the second oldest bicycle race in America can be found here every summer.

The area boasts several hotels, including the Holbrooke and National -- two of the state’s oldest -- more than a dozen historic bed and breakfast inns and a number of quality restaurants.

Downtown Historic Districts
Preserved and restored Gold Rush buildings with unique specialty shops and restaurants fill the robust and lively historic districts of each town. Downtown Nevada City, with 93 buildings, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Horsedrawn carriage rides and railroad tours are available in Nevada City. Three wine tasting rooms are offered in each of the towns.

Historical Sites and Activities
Once California’s richest gold mine, the Empire Mine produced an estimated 5.8 million ounces of gold in more than 100 years of operation and is now an 800-acre state park at the edge of Grass Valley. Tours are offered daily with living history days on most weekends. For information, call 530/273-8522. Minutes from the downtown historic districts, visitors will find bounteous opportunities for outdoor recreation, including camping, fishing, golf, hiking and mountain biking.

South Yuba River State Park. The state’s first river corridor park is headquartered at Bridgeport, site of the west’s longest single-span covered bridge. Visitors may take part in tours, bird walks, wildflower walks and living history days with wagon rides, gold panning and demonstrations of Native American crafts. 530/432-2546

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park operated into the mid-1880s. The hydraulic miners at Malakoff Diggins blew away entire hillsides with highly-pressurized water in their quest for gold, leading to erosion and silt in Northern California rivers and the state’s first environmental law. Visitors can tour the diggins, see the 1800s town of North Bloomfield and take part in campfire programs, historic walks and gold panning. 530/265-2740.

The North Star Mining Museum in Grass Valley offers a complete look at hard rock, underground mining history. The Firehouse Museum in Nevada City focuses on several subjects including the Donner Party. The area’s newest museum, the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad and Transportation Museum, features local and regional railroad history. On Donner Summit, a scenic 40-minute drive to the east, the Western SkiSport Museum is one of America’s foremost skiing museums.

Grass Valley and Nevada City are located in the Sierra foothills, a one-hour drive northeast of Sacramento via Interstate 80 and State Highway 49.

Time Capsules
Grass Valley’s first settlers arrived in 1848 via the Emigrant Trail over Donner Pass and lingered in a “grassy valley” along Wolf Creek. By 1867, gold-laden Grass Valley had grown into the fifth largest town in California, with a population of 12,000. Today, it is home to about 10,000.

In more than a century of gold mining, Grass Valley became the richest and most important gold mining center in California. The Empire Mine alone produced some $960 million in gold during its 107 years of operation. Today, the Empire Mine is the site of an 800-acre state park.

Grass Valley itself remains a true slice of Americana where mining tradition lives on and hometown merchants do business with a smile and handshake.

Where The Past is Always Present
Nevada City was first incorporated in 1850 and known in its early years as Nevada (Spanish for snow-covered). The city was added after the State of Nevada joined the union in 1864. Delightfully picturesque with its white church steeples, Victorian homes and brick storefronts, Nevada City is among California’s best-preserved towns. It is the county seat of Nevada County, California.

Explore the narrow streets and visit with friendly shopkeepers. Dine in award-winning restaurants, many with outdoor and creekside settings. Enjoy live music at local nightspots and live theatre on three stages.

Rough & Ready
The tiny village of Rough & Ready, seven miles west of Grass Valley, is a state historic landmark that once seceded from the United States. Local folks rebelled against a government-imposed mining tax and on Apr. 7, 1850 voted to form their own constitutional republic. However, The Great Republic of Rough & Ready lasted only until the Fourth of July when Old Glory went up the flagpole and the whole episode became history. But it was not forgotten. Each year on the last Sunday in June, Rough & Ready hosts a unique and fun-filled Secession Day Celebration.

Penn Valley
Penn Valley began as a stage and freight wagon stop on the route between Sacramento and the northern gold country and silver mines of Nevada. The area remains rural, with cattle ranches and vineyards dotting the landscape.

Western Gateway Regional Park and Lake Wildwood, with its lake and championship golf, are nearby. The fire department hosts the Penn Valley Rodeo every April.

This is the site of what is believed to be the longest single-span covered bridge in the U.S. The 253-foot-long wooden structure was built in 1862 to carry wagons across the South Yuba River. Today the bridge is a centerpiece of a river recreation area operated by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Popular for swimming and sunning in the summer, the area offers a network of year-around hiking trails and features some of the Sierra foothills’ best wildflowers in the spring. Bridgeport is reached from Grass Valley via westbound Highway 20 and northbound Pleasant Valley Road. It’s a 14-mile drive.

Bridgeport: Recreation, So. Fork of the Yuba River. Swimming, hiking and fishing. The oldest covered bridge in California, the bridge spans the South Yuba River.

