Jacksonville (No. 419 California Historical Landmark)

Jacksonville, now fully submerged under Don Pedro Reservoir, was once one of the largest mining towns in the Mother Lode, accommodating thousands of miners. In 1849, Jacksonville was one of the largest towns located on the Tuolumne River. It served as an important trading post to supply miners. River gold was also rumored to be worth more than the “grass and dirt” gold of other mining camps. The town had several stores, a post office and three “luxury” hotels.

The river was the town’s biggest asset and its biggest threat as a result of periodic flooding. Miners went to great lengths to recover gold from the river, including diverting the water to ditches to reduce the depth of the Tuolumne River and building dams. Residents wrote of several buildings being washed off their foundations and float down the river.

Jacksonville was first settled by Julian Smart, who planted the first gardens and orchards in 1849. He was more interested in starting his garden than starting a town. He sold fresh vegetables and fruits to miners. His $1 per pound carrots and other locally grown foods were well worth the price to miners who suffered from very poor diets and scurvy. Unfortunately, Smart’s garden was later destroyed as a result of area mining activity. Colonel Alden Jackson arrived in the area and his name was used to name both Jacksonville and the existing city of Jackson less than 35 miles away.   

The town of Jacksonville continued to flourish as a small country town until the 1960s. All remnants of the mining town were covered by expansion of the Don Pedro Reservoir, one of California’s largest man made lakes. You’ll pass near the old Jacksonville site as you drive to Yosemite via Hwy 120 just west of the Priest grade area.

The marker is located at the vista point on the north approach to Don Pedro Bridge, State Highway 120 (P.M. 19.4), 3.5 miles southeast of Chinese Camp.

Tuolumne County

A treasure of natural wonders and lively gold rush history, Tuolumne County offers visitors vivid scenery. A portion of Yosemite National Park lies within the country, along with giant redwood groves and impressive geological features. Both Bret Harte and Mark Twain wrote stories set in this area during the Gold Rush.

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Latitude: 37.7415 Longitude: -120.3735 Elevation: 802 ft

About this Establishment

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder.

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800’s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks. The Chamber of Commerce then created a committee of prestigious historians, including DeWitt Hutchings and Lawrence Hill, to evaluate potential landmark sites.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

Share your experience. Please leave a comment below if you've visited this historical landmark.

Time Period Represented



My memories of Jacksonville was as a young boy, when my uncle Al Goates took me there to fish along the river that is now covered along with the town of Jacksonville. I remember the old historical buildings that were there and how much I enjoyed fishing and dreaming about how it must of been when people looked for gold along the river. I remember how sad I was when finding out they were going to demolish the old buildings in order to expand Don Pedro Lake. Miss the days when I could enjoy a trip to Jacksonville, fishing on the wild river that now is under water.

Don Eddings, 3/28/2013

How well I remember Jacksonville and the surrounding areas! My grandparents lived about 1/2 a mile or so from Jacksonville on Highway 49 near the old Yosemite Junction. They ran a business from their home called Golden Chain Campground. Their house straddled Moccasin Creek. I recall with fondness our trips to Jacksonville and to Mountain River Lodge by the Tuolumne River driving up 120 and seeing the landmark still makes me feel sad. Along with Jacksonville, my grandparent’s property was also submerged when the Don Pedro Reservoir was expanded. Does anyone else out there remember places like Mountain River Lodge or the Fish Hook Hotel? Diana Boegel

Diana Boegel, 12/8/2013

OMG,how many times did i go to Mt River Lodge??? Could not even begin to guess. Car got stuck in the sand one night down by the river. Then there was Turners TacoHouse. Anyone know what happened to John and his wife??? I am getting teary eyed just remembering.

shirley hudson jaster, 1/8/2014

Where did they move the cemetary?

Judy carsoncarroll, 6/18/2014

It breaks my heart that the Mountain River Lodge is gone. My father, Sid, took me there every summer for a whole week. It was heaven on earth. We camped about a half mile upstream, but came down to the lodge for great burgers. I have spent many many years searching for another place like it, but have never found any other location in the gold country of California that can match it. It truly was a very special place and I have missed it so very much.

Mark Cloud, 7/25/2014

Ditto what Mark Cloud said! I spent only a week one summer at Mountain River Lodge with a good friend and his dad but the memories of that week have lingered for nearly 50 years. We were amazed to see teenagers jumping into the Tuolumne from the Hwy 120 bridge just upstream from the lodge. By the end of the week they were climbing to the top of the bridge trusses and jumping from there! We listened to adults discuss the proposed new dam that would submerge their property and livelihoods.

Bill Ross, 8/14/2014

My family spent every summer at Mountain River Lodge. I remember the blue glass in the bar, that’s where my parents hung out and would run in and out of the bar to beg for money to get a hamburger at the lodge greasy spoon. I remember the sand bar there, and a tree across the river that had a rope tied around a large limb that we would swing on out over the river and jump in. I also remember all the braver souls jumping from the 120 bridge (including my cousin Steve). Later on, my parents bought 5 acres in Jacksonville from the Kleins, who owned the small grocery there, and my dad and his brothers built a very rustic cabin. We would run across the highway and down to the river to swim and hang out. Even with the cabin, we still made many trips to Mountain River Lodge for food and drinks. Those were fun days! My sister and I learned to swim in that river. I'm glad there are others out there who remember that wonderful place.

