Immediately this historic geographic ridge between the North and Middle Forks of the American River on the gold-bearing gravel bed of an ancient river evokes images of the past, of Forty-Niners, gold miners, tradesmen and loggers blazing new trails along the rivers and mountain slopes of the western Sierra Nevada in search of adventure, fame and fortune. Their quests played a vital role in opening up the Divide and left their mark for all to see, whether successful or not.
To start your adventure in Foresthill, take exit 121 from I-80 and cross the famous (highest bridge in California!) Foresthill Bridge. Travel northeast 17 miles on scenic Foresthill Road to downtown Foresthill.
It's all about the view! Located on Foresthill Road as you enter Foresthill, this full-service market and deli is a popular stopping point for visitors of the Divide. Picnic tables at the edge of the parking lot offer magnificent vistas of the deep Middle Fork of the American Canyon and the snow-capped Sierra Crystal Mountain range framing the distant view. You won't forget your first view of this heart-stopping 'eye-candy'.
Chain Saw Bear Carvings
Just beyond Worton's Market on the left, look for the "Mama and Papa Bear" wood carvings welcoming you to Foresthill. These cute mascots find themselves dressed in the finery of the season by the local residents. Jeff Turpin, Foresthill’s Picasso of Pine, carves a mean bear, and he does it so delicately using a chainsaw. Look around Foresthill for other amazing chain saw creations by Jeff including gold miners at the Forest Hill Historic Museum, eagle and bear at Memorial Park and bears at the baseball park.
Adventures and Events Today
Foresthill has many opportunities for visitors to experience a variety of outdoor activities such as boating, white-water rafting, camping, biking, hiking and a variety of snow activities in the Tahoe National Forest. Annual events include Western States 100 mile endurance run in June and the Tevis Cup Trail Ride in August following the same 100 mile trail. Foresthill is considered the hub of the Western States trail and hosts participants from around the world for these events.
The Chamber Business Showcase in May is followed by an old fashioned 4th of July parade and celebration. A Classic Car Show and Poker run in July brings out the best in classic vehicles for viewing. The Volunteer Fire Dept. holds a huge Garage Sale in August. Labor Day weekend, Foresthill celebrates its Proud Heritage and Bright Future at the Heritage Festival. State and National Gold Panning Championships, Lumber Jacks and Jills Competition and the International Chili Cookoff are the main events surrounded by entertainment, vendors and kids activities. This is a popular event for all ages.
Historic Towns of the Foresthill Divide
The communities here came into being as a direct result of the discovery of gold in the foothills. Little towns appeared almost overnight; some prospered and some did not, but all had their heyday. Historic towns still in existence today include:
* Yankee Jims - Established in 1848. It was the political center of Placer County and the Democratic County Convention was held here in 1856. Yankee Jim's Road, a windy, narrow, partially paved road is accessible from downtown Foresthill.
* Todd's Valley - named for its founder who established a store and tavern there in 1849. The first deep mine shaft was sunk in Todd's Valley and struck a bed of rich ore which yielded up to half ounce to the pan. Todd's Valley road is accessible from Foresthill Road 4 miles before downtown Foresthill.
* Iowa Hill - Settled in 1850. In 1852 a new mining method was invented involving the use of great quantities of water under extreme pressure being directed through a nozzle or monitor to wash entire hillsides away. This destructive form of mining was called Placer Mining and was eventually banned by law in 1884. Iowa Hill is accessible from Sugar Pine road, about 6 miles up Foresthill Road from downtown.
* Michigan Bluff - Established in 1850. Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University in Palo Alto, once had a store there and a still-standing cabin is said to have been his home as well. The Historic Western States Trail traverses through downtown Michgan Bluff and is popular with spectators of the WS100 Endurance Run and the Tevis Cup Trail ride.
* Other towns which once prospered on the Divide were: Bath, Butcher Ranch, Damascus, Deadwood, Forks House, Last Chance, Red Point, Spring Garden and Westville. Commemorative plaques are found in most of the communities mentioned.
Cemeteries Gold rush fever lured prospectors from around the globe to descend upon the Foresthill Divide to seek their fortunes. Towns were established, families were raised and lives were lived in this rugged environment, long away from their homeland. Historic cemeteries with ornate headstones provide a fascinating look into the history and home towns of these intrepid travelers and their ultimate demise. Easily accessible cemeteries include:
* Todd's Valley Cemetery - heading northeast up Foresthill Road, turn right at the second Todd's Valley Road sign. At the bottom of the hill, go straight on Jarvis Rd. Jarvis Rd is a dirt road accessible with a standard 2WD vehicle. The cemetery is less than 1/2 mile at the end of the road.
* Foresthill Historic Protestant Cemetery - Church St, Downtown Foresthill
* St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery and Historic Church Bell - Foresthill Road, about 1/2 mi northeast of downtown
* Michigan Bluff Masonic Cemetery - Downtown Michigan Bluff
* Forest Hill Divide Historical Museum and Memorial Park Historic Downtown and Boardwalk