French Corral: Historic buildings. Milton Mining and Water Company and the old Wells Fargo Express office equipped with iron doors still stand. The first long distance hook up for telephone here. North on Hwy 49 from Nevada City.

Graniteville: A severe fire swept through it in 1878, but because hydraulic-mining companies had reservoirs in the mountains above the town, Graniteville was rebuilt. Access to Jackson Meadows and Bowman Lake area.

North Columbia: Historic buildings, Cultural Center. Originally known as Columbia Hill, some older homes still stand.
• Cultural Center - 17894 Tyler Foote Rd. 265-2826.

North Bloomfield: Historic buildings completely renovated as a museum, located where huge hydraulic canyons washed away the soil over 100 years ago. Malakoff Diggins State Pk. - N. Bloomfield, 265-2740. Tours, exhibits of authentic mining town.

North San Juan: Historic buildings. One block of picturesque old buildings and scattered homes is the remnant of a city with boasted a population of several thousand in the 1880's.

Nevada County Winter sports
Steephollow 8 miles of cross-country ski trails from easy to moderate difficulty. Moderate slopes and elevation near 5,000 feet. The trailhead is at Alpha Omega Rest Stop -17 miles east of Nevada City.

Nevada County Water Sports
Bowman Lake:
A rough but passable road leading to camping, boating, swimming, fishing, hiking and biking. Lakes and creeks with rainbow, brown and redband trout. Fuller Lake is planted with rainbow trout and good for bank fishing; Blue Lake, for fingerling rainbows and browns; and Fordyce Creek, carries small numbers of natural rainbow and brook trout. Access from Highway 20 east of Nevada City.

Englebright Reservoir: Waterskiing, fishing and most types of water recreation. Houseboat rentals available, and a private marina is operational. Access off Highway 20 west of Grass Valley on Mooney Flat Road. Near western boundary of Nevada County stocked with rainbow trout, also brown trout. Warm-water fish include largemouth and smallmouth bass, channel catfish and bluegills. Access from Highway 20 west from Grass Valley to Mooney Flat Road.

Bullards Bar Reservoir: Lake is stocked with McCourtney rainbow trout and Kokanee, a landlocked sockeye salmon. Warm-water species include bass, catfish, and sunfish. Access from Highway 49 north of Nevada City, turn west on Marysville Road or Moonshine Rd.

Truckee: Historic District, Shops, Restaurants Many old buildings stand, now housing an active shopping and activity area. Access to Lake Tahoe, north shore. Emigrant Trail Museum Donner Memorial Park, Picnicking, swimming, camping, hiking.

Norden: Cross Country Ski, hiking Off Interstate 80.

Soda Springs: Cross Country Ski, Recreation area. Off Interstate 80.

Boca: Campsites, swimming, fishing and boating. Off Hwy 89.

Bowman Lake: Campsites, swimming, fishing. Hwy 20 near Interstate 80.

Donner Memorial Campsites, swimming, fishing and boating. The Donner Party tragedy occurred during the winter of 1846-1847. Of the eighty-one persons who began the winter at Donner Lake and on Alder Creek, thirty six perished in one of the worst snow storms in thirty years. A tablet was placed on Emigrant Trail by the Historic Landmarks Committee which describes the route then followed.

Western America Skisport - Off I-80., 426-3313 Offers history of skiing exhibits over 100 years. Ski films. Tues-Sun 11am-5pm.

Washington Restaurants, Yuba River access, rafting, kayaks. Situated on the bank of the So. Yuba River. Just outside the town are immense piles of huge granite boulders carried there stone by stone by patient Chinese miners from Gold Rush days.

Yuba Gap Sno-Park: Access to marked cross-country ski trails. Snowmobile tours are available. Access on the Yuba Gap exit from Interstate 80.

Cisco Grove Sno-Park: Snowmobile trails. Also available is a small snow play. Access on the Cisco Grove exit from Interstate 80.

Big Bend: Snow play, cross country skiing and snowmobiling. Trails aren’t marked; use Cisco Grove and Soda Springs topographic maps for reference. Easy to moderately difficult, elevations from 5,700 feet to 7,000 feet. Access from Big Bend exit off Interstate 80; trailhead is approximately a half-mile from the exit on Hampshire Rocks Road.

Donner Summit: Sno-Park Cross-country ski area. No snow play is available. Access is through the Castle Peak exit from Interstate 80, just beyond the Boreal Inn on the south side of the freeway.

Donner Lake: Sno-Park Marked ski trails to Donner Lake and Donner Party Historic Sites. No sledding or snowmobiles. Access is on Donner Lake exit from Interstate 80, on Donner Pass Road south of the freeway.
Prosser OHV Trailhead: Numerous unmarked routes for snowmobilers going through the Prosser Hill area. Gently rolling, at 6,000 feet. Access is off Highway 89 four miles north of Truckee.

