The California Gold Rush (1848–1855) began at this site in January 24, 1848, when gold was found by James W. Marshall at Sutter's Mill. Marshall discovered gold on the South Fork of the American River while building a sawmill for John A. Sutter in the valley the Nisenan Indians knew as Cullumah. This event led to the greatest voluntary mass movement of people in the Western Hemisphere and was the spark that ignited the spectacular growth of the West during the ensuing decades. The gold discovery site, located in the still visible tailrace of Sutter's sawmill, in present day Coloma, California, is one of the most significant historic sites in the nation.
Exhibits in the Gold Discovery Museum at the Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park tell the story of John Sutter and James Marshall, and how drastically the simple act of noticing a small fleck of gold would alter the lives of hundreds of thousands of people from that day to the present.
The Museum has Native American and Gold Rush-era exhibits, including mining equipment, horse-drawn vehicles, household implements and other memorabilia, as well as films about the gold discovery and early mining techniques. Outside, there are mining exhibits, original buildings used by the Chinese, and a full size replica of Sutter's Mill.
Visitors can pan for gold in the American River and enjoy hikes and picnics under the oak woodlands. Overlooking the beautiful river canyon, where the gold discoverer rests today, you can see California's first historic monument, the statue of James Marshall pointing at his gold discovery site. The park's interpretive program primarily embraces the period from 1847 through 1852, but also shows the town of Coloma as it developed.
Throughout the year the park provides daily Gold Discovery Tours at 11 am and 1pm. Participate in special events such as the second weekend in October for "Coloma Gold Rush Live" tent town, the weekend after Thanksgiving for "Historic Holiday Houses Tour," or "Gold Discovery Day" in January. "Second Saturday: Live History Days" is planned regularly throughout the year; contact the Gold Discovery Museum and Visitor Center for details.