Columbia State Historic Park is a fantastically well preserved authentic 1849 Gold Rush era town that is still functioning as a place for people to live. It's a great mix of real and "museum" businesses and wonderfully restored homes and businesses. You can experience a bygone era watching proprietors in period clothing conduct business in the style of yesterday, and even ride a 100 year-old stagecoach and pan for gold.
It's fascinating to walk into an old time saloon or candy store that's still operating, and then a few doors away visit a dentists office or Chinese herb shop that are strictly museums. There's no better place in the country to capture the feel of the old west and the Gold Rush than Columbia.
The Park was once known as the "Gem of the Southern Mines." Between the 1850s and 1870s over one billion dollars in gold (at today's value) was mined in the area. For a time, Columbia was the second largest city in California. Unlike many other settlements that disappeared due to fire, vandalism and time, Columbia survived. It was never completely deserted. In 1945 the State Legislature made the site a State Historic Park in order to preserve a typical Gold Rush town, an example of one of the most colorful eras in American history.
Visitors can taste hand-dipped chocolates, a superior cup of coffee, savor fine dining, family fare or purchase picnic provisions. There's also the chance to relax at one of two comfortable hotels, listen to music in historic saloons, or take in a performances at the Fallon Theatre. Visitors can make a candle or purchase Columbia soap, wooden toys, old fashion clothes, or dress-up for a photograph. Other highlights include taking a walk to the two-story brick school house and cemetery overlooking town, or hiking the one-mile nature trail where mule deer and wild flowers may be seen.
The Columbia State Historic Park is located three miles north of Sonora, off Highway 49, and is No. 123 of the registered California Historical Landmarks.