The World Discovers California
July 10–16, 2012
Historian Guide: Ephriam Dickson
On the cold, clear morning of January 24, 1848, James Marshall, part of a work crew building a saw mill on the American River for John Sutter, found a few tiny nuggets of gold. Thus began one of the largest human migrations in history as half a million people from around the world descended upon California in search of instant wealth.
It was quite literally a rush, a stampede of humanity that changed America at breakneck speed. Lured by the promise of gold, by the chance to change their lives in an instant, the 49ers would come. Some traveled overland across the mountains, and some came by sea routes through Panama or around Cape Horn and up the Pacific coast. Once they reached California, they created a new extraordinary kind of society — a place synonymous with risk, riches, and reinvention, a place where nothing seemed impossible.
More than just a tale of easy riches, this tour brings to life a cast of international characters and portrays the explosive creation of the first multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, entrepreneurial society in America. It is the story of determined adventurers with something to prove, impoverished aristocrats, and strong-minded women who refused to be left behind.
This tour is lead by Historian Guide Ephriam Dickson. On this new learning vacation you will discover how few other events in the history of the United States changed the cultural, social, and political landscape as did the California Gold Rush.
Cost: $2,750 Single Occupancy, $2,450 Double Occupancy
Click to request a 2012 printed Travel Guide.
Tuesday, July 10
Gather in Reno, Nevada, for a briefing and welcome dinner hosted by Ephriam Dickson and
Wednesday, July 11
Wide open land and undiscovered riches would be a fresh start for easterners living in crowded cities. And so they came to assert their place in the expanding landscape of the American West — visionaries, rogues, and connivers, and the most famous of the wagon trains, the Donner Party. We explore their haunting story as we head into the rugged Sierras this morning. Later we have a guided tour with the president of the Sixteen to One Mine, in operation for more than a century, and witness firsthand the world of the hard rock miner. Our overnight is in quaint, picturesque Grass Valley.
Thursday, July 12
Here in Nevada County was some of the earliest placer mining, here much of the hydraulic mining was practiced, and here deep quartz mining was started. We visit the Empire Mine, site of the oldest, largest, and richest gold mine in California. Our journey continues through country rich with Gold Rush legacy to Sacramento, gateway to the goldfields and supply center for the mines. See Sutter's Fort, where John Augustus Sutter developed what he considered to be the real wealth of California — crops such as grapes and wheat, along with vast herds of cattle. The end of the trail is Folsom, where we spend the next three nights.
Friday, July 13
Today we see where it all began. At Sutter's Mill in Coloma, gold was both plentiful and (by happy geologic accident) easy to remove, making the gold-bearing gravels of the American River into what was described as "the finest opportunity that has ever been offered on any mining frontier. "Hearing how gold was free for the picking, virtually the entire population of San Francisco came here that first winter, delirious with gold fever."
Saturday, July 14
The late 1840s saw hundreds of new beginnings, all started by men who didn't know what they were doing, but who (sometimes) still struck it rich. Dry Diggins, Copperopolis, Jackass Hill, Volcano, Angels Camp — just some of the wild mining camps we will hear about today as we explore Calaveras County, forever linked to frogs after Mark Twain penned his first successful short story here.
Sunday, July 15
On our return to Reno today, we visit historic Virginia City, Nevada. The 19th-century mining bonanza turned this boomtown into the most important settlement between Denver and San Francisco, and its destitute prospectors into millionaires who helped finance the Civil War. Return to Reno for our farewell dinner.
Monday, July 16
Depart at your leisure following breakfast.