Columbia State Historic Park
Narrated by Russ Christoff
My next stop was the beautiful restored gold rush town of Columbia.
Located three miles north of Sonora, this state historic park is a big draw for California history buffs.
Fire was the greatest enemy to California gold rush towns, and Columbia had its fair share of these. However, it was always rebuilt and now has the distinction of being one of the only continuously lived in gold rush towns in the state.
In the Columbia museum, you will find displays of artifacts from the Columbia of the 1850's, when the town had a population of 6,000, and was known as the "Queen City" of the southern mines.
Within a 12 block area, visitors will find two historic hotels, live theater, bakeries and restaurants, and even an old fashioned candy store.
If you are not souvenir shopping in one of the many first rate gifts shops when you visit Columbia, you'll probably try your luck at panning for gold.
I enjoyed a tour of the park on a 100 year old stagecoach. The ride takes you on a bumpy old coach rode, and it sure gives you an appreciation of what gold seekers must have endured as they traveled around California.
I was glad to learn I had arrived on "Columbia Diggins" weekend, a living history event that usually occurs during the first weekend in June.
Volunteers from the "Columbia Historical Preservation Society" gather together to recreate life in a gold rush tent town.
The public is invited to partake in the celebration and is encouraged to join in on the demonstrations.
California State Parks relies on volunteers to put on living history programs, such as these.
I met with Dave who enjoys volunteering at Columbia.
What makes Columbia unique?
NARRATED BY DAVE: During the gold rush in 1850, a party of miners was actually drying their blankets here, and decided to pan for gold and found some very rich color. And, that's how the town actually began.
At Columbia State Park you will find the best preserved of the mining towns of the gold rush. A lot of the towns still exist, but a number of them just dried up completely and blew away.
Columbia is the one that is most like it was in the 1850's.
NARRATED BY RUSS CHRISTOFF: How long have you been associated with the type of reenactments, the historical day that you do, and what has it done for you? How has it changed you?
NARRATED BY DAVE: I love the era personally, I have been fascinated by the gold rush for years. And, I just think it's such a marvelous time of American expansion and optimism, and everyone was coming here to get rich quick, and then they discovered it was a lot of hard work.
It works on a lot of different levels.
(People yelling fire, fire, fire, we need water over here or the water company is going to burn!)
(man heard saying "Who cares let it burn but save the whiskey!")
I started getting involved with the association here when the association was formed back in 1979 or 1980. And, I've been involved with it ever since. And, how has it changed my life? Well everyone would look at you and laugh if you asked that question because I met my wife here and I now have three children, who are also reenacting the gold rush. So it's changed my life considerably and it's given me a wonderful new outlook on life.
NARRATED BY RUSS CHRISTOFF: What do you consider the miracle of Columbia State Historic Park?
NARRATED BY DAVE: I think it's the sense that you get when your there that you are actually going back to this wonderful time when the whole world changed during the California gold rush. And, I think it's a feeling of actually stepping back in time, and that is to me the miracle of the park.
NARRATED BY RUSS CHRISTOFF: Special events occur here year round. Call ahead for a schedule.