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Historic Parks of Northern California

Historic Parks of Northern California: Ghost Towns and Gold Rush Hotspots

Feel connected to the past at intriguing attractions that keep history alive. Explore the ancient lands of the Native American Pomo at Anderson Marsh State Historic Park, where you’ll find rich archaeological evidence from 10,000 years ago. See where the Gold Rush began near Placerville at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, the site where James W. Marshall first found gold in 1848. Pan for gold in the river and check out the replica of Marshall’s original sawmill.

Walk the deserted streets of a genuine ghost town at Bodie State Historic Park. This well-preserved mining town had 10,000 residents in the late 1800s; today it’s just you and the howling winds. Visit a turn-of-the-century lighthouse built in 1889 at Point Sur State Historic Park, and enjoy the stunning views of the California coastline. Continue your journey back in time at San Juan Bautista State Historic Park and visit a jail, blacksmith shop, and settler’s cabin from the 1800s. Tour the first state capital of California at the wonderfully preserved Benicia Capitol State Historic Park.

Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park

California features a rich history of gold miners and prospectors. The Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park near Placerville, is the site where James W. Marshall found gold in 1848. This site remains one of the most significant historical sites in America and changed the course of California history. Check it out when you're in the Sacramento area.

Visitors to the site will see the tailrace from Sutter's sawmill that Marshall built, a replica of the original sawmill and 20 other historical buildings. Try panning for gold in the American River or enjoy one of the interpretive park programs, special events and exhibits. Stop by the Gold Discovery Museum and Visitor Center for a schedule of events.

Anderson Marsh State Historic Park

On the southeast corner of California's Clear Lake, Anderson Marsh State Historic Park protects state archaeological and environmental gems. Ancient home of the Native American Pomo, park sites show evidence of inhabitants over 10,000 years in the past. Visitors enjoy environmental habitats including oak woodlands, freshwater marsh and grasslands.

Enjoy hiking, birding and picnicking in the serenity of the park. Early fall visitors, support the park and have fun at the Old Time Bluegrass Festival. Plan your next visit to the North Coast of California and be sure to have an outdoor adventure. There are few places better to explore than Clearlake and the Anderson Marsh.

Bodie State Historic Park

California is home to a wide range of diverse attractions. Check out Bodie State Historic Park, a wonderfully preserved ghost town, located north of Mammoth Lakes in California's High Sierras.

Named after Waterman S. Bodey, the town of Bodie flourished in the late 1800s during the California gold rush. Approximately 10,000 people moved to Bodie to strike it rich.

Visit this National Historic Site and State Park to see the remaining buildings, after the last residents left town. The building interiors remain untouched and items are still on the shelves. Stop by the museum to learn more about this ghost town and stroll through the bookstore. Enjoy a nice drive south to Mammoth Lakes.

Point Sur State Historic Park

Yielding unparalleled views of the Pacific Ocean, the Point Sur State Historic Park is located 19 miles south of Carmel and Carmel-by-the-Sea along Highway 1.

This is a premier attraction along the Central California Coast. Check out the Point Sur Lightstation, located at the top of a large volcanic rock, 361 feet above the ocean.

The Point Sur Lightstation was first lit in 1889 and is the only turn-of-the-century Lightstation open to the public. Enjoy a guided tour of the Lightstation and admire the views of the ocean from the top.

School tours are welcome to visit the park and Lightstation. Take your time visiting the Carmel area by visiting the Carmel Mission and Pebble Beach.

San Juan Bautista State Historic Park

California features an abundance of outdoor recreation destinations. The San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, in California's beautiful central coast region, was once the largest town in the area. Included in the "town square" are four historic buildings from the 1800s that are now museums: the Zanetta House/Plaza Hall, the Plaza Hotel, the Castro-Breen Adobe and the Plaza Stables.

Stroll the grounds to view the historic jail, blacksmith shop and settler's cabin. Schedule time for a park interpreter-led educational program. A great idea for students. The park's programs include learning about local Native Americans, California history, travel by wagons. Drive in from nearby Hollister and experience a day full of history and outdoor fun.

Benicia Capitol State Historic Park

Over the short span of 1843-1854, the capitol building in Benicia was the official state capital of California. Sacramento would eventually become the state capital, and still is today. Beautifully restored and maintained with period furnishings, this is a must see for history enthusiasts.

On your next visit to the Bay Area, venture into Benicia and check out the Benicia Capitol State Historic Park. Enjoy guided tours, museum exhibits, and be sure to see both the Senate Chambers on the first floor, and the Assembly Chambers on the second. The drive in from nearby San Francisco is short.