Downhill skiing at Donner Summit: Boreal with its two triple-chair, seven double-chair and one quad chair lifts. Beginners, intermediate, advanced. Soda Springs Ski Area with its one double-chair and one triple-chair lifts. Beginners, intermediate advanced. Snow Bowl at Norden with its four double chair, one gondola, one access chair and two quad chair lifts. Beginners, intermediate, advanced.

Donner Lake Piers and boat launching facilities. Mackinaw trout and rainbow trout are planted each year. Access from Interstate 80 west of Truckee.

Grouse Ridge area: Big Island Lake provides lake trout; Round Lake, Mile Lake and Long Lake, are planted with rainbows. Access off Bowman Lake Road, at Highway 20 east of Nevada City.

Jackson Meadows: Access to camping, boating, swimming, fishing, hiking and biking. Road connecting to Sierra City near Hwy 89 west of Truckee. Fingerling trout planted. Brown trout up to 14 pounds have been caught. Lake of the Woods is for those seeking large brown trout as well as rainbows. Access to either lake via Henness Pass Road. From Sierra City east of Truckee off Hwy 89.

Lake Spaulding: Boat launching and swimming are available at this lake and nearby Lake Fuller. Access is from Highway 20 near the intersection with Interstate 80 east of Nevada City.

Tahoe-Pacific State Heritage Corridor

Conceived in honor of John Muir's 1868 San Francisco-Yosemite Walk, naturalist John Olmsted has implemented the California Landscapes Trail and the Heritage Necklace, which consists of “beads” of State Reserves, Nature Centers, and Ecological Reserves and includes:

So. Yuba Independence Trail: Hwy 49 6 mi. N. of Nevada City with 4 miles of All-Access Wilderness Trail following an 1859 Gold Canal. Flower and school tours; disability camping. 916/272-3823.

So. Yuba Trail Project - Tahoe Nat. Forest: Hwy 49 6 mi. N. of Purdon Rd. 13 miles between Humbug Creek and Washington connecting 15mi. BLM trail from Purdon Crossing. 916/432-2546.

Foothill Reserve, Little Yuba Powerhouse: 4 miles N. of Hwy 20/Park Bar, Birthplace of PG&E. 80 acre/by appt. 916/BRIDGES.

Bridgeport Bridge / So. Yuba Project: 8 miles N. on Pleasant Valley Rd. from Hwy 20. Longest single span wooden covered bridge. Sierra Gateway Trail and others. 916/432-2546.

Bear Valley / Sierra Discovery Trail: Bowman Lake Rd. 0.3 mi N. from Hwy 20. Open air visitor Center, scenic creek, 2/3 mi. trail, great signage. Old growth Ponderosa Pines. May - Oct 916/386-5164.

Nevada City Bike Classic

by Jamie Bate

Suffering is part of racing the annual Nevada City Bicycle Classic, but visiting the historic town during the annual Father’s Day event is always a pleasure.

Pack hundreds of single-minded Pro-Am bicycle racers, 50+mile-an-hour descents and harrowing hairpin turns into the narrow streets of a historic Gold Rush town and you get the granddaddy of American bicycle racing: The 45th annual Nevada City Classic.
Greg LeMond and Lance Armstrong honed their skills and legs on the hilly streets of Nevada City before they conquered the Tour De France. Along with the dynamic duo of American cycling the pedigree of the race is enough to cause any self-respecting bike fan’s pulse to quicken. Tyler Hamilton, Levi Leipheimer, Bob Roll, Chris Carmichael, Andy Hampsten, Alexi Grewal, Eric Heiden, Tony Cruz, Scott Moninger and other cycling luminaries all have agonized on the Classic’s unforgiving circuit.

But even star power has a hard time competing in the event, festivities? and the charm of Nevada City, a California Gold Rush town known as the “Queen of the of the Northern Mines.”

The Classic is one of the oldest Pro/Am bicycle races in the nation. At 154 years, Nevada City is a historic, funky town filled with Victorian homes, eclectic shops, antique stores, superb restaurants and a positive cycling vibe. The two together make for a great event to race or just grab a cold glass of beer or wine and find a shady spot to holler encouragement?along with the thousands of other spectators-as the racers pump up hills and fly down Broad St. fast, and very-fast.

Along with the race’s cycling expo showcasing dozens of cycling manufacturers and a giant inflatable jumping arena for the kids, Nevada City has plenty to offer those adults who may not be as gung-ho about cycling as their significant others. For directions and event or lodging information check out, or the Nevada?City Chamber of Commerce site at, or call 800/655-6569 or 530/265-2692.


Treasures of the Gold Country

January 24, 1848, marked James Wilson Marshall’s discovery of gold at a sawmill in Coloma California, sparking the greatest migration in human history. One month after Washington’s official recognition of Marshall’s discovery, in which President Polk acknowledged significant gold finds in California, 8,000 prospectors had flooded the area, determined to seek their fortunes. Before the Gold Rush was over, about a decade later, it is estimated that more than 80,000 intrepid adventurers had arrived from every corner of the world.

