Columbia State Historic Park

Daily 10-5.  Free.

Columbia S.H.P. a little background

In her prime, with more than 6,000 people calling her home, Columbia was one of the largest mining towns in the southern Mother Lode.  Her nickname, “Gem of the Southern Mines,” was reference to the $87 million-plus in gold mined here (a figure calculated when gold was $35 an ounce).

This reconstructed Gold Rush town of Columbia State Historic Park has been a state historic park since 1945.  Streets are blocked off to all but foot traffic and an occasional stagecoach.  A museum introduces visitors to the town’s history, and more exhibits are scattered among the many restored historic buildings.

In fact, the whole town is basically a living museum, with private concessionaires operating modern versions of businesses that were here in the 1800s. 

If it all looks familiar, note that High Noon and episodes of Little House on the Prairie were filmed here.

Main Street in Columbia State Historic Park in California's Gold Rush Country
Main Street in Columbia State Historic Park
in California’s Gold Rush Country

Columbia S.H.P. annual events

Victorian Easter Celebration in Columbia 
March or April; on Easter Sunday.  Free. 
Participants don their best 1880s attire and fanciest hat for this historical Easter parade along Main Street.  Children can participate in egg hunts (a golden egg wins a special prize), and a contest with prizes is held for the fanciest Victorian hat. 

Fireman’s Muster 
May.  Free. 
Volunteer fire crews from the western U.S. test their skills in historical fire-fighting that includes hat races, a bucket brigade, and hand-pumping.  A parade on Saturday is followed by a dance that night.

A Miners Christmas 
December; first 2 weekends.  Free. 
St. Nick arrives by stagecoach each day, and roasted chestnuts, hot camp coffee, and hot apple cider are among the culinary treats.

Matelot Gulch Mining Co. and Hidden Treasure Gold Mine
22675 Main St.  Fee.
Discovered in 1879, this mine still produces pockets of gold today.  Visitors can tour this still-operating mine, and learn to pan for gold in a salted sluice.

gold panning at Matelot Gulch Mining Co. and Hidden Treasure Gold Mine in Columbia SHP in California's Gold Rush Country
gold panning at Matelot Gulch Mining Co. and Hidden Treasure Gold Mine in Columbia SHP in California’s Gold Rush Country

Kamice’s  Photographic Establishment 
22729 Main St. Fee.
Customers don Gold Rush-era clothing for portraits, which are taken with vintage camera equipment but developed with quick modern processes. 

vintage sepia-style portrait of Meyers Family
vintage sepia-style portrait of Meyers Family

Martinez House Exhibit & Garden 
Pop into this unrefurbished house located on a side street.  You’ll see layers of wallpaper from the past, and a docent is often on had to provide some history. Free. 

exterior of Martinez House in Columbia State Historic Park in California's Gold Rush Country
exterior of Martinez House in Columbia State Historic Park in California’s Gold Rush Country

Parrott’s Blacksmith Shop 
11255 Jackson St, Free.
The blacksmith here ekes out a living practicing his craft in a ramshackle shed.

blacksmith shop at Columbia State Historic Park in California
blacksmith shop at Columbia State Historic Park in California

Quartz Mountain Stage Line 
On Main St. Fee.
Ride in an authentic stagecoach and experience travel as many gold-seekers did years ago. 

exiting a stagecoach at Columbia State Historic Park in California's Gold Rush Country
exiting a stagecoach at Columbia State Historic Park
in California’s Gold Rush Country

(www.berkeleyandbeyond2.com; copyright Carole Terwilliger Meyers)