Sutter’s Mill in Coloma – Outside the Bay
We have a 4th grader in our family this year, and in our adventures to explore the traditional 4th grade topic of California History we have wandered to areas that extend beyond the Bay Area. Still I wanted to share the places we visited for anyone who may want to make similar trips.
A big part of California history is the Gold Rush. We visited the site of Sutter’s Mill, in Marshall Gold Discovery Park, where gold was first discovered in California. Many of the buildings are reproductions, but I think the kids got more out of that than they would have by looking at ruins or something they couldn’t tell what it once was.
They have a small museum that didn’t take us more than 20 to 30 minutes to walk through, and that was at a dawdling pace, but the kids enjoyed much more than I expected them to. We went into the museum right after we finished panning for gold at the shack just across the road from the museum. The gold panning was more difficult than the kids had expected, although the instructor was very helpful and patient in helping everyone perfect their technique. Perhaps their own gold panning experience helped them appreciate the replicas of some of the gold nuggets retrieved from the river in the early days of the gold rush.
Beyond the museum and reconstructed mill and surrounding buildings, Marshall Gold Discovery Park also has hiking trails. We happened to visit on an unusually hot day, so we didn’t wander far from the historical displays, but it is an option during your trip. There were also many picnic tables available for a nice picnic lunch.
The Marshall Gold Discovery Park website mentions there being folks dressed up in period outfits there as well. We didn’t see anything like that on our visit, so perhaps they aren’t there every day. The volunteers and rangers we met were all a wealth of information and friendly, but were all dressed in uniforms or regular modern clothes.