During the Gold Rush, Amador produced more gold than any other county in the Mother Lode, and was home to 8 mining camps, most of which ran roughly north to south on what we now know as Highway 49. In the twelve miles between Middlebar and Plymouth, more than 45 mines operated at one time or another, including the famous Kennedy and Argonaut mines which produced more than half the gold mined in the Mother Lode.

With significant wealth flowing through the area, what had been mining camps soon evolved into bustling communities which today are well-preserved historic towns much visited by tourists. Probably the most picturesque of these is Sutter Creek, located in the middle of the county on Highway 49, just north of the Highway 88 interchange and described by Sunset magazine in a January 2004 article as “the best place in California to live.”

Amador County maintains its connections to the mining industry that gave it life with three very different locations that are well worth visiting to obtain a rounded view of the history of the area; the Amador County Museum, the Kennedy Gold Mine, and Sutter Gold Mine.

Located at 225 Church Street in Jackson, the Amador County museum is located in a building which was built as a residence in 1853 by one of the town’s earliest settlers. Besides housing displays on the gold history of the county, the 15-room museum contains collections on early fashions, Chinese Americans and Native Americans. Open 10 am - 4 pm Wednesdays through Sundays, the museum can be reached at 209-223-6386 for group reservations.

Continuously run from 1886 until its closure (due to WWII) in 1942, the Kennedy Mine in Jackson produced approximately $34,280,000.00 worth of gold, and was one of the deepest mines in the world. 1-1/2 hour surface tours of this fascinating, historic mine are given March through October, weekends and holidays. More information can be obtained from their web site at, by calling 209-223-9542 or emailing

Sutter Gold Mine is a modern hard rock mine located on historic Highway 49 just north of Sutter Creek at the site of several historic mines. These include the Lincoln Mine from which Leland Stanford made his fortune enabling him to found Stanford University and to partner in financing the Central Pacific Railroad. Sutter Gold Mine, although originally developed for gold extraction in the late 1980s is now open exclusively for one hour underground tours for the general public. Visitors board an open topped mine vehicle called a Boss Buggy Shuttle and journey over 1800 feet underground past displays of current and historic mining equipment. Disembarking to traverse through the excavated quartz vein structure of the Mother Lode, visitors learn about gold mining through the ages, the geology of the Gold Country and the uses of gold, from their informative and entertaining guides. Tours are available every day, year round from 9 am to 5 pm daily May through August, and from 10 am to 4 pm daily from September - April. Above ground activities include gold panning, gemstone mining, browsing the Gold Store and watching movies on the history of the Gold Rush in the Gold Theatre. More information can be obtained at or by calling 209-736-2708 or toll free 866-762-2837. Group tours and specialized school tours are available by reservation in advance.

For more information on California’s Gold Rush visit:


Fish Camp & Yosemite

An exciting 4-mile railroad excursion at Yosemite Park’s south gate on State Highway 41. Ride into history where powerful locomotives once hauled massive log trains through the Sierra mountains. The mighty lumberjacks felled the timber and flumes carried lumber to the distant valley below. The Sierra National Forest’s majestic woods provide the backdrop for the narrow gauge journey back in time. Sounds and scenes from the era of steam powered railroad logging come to life at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad south of Yosemite National Park. From 1899 to 1931, the Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company operated miles of narrow gauge railroad track. During that time, nearly one and a half billion board feet of lumber were harvested from the forests. Five wood burning Shay locomotives hauled massive log trains to the mill over the extensive rail network.

Today, the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad is a restoration of the old narrow gauge Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company Railroad. A section of the original railbed has been reconstructed using the same techniques used at the turn of the century. Two vintage Shay steam locomotives have been brought in from the Westside Lumber company and restored to provide authentic motive power for the trains.

Shay Number 15 was built in 1913 and weighs 60 tons. Number 10, built in 1928 weighs 83 tons and is the heavest operating narrow guage Shay locomotive today. Railcars once used to provide transportation for logging and track repair crews have been refurbished and are now operated for passenger excursion. Visit Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad in Fish Camp, CA, or call: 559/683-7273.



Take the now popular concept of speed dating and combine it with a thrilling underground caving expedition complete with 165-foot rope rappel, and you get Sierra Nevada Recreation Corporation (SNRC's) new Adventure Dating experience, the high adrenalin antidote to the Same Old Singles Scene.

