Exploring Gold Rush Ghost Towns in California’s Sierra Nevada

Exploring Gold Rush Ghost Towns in California’s Sierra Nevada

Hubby and I just returned from a trip to California, where we spent three phone- and internet-free days rafting the Tuolumne River, with an extra day and a half for our ghost-town hunting hobby. Since the rafting photos aren’t ready yet, I’ll blog first about the ghost towns, both of which are in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The story of Columbia, California starts with a couple ordinary guys who camped in a meadow and happened to get caught in one of the area’s rare rain showers. They decided to pan a small stream while they waited for their clothing and belongings to dry. They immediately found gold, and the rush was on.

Much of the town’s history has to do with lack of water and fire, but I won’t go into all that. (Here’s info about the annual re-enactment as well as park information.)

What’s unique about Columbia, California, today is that the state has protected the area (as a state park) and funded restoration projects. Today, small, unique businesses rent out the old storefronts (I especially liked the old-fashioned candy store!), the Wells Fargo building still has a stagecoach, and the Fallon House still rents rooms and is the home of a lively theatre company. The town is truly “stuck” in the 1850s – and I am impressed that the state of California has supported this old gold rush town.

Volcano, California, was more of a “true” ghost town, as evidenced by the smattering of completely fallen-in buildings. The highlight of our visit to Volcano was the old (unoccupied and in-need-of-repair) hotel; a sign on the door was a “Notice of Change of Ownership” (no, we didn’t trespass!) It made me curious, so I googled it upon my return. Turns out the St. George Hotel has a history of paranormal (ghost) activity. Fascinating! Wonder what the new owners will do with it. There is a cavern/cave offering tours only a few miles from the town, so who knows? It could work. At any rate, it was great fodder for my creative writer mind.

To see photos of Columbia and Volcano, click here (you will need to “fan” my Facebook page).

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