Fodor's Expert Review Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park
The American River's south fork slices through this park commemorating California's mining history. Trails lead from the parking lot to a statue of James Marshall with sublime views; beyond it to the north stands a working reproduction of an 1840s mill erected near where he first spotted gold. Most of Coloma lies within the park. Though crowded with tourists in summer, the town hardly resembles the mob scene it was in 1849, when 2,000 prospectors staked out claims along the streambed. Coloma's population grew to 4,000, supporting seven hotels, three banks, and many stores and other businesses. But when reserves of the precious metal dwindled, the prospectors left as quickly as they had come. For $8 per person, rangers give gold-panning lessons on the hour, year-round.