“We put this program together to resolve some common problems with traditional blind dating scenarios, and to make it really fun,” says Lisa Boulton, SNRC’s marketing director: With Adventure Dating, you know that everyone who signed up has at least several things in common with you: love of the outdoors, an adventurous spirit, and availability. Also, you get to see potential mates really up close and personal in the challenging Adventure Trip part of the evening. Who's a team player? Who likes to be the center of attention? Who's the prankster? Additionally, in the two speed dating parts of the evening, you get to meet EVERYONE of the opposite sex, not just the people with the confidence to walk up and introduce themselves at a party, not just the people who are initially attracted to you. This broadens the field and allows equal opportunity to impress and be impressed. Finally, at the end of the evening, we discreetly provide each participant with the names and phone numbers of people who had a reciprocal interest in them. That way, there's no guessing - and that's valuable information. The cost is $150 per person and includes 2 speed dating sessions, a professionally guided, highly charged 3-hour caving expedition with the rappel at Moaning Cavern, or the challenging 5-hour Middle Earth Expedition at California Cavern and dinner under the stars. Call 209-736-2708 or toll free 866-762-2837 for more information, or check out for details and pictures. The first Adventure Dating session will take place on June 26, 2004 at Moaning Cavern, and will then be offered about once a month at one of the two loctions.

Applicants must be over age 21, in good health and have no claustrophobia or fear of heights. No experience of caving/rappelling is necessary. Apply via e-mail at:; provide full name, age, gender, sexual preference, complete contact information and availability for future dates. SNRC has been conducting its popular Adventure Trips in Moaning Cavern since 1984.


Black Chasm Volcano

Volcano is the name of a little Amador County village nestled in the foothills of California’s Gold Country. Once it was a bustling gold mining community with a population of thousands including 24-year old Indiana native, John Doble, who arrived in town on Sunday, June 27, 1852. His journal & correspondence from 1851-1865 are published as “John Doble’s Journal & Letters from the Mines” by Volcano Press A fascinating, informal look at everyday life in the rough and ready times of early California, the book is delightful and informative. It tells us of Volcano in its earliest days when scuffles at the saloon could be deadly; when working mining claims was tedious and equipment was overpriced and hard to come by.

Volcano has mellowed over time, becoming incredibly picturesque. Nestled in a valley circled by undulating hills covered in oaks and pines, the two remaining hotels offer charming accommodation, gourmet dining and cheerful, friendly bars.

One of those hotels is run by husband and wife team Laurie and Mathew Hedger. Originally housing quarters for 11 miners, the 1880 Volcano Union Inn now offers four delightful, themed rooms to visitors, a full service restaurant, street side bistro, and the Village Tavern specializing in local wines and international beers. Amador County native, Laurie, describes the Hedgers’ purchase of the inn as a serendipitous moment: “Last year, on the day of my retirement from 31 years in the resort business, I was driving through Volcano, which had always been one of my favorite places, when I noticed that the Volcano Union Inn was for sale. On April Fool’s Day we made an offer. Escrow closed on June 8th, and we were open for business in less than a month.” You can contact them by phone at 209-296-7711.

A mile or two outside Volcano, Black Chasm Cavern, National Natural Landmark makes an excellent outing. Originally discovered by Gold Rush miners who made a hair-raising descent into the cave, documented by a local journalist, Black Chasm was little visited until it was purchased by Sierra Nevada Recreation Corporation and opened for public tours.

The cave was named a National Natural Landmark in 1976 by the National Park Service for its outstanding geological significance. Particularly noteworthy are the masses of helictite crystals in areas of the Landmark Room. Unlike stalactites and stalagmites, these formations are not created by dripping water leaving calcite deposits, but by water under pressure pushing through tiny holes in the rock walls. Delicate, 6-sided calcite crystals deposit haphazardly, twisting out from the walls, seemingly defying gravity, looking much like cooked spaghetti growing sideways out of the walls. These formations are very rare and those on display at Black Chasm are incredible.

The cave has only been open to the public since 2001, when Sierra Nevada Recreation and president Steve Fairchild, completed the first phase of their daring engineering feat to build platforms, stairs and walkways suspended 70 feet from the bottom of the Colossal Chamber, while preserving the natural beauty of the cave. Last year, Fairchild saw the completion of his beautiful design for a large visitor center, fulfilling his dreams for this cavern he had long wanted to own and protect. Possible future plans for this site include a climbing wall at the visitor center, and a forest canopy walk, adding to the already popular gemstone mining and nature hike. 45-minute guided tours are offered daily, year round. More information can be obtained from or by calling toll free 866-762-2837.

Nearby in Sutter Creek is Sutter Gold Mine, also run by Sierra Nevada Recreation - a modern gold mine in which visitors can spend an hour learning about gold mining and the geology of the Mother Lode. Wearing required hardhats, participants are driven over 1800 feet into the mine in an open topped vehicle called a Boss Buggy Shuttle. The tour continues with a walk through the Comet Zone drift where gold bearing quartz has been excavated and mining equipment is displayed and explained. Above ground visitors can enjoy gemstone mining and gold panning outside, and free movies in the Gold Theatre.

One hour tours at Sutter Gold Mine are available daily, year round. For more information visit their website at or call toll free 888-818-7462.

