A replica of Sutter’s saw mill at Marshall Gold Discovery State Park
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for participation on all tours; additionally, current CDC and Smithsonian COVID-19 guidelines (at the time of the tour) will be followed, including but not limited to masks on the bus and indoors.
A sparkle of gold flashed in the American River near Coloma, California, where James Marshall was building a sawmill in January 1848. His discovery touched off a massive wave of gold seekers to California as several hundred thousand young men from around the world came to seek their fortunes. A few got rich, while most left disappointed, but the Gold Rush of 1849 forever altered California and the nation’s destiny.
Author, historian, and tour guide Garrett Peck leads a memorable adventure into places where it all unfolded. Begin in Old Sacramento—a city created by the Gold Rush—with its amazing California Railroad Museum and the Sacramento Museum’s gold exhibit. Make your way through the gold country of the Sierra Nevada foothills, where much of the precious metal was pried from the earth, to explore Gold Rush-era towns like Jackson and Sutter Creek and examine the impact the search for gold had on Native Americans during a visit to Chaw’se Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park.
A tour highlight is Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park, the site of the find that triggered the Gold Rush, as well as the Empire Mine, the state’s largest gold mine near the quaint town of Grass Valley, where participants spend two nights. The group also witnesses the enormous environmental damage caused by hydraulic mining at Malakoff Diggins and tours the nearby ghost town.
The final full day includes a drive into the mountains to explore the Transcontinental Railroad; a short hike at Donner Pass to the tunnels that Chinese workers blasted through solid granite; and a visit to the tragic site where the Donner Party met its demise in the winter of 1846. The drive continues to gorgeous Lake Tahoe, followed by a farewell dinner in Truckee. The tour concludes the following morning with a two-hour return drive from Truckee to Sacramento.
Flights are not included; participants make independent flight arrangements to Sacramento. Round-trip fares typically range from $400 to $600 from Washington-area airports; many airlines serve this route. Important note: Once the tour has reached its minimum registration, participants will be notified and encouraged to purchase airline tickets.
- Cost includes 5 nights of accommodations, bus transportation, services of a study leader and Smithsonian representative, 12 meals (5 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 4 dinners), gratuities, taxes, and entrance fees. An airport shuttle is provided by the hotel.
- Single-room supplement $475 (factored into the Single Room Member and Single Room Non-Member pricing).
- Singles registering at the double-room rate are paired (on a nonsmoking basis) if possible, but must pay the single-room supplement otherwise.
- Once registered, any additional information will be sent via email.
- Registrants may want to consider purchasing trip insurance.
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