Connie Madden, 9/29/2014

To Diana Boegel, I spent 3 wonderful summer’s at golden chain. My parents rented a year long space. Mack and Maria must have been your grandparents. They were very nice to me I will always remember that time.

todd, 10/20/2014

Anybody know the old location of Mt. River Lodge? I spent summers there as a small child.

Billy Martens, 1/4/2015

Diana Boegel how far from the 49/120 split was the golden chain campground. With the water levels down so low I would like to get close to its location. I was there last summer and walked almost the full length of old highway 49. I am thinking it is in Mocassin Bay but not sure. We camped there many times during the 60's.

Donald, 4/25/2015

We spent many weekends at the Golden Chain Campground or as it was called by our extended family "The Old Ladies". Mac and Maria were great people and we so enjoyed the camping and trout fishing. I have found a picture of the Fish Hook and the Mountain River Lodge on the internet. If I remember right the Lodge was by the Tuolumne River bridge. It is where we stopped for tackle and bait on our way. Does anyone have pictures of the Golden Chain? I would love to share with my family and remember old times.

Donald Mallory, 4/30/2015

I remember trout fishing on Moccasin Creek as a teenager. On one opening day trip I caught 2 4-5 lb German browns. I remember waling by all the guys lined up along the river below the lodge with my fish. Everyone wanted to see my fish and wanted to know where I caught them. I also remember tubing on the river just before the dam was completed. Wonderful memories.

Tony Limas, 5/30/2015

If you have information or pictures contact me on facebook. www.facebook.com/donald.mallory.7

Donald Mallory, 6/5/2015

I grew up in Moccasin and we used to do a lot of shopping in Jacksonville. My father was the Power House Superintendent. I went to grade school in Moccasin and High School in Sonora graduating in 1960. During my High School Junior and Senior year I worked at the Mt. River Lodge. The owners son and I were classmates. My family spent a lot of time at the river during the summers. I have swung on the rope swing across the river, and have dove of the bridge many times. My father and I did a lot of fishing up and down the river. I am happy to see it has not been forgotten.

Rich Glasscock, 7/28/2015

8/10/2015 My husband and I drove up there this last weekend to see if we could now see the town of Jacksonville, as we heard the lake is completely empty on one side of dam. We did not see any of the town, however the old sawmill was more than half visible. What year was the town vacated so the dam could be built? And is Jackson, Ca. part of this historical story? It’s not far from where Jacksonville was.

Laura Fuller, Escalon, Ca., 9/10/2015

My grandparents lived in Modesto. We'd go with them to Jacksonville to visit their friends. I remember they had an outhouse. When they were displaced by the reservoir water they were offered land overlooking the new reservoir. We'd go visit at their new place but it was a barren hilltop. Nothing at all like their tree-filled property and home in Jacksonville.

Ben Hughes, 12/24/2015

To Shirley H. Jaster: John and Frieda Turner were close friends of my grandparents,Mac and Maria McKnight,who operated the Golden Chain Campground at Moccasin Creek near Jacksonville. Their business was burned down(arson I think),. They lived their final years on Jacksonville Rd. near Jamestown. Mr. Turner passed away and then Frieda. So many fond memories of the taco house! John had me draw so me of the cartoons posted there when I was a teenager. Shirley,I wonder if we crossed paths at Turner's? Diana

Diana Boegel, 7/14/2016

To Todd,re: Golden Chain Campground: Yes,Mac and Maria McKnight were my grandparents. During a really bad drought you can drive down the old Jacksonville Road to where their cabin and the campground stood. Pretty spooky and sad. Diana

Diana Boegel, 7/14/2016

To Donald(49/120 split) : I don't remember how far Golden Chain Campground was from the split but I am guessing a quarter of a mile. You can reach the site of the campground in a bad drought,going down the old Jacksonville Road. There,you can see Moccasin Creek flowing its natural course. Diana

Diana Boegel, 7/14/2016

My family fished and camped at Golden chain in 1965(?) We were there one A.M. when fish and game dept. delivered trout along campsite. We waited half an hour as recommended by officer , and then proceeded to catch 10 trout each (the limit back then) for a total of 70. The next day we caught about 30 more and took them home in styrofoam ice chest(s) what an incredible weekend for novice fishers ! It seemed like a tiny river (creek) and I didn't know about it being long gone now. One of the best vacations ever for kids from the S.F. Bay Area. I vaguely remember the owners being extremely friendly and helpful. I remember names like Colterville (?) Jackson (?) but maybe I'm mistaken. I will look for picture of me catching a fish , to share with you guys. (510) 499-4725 Art

Arthur, 11/2/2016

Diana, I lived in Turner's Taco House every Summer for two months. My name is Sharon. That was in early 60's. I married a local holy terror who was raised in Moccasin community where his dad worked for the City and County of S.F. later he also worked there. John and Frieda were my adopted parents. I was not allowed to date the man I later married. I'd swim and fish in the creek. My name is etched in the front entrance steps. I just moved here and it's been fun seeing how things have changed. I dated Tommy Thompson from My. River Lodge. His mom and step dad were good people. One evening the lights went out. When they came back on there was Tommy coming up the basement stairs behind the bar with a case of beer. We all laughed, he got caught.

Sharon O'Brien (Boyle), 1/30/2017

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