Mercer Caverns, world famous for the rare Aragonite flos ferri, celebrated its one hundredth year of discovery and operation on September 1, 1985. It is the longest continually operating commercial caverns tour in the state of California. The owners have guest books signed by paying customers - dating back to September of 1885 to present - indicating that visitors were welcome at Mercer Caverns every year since its discovery.

Thousands and thousands (the first of whom descended on ropes) have enjoyed and marveled at this three million year old cave - including royalty and a president. Mercer Caverns has up-dated the stairs, walkways and lighting though always cognizant of its responsibility to present this living limestone cave in its original beauty. The management has carefully protected and preserved these ancient formations and presented this gift of nature in such a historical manner that the significance of its value makes a lasting impression upon all who visit.

The cave was originally used by a prehistoric Indian Tribe called the Yokuts as a mortuary cave. They would bring bodies to the opening and let them roll down inside. Because such a site was sacred, no one was allowed to enter. The Yokuts were hunters and when the game was gone they moved camp. Slowly over the years, the entrance filled with dirt, leaves and rocks and was completely lost until the year of 1885.

Mercer Caverns is State Historic Landmark 004, preserved for travelers to enjoy when visiting the Gold Country. When traveling via Highway 49, follow Highway 4 to the quaint town of Murphys, which offers lodging and wineries to visit. From Highway 4 take the Murphys Business District Exit through to town, right on Sheep Ranch Road.

Amador County

Heart of the Mother Lode, sweeps from the rolling foothills to the towering Sierra Nevada Mountains with elevations ranging from 200 to 9,000 feet above sea level.

Amador Visitor Information:

Amador County Chamber of Commerce P.O. Box 596, Jackson 95642 209/223-0350

Amador City: Historic District & Landmarks, Restaurants, Antique/Specialty Shops
• A mining center in 1848. Smallest incorporated town in the State and settled in 1851, 24 existing buildings in their original state may be seen on an historic walking tour.
• Mine House Inn built in 1867 as headquarters for the Keystone Mine, now an historic Bed and Breakfast (800/MINE-HSE).
• Imperial Hotel, originally built as a mercantile store, opened as an hotel in 1879. Careful restoration with six individually decorated rooms, bar and elegant dining room service welcome guests today.
• Sutter Gold Mine offers mine tours all year. 866/762-2837

Drytown: Historic Sites, Motel, Cafe, Antique Shops
• Old mining town which began in 1848 was nearly destroyed by fire in 1857. Two old buildings still stand, an old store and the Town Hall.
• 1871 Drytown Schoolhouse, now the Community Hall.

Daffodil Hill: Historic Building/Site, Beautiful Vista
• An aging, private historic ranch most of the year, Daffodil Hill becomes “Gold in Bloom” each Spring with over 300,000 bulbs and 300 varieties in a 4 acre garden that began with plantings in 1887. The ranch is open to the public when flowers are in bloom from the end of March through the first three weeks of April. The ranch has been owned by the same family since 1887 and is located on the old Amador-Nevada Wagon Road (Hwy. 88).

Fiddletown: Historic buildings, General Store, Park. First settled in 1849 by a party of Missourians, and aptly named since they were “always fiddling”, This picturesque village’s name was immortalized in Bret Harte’s story, “An Episode of Fiddletown.” “Chew Kee”, a Chinese rammed earth structure built in the 1850’s, was an herb and medicinal shop during the Gold Rush. Intact as museum of Chinese relics and artifacts
• Puriton Home, Main St.
• The Forge
• The Old Chinese Gambling House
• The General Store (1850) is still in operation.

Ione: Historic Buildings, Nearby Recreation Areas
• Fertile Ione Valley with numerous vintage homes, churches, and stores. Lake Camanche: The generous fish stocking program enables the angler, with or without a boat, year-round fishing for trout, catfish, blackbass, crappie and perch. Boat rentals, berthing, and boat ramps are available form either side of this lake, dotted with islands where boat fishers may pull up and try bottom fishing successfully if they find trolling on the slow side. Stocked trout pond, boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, hiking, riding, camping. 209/763-5178.

Jackson: Historic buildings, Restaurants, Lodging, Antiques. Amador County seat, Jackson is rich in old buildings reminiscent of the Gold Rush camp of 1848 with over 20 vintage homes visible on a walking tour.
• The National Hotel, State’s oldest hostelry (1862), tavern & restaurant.

Martell: Historic Sites
• Mammoth Kennedy Tailing Wheels used to move mining tailings can be viewed at Kennedy Wheels Park. Picnic facilities. Amador County Museum, an 1859 vintage home, shows Mother Lode memorabilia, operating Kennedy Wheels. Open Wed. - Sun. 10 - 4. 225 Church Street. 209/223-6386.

