gold panning at Marshall Park in ColomaOn January 24, 1848, an event occurred which would dramatically change the history of California and the United States. James Marshall discovered a gold nugget in the tail race of the sawmill that he was building for John Sutter, on the banks of the South Fork of the American River in the Coloma valley. Though he initially tried to keep it a secret, word got out and by 1849 thousands of people were migrating to California from all over the world to seek their fortunes.

Each January, Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park commemorates this event with Gold Discovery Day. When the 24th does not fall on a weekend, the Park may celebrate on a different day. See the Park website for the current day. Popular activities include a gold discovery reenactment on the banks of the American River, mill carpenter demonstrations, a Miwok Village, free wagon rides to Marshall’s Cabin, gold panning, and Gold Rush period music and entertainment. Gold Rush authors introduce their writings and sign publications at the museum store. In addition, the museum and visitor center will be open. The public is invited to all these activities, free of charge. There is a parking fee at the State Park.

Planning Your Trip

If you’re coming to Coloma for Gold Discovery Day, consider enjoying other local activities:

Not all businesses are open in January, so call ahead for reservations and hours. You’ll find phone numbers, web addresses and locations in the Coloma Valley Directory.