Travel Guide to California

2017 Travel Guide to California

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160 2 0 1 7 T R A V E L G U I D E T O C A L I F O R N I A B Y J O H N F L I N N I t was a flash in the pan that changed the history of Cali- fornia, and of the world. The sparkling nugget that caught the eye of James W. Marshall as he tended a sawmill in the Sierra Nevada foothills in January 1848 set off a gold rush that drew more than 300,000 would-be prospec- tors the following year from the eastern U.S., South America, Europe, even China. They were known as the 49ers. Overnight, the Gold Rush transformed San Francisco from a sleepy port to a rollicking city and persuaded Congress to put California—wrested from Mexico by war just two years earlier—on the fast track to statehood. Most of the gold was found in a 300-mile belt that extended through the Sierra foothills, from Downieville in the north to Coarsegold in the south. Miners called it the "Mother Lode." In a state working tirelessly to invent the future, the Gold Country remains the most visible manifestation of its not- so-distant past, with towns sporting wood-plank sidewalks, swinging saloon doors, hitching posts and red-brick build- ings. (You'll quickly discover that the best preserved of these belonged to Wells Fargo and, oddly, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.) GOLD COUNTRY TOP CITIES Sacramento, Sonora, Placerville, Auburn, Downieville, Sutter Creek, Nevada City, Jackson, Columbia, Murphys, Jamestown, Angels Camp INTERNATIONAL GATEWAY Sacramento International Airport (SMF), 13 miles (21 km) from the city center TOURISM WEBSITES POPULATION 650,000 GOLD COUNTRY Strike it rich with adventure, history and wine

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