Pine Grove: Historic Buildings, Camping, Recreation, Lodging Pine Grove Hotel originally built as stage stop.

Indian Grinding Rock State Park:
14881 Pine Grove/Volcano Rd. Pine Grove 209/296-7488
• 135 acres of trails, reconstructed village of the Northern Miwok, and Chaw se Regional Indian Museum. Museum hours are: 11-3 Mon-Fri; 10-4 Sat-Sun. Chaw’se is the native name for the mortar holes in the adjacent limestone outcropping. It is covered with 363 petroglyphs. Nun ge (roundhouse) constructed recently at site is used for meetings and religious activities. Camping available year round, subject to closure during heavy snowfall.

Pioneer: Historic Area, Recreation Area
• Cedar Pencil capital and first of several stage stops leading to El Dorado National Forest.
• Mace Meadows Golf Course
• Cook’s Station

Plymouth: Historic Sites, Restaurants, Lodging, Wineries
• This old mining town was located along the stage route to Sacramento. Plymouth’s rich quartz lodes drew many miners, it remains a busy town today.
• Ming’s Store (1880)
• I.O.O.F. Hall (1877)
• Historic D’Agostini Winery (1856) 10am-5pm Daily except national holidays. Shenandoah Valley Museum at Sobon Estate Winery displays farm furniture and kitchen artifacts, wagon, early spinning tools.

Sutter Creek: Historic Buildings, Inns, Restaurants, Antique Shops
• John A. Sutter was the first to mine this locality in 1848. Quartz gold was discovered here in 1851, and the Central Eureka mine became the best paying mine of the Mother Lode. It remains a thriving mining town. Walking tours and day trips visit over 60 historical places of interest. Knight's Foundry the only water-powered foundry operating in the U.S. since 1873. The Knight Foundry; 81 Eureka Street, Sutter Creek.

Silver Lake: 50 miles east of Jackson and 45 miles south of Lake Tahoe on Hwy 88. Kit Carson Lodge offers Accommodations, Fine Dining, General Store, Art Gallery and Recreation.

Sutter Hill: Historic Site
• Old Eureka Mine gallus frame visible.

Volcano: Historic Sites & Buildings
• Located at the bottom of a deep cup in the mountains, Volcano was famous for its many saloons, dance halls and churches. Today this flavor of the Gold Rush is retained. Rich hydraulic mining district and large mining settlement in the Gold Rush Era.
• Volcano Theatre Co. productions at the Cobblestone Theatre, an historic 1857 stone building.
• St. George Hotel, a National Historic Registry Place, built in 1862 was tallest and most elegant hotel existing in the Mother Lode.
• Stone Brewery, 1856.

Pardee Reservoir Recreation Area Warm water fishing in reservoir, trout stocked weekly in season. Fishing, boating, swimming in pool, bicycling, picnicking, riding, and camping.

New Melones Lake: Marina Rental houseboats, fishing, recreation area home to eagle, heron, cormorant and grebe and hundreds of species of wildlife.

Lake Camanche: The generous fish stocking program enables the angler, with or without a boat, year-round fishing for trout, catfish, blackbass, crappie and perch. Boat rentals, berthing, and boat ramps are available form either side of this lake, dotted with islands where boat fishers may pull up and try bottom fishing successfully if they find trolling on the slow side. Stocked trout pond, boating, fishing, swimming, picnicking, hiking, riding, camping.

New Hogan Lake: Over 4,000 surface acres, includes marina, water skiing, fishing, developed, primitive and boat-in campsites. Camping w/189 developed sites, and 30 boat-in campsites. Year-round fishing for stripers, bass, crappies, bluegill and catfish. “River of Skulls” hiking trail is located below the dam at the Monte Vista Recreation Area. Monte Vista is also the staging area for an eight mile equestrian trail. Valley Springs 209/772-1462.


Calaveras County

Calaveras Visitor Information:

Calaveras Lodging and Visitor Assoc./Gold Country Visitors Assoc. P.O. Box 637, Angels Camp 95222 800/225-3764

Angels Camp: Historic Buildings, Restaurants, Lodges, Rafting
Founded in 1849 by George Angel. Home of the Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. From here Mark Twain’s frog story leaped to worldwide fame, and Bret Harte wrote, “The Luck of Roaring Camp.”
• Altaville Grammar School (1859) Hwy 49
• Utica Mansion & Utica Mine
• Carson Hill Largest gold nugget in the western hemisphere found here -195 lbs.
Angels Camp Museum exhibits steam tractor engines, blacksmith and foundry, working model of stamp mill, mining equipment, huge Overshot Water Wheel on its original site, a large carriage house with 25 carriages and carts. A rock hounds delight. 753 S. Main St. (Hwy 49), 209/736-2963.

Arnold: Hiking, Camping, Winter Snowshoeing, Cross-country Skiing, Fishing, Swimming
Calaveras Big Trees State Park, Hwy 4, 3 miles NE of Arnold. 209/795-2334. Giant Sequoia trees reach up to 325' in height with trunks twice the size of coast redwoods. Open all year, 8 miles of trails and 129 campsites. Reservations: 800/444-PARK.

Avery: Historic Buildings
• Avery Historic Hotel, built in 1850.

Cave City: California Caverns has been open since 1850 with miles of winding passages, located 10 miles E. of San Andreas off Mountain Ranch Road.

Copperopolis: Several Remaining Historic Buildings, Water Sports in nearby Lk Tulloch
• Copper was discovered here in 1860, and became the principal copper area during the Civil War. Black Bart’s first stage holdup was near here.
• I.O.O.F. Building

Dorrington: Historic Building, Recreation
• Dorrington Hotel built in 1860 was an original coach stop, now a hotel and restaurant.

Douglas Flat:
Historic Building
• Location of the Central Hill Channel, an ancient river deposit from which vast quantities of gold have been taken.
• Douglas Flat School

Mokelumne Hill: Historic District, Galleries Historic District, Galleries, Limited Lodging/Restaurants.
• “Mokelumne”, derived from a Miwuk Indian word meaning “people of the village of Mukul”, was one of the principal mining towns in California. Ruins of China Town and landmarks dating from 1851 still remain, including the famous Hotel Léger (reportedly haunted).
• Mokelumne Hill History Society, 8367 E. Center. 209/286-1770 11am - 3pm Sat. & Sun.
• IOOF Hall (1854), Main & Center Sts.
• Courthouse of Calaveras County (1852-1866) and Léger Hotel, Main St.

Murphys: Historic District, Lodging, Galleries, Wineries, Biking, Gold Panning, Recreation, River Rafting, Caverns.
• Brothers Dan and John Murphy found gold here in 1849. Famous notables such as Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, and Black Bart stayed and dined in Murphys Hotel
• Murphys Historic Hotel (Mitchler Hotel, 1855), 457 Main/Algiers Sts. 209/728-3444
• Calimbretti/Chase/Mercer House, 350 Main, built 1860, home to first American Nobel Prize winner, Albert Michelson
• Peter L. Traver Building (1856), Main St.
• Black Bart Theatre Algiers St., 209/728-3956 Mercer Caverns Off Sheepranch Rd., 1 mile from Murphys. 209/728-2101

Paloma: Historic Site
• Mined for Placer gold by 1849, for quartz by 1851, William Gwin, California’s first U.S. senator acquired the land in 1851. Gwin mine produced millions before closing in 1908.

San Andreas: Historic District, Limited Restaurants/Lodges
• In 1848 Mexican settlers named it after St. Andrew. Bandit Joaquin Murietta operated here in 1850’s. Charles Bolton wrote poems to his victims signed PO 8, and known as “Black Bart” was convicted of stage robbery and sentenced in the Courthouse. Today there is a museum and display of his jail cell.
• Gooney’s Saloon 1858, 6 N. Main. Calaveras County Museum and Archives, 30 No. Main St., 10 - 4pm daily except major holidays 209/754-6513. Calaveras County Historical Society, 30 N. Main St., Open weekdays. 209/754-1058.
Pioneer Cemetery, Hwy 12 2mi. west of San Andreas. Headstones often describe the dangers of early mining.

Vallecito: Historic Landmarks, Caverns
• Murphy brothers found gold here in 1849. Named “Little Valley” by Mexican miners. Famous Moaning Caves is nearby
• Vallecito Bell Monument, Church Street & Cemetery Lane.Vallecito
Historic Landmark
The Moaning Caverns offers a popular family attraction that is unusual and beautiful to explore. There are three types of tours and trips. A traditional walking tour takes visitors 165 feet down into the largest public underground room in California. For those who feel a bit more adventuresome Moaning Cavern offers the Rappel, and exciting 165-foot rope descent down the spectacular cavern walls. Professional guides teach you how and then safely send you down. An even more extreme tour includes rappel and spelunking throughout the passages within, recommended for 12 and over. The Caverns also offer Gemstone Mining, gift shop, picnic area, and nature trails.

Valley Springs: Historic Site
• In 1885 the busy terminus of San Joaquin and Sierra Nevada narrow-gauge railroad.

West Point Historic Buildings
• Named by scout Kit Carson in 1844. Historic trading post. West Point Trading Post, Hwy 26 & Main St.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park: Giant Sequoias, lava outcroppings, and scenic canyon on North Fork of Stanislaus River. Guided hikes, campfire talks, camping, picnicking, hiking, fishing, swimming, nature trails. Snowshoeing & cross-country skiing in Winter. 4 miles East of Arnold on Hwy 4. 209/795-2334

Ebberts Pass provides excellent recreation, scenic areas and highway. Stansilaus National Forest provides excellent recreation, scenic areas and highway travel.


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