Parrott's Ferry (California Historical Landmark No. 438)

Thomas H. Parrott operated a ferry service beginning in 1860 to connect the mining towns of Tuttletown and Vallecito. During the lake’s dry periods, sandbags laid in the river created a dam that built up the lake level high enough so the ferry could float across. The ferry had a wooden bottom and propelled across the lake by using heavy cables anchored to a large boulder. After filling New Melones Reservoir, the cables, boulder and sandbag remnants are no longer visible.

The ferry service lasted more than 40 years, until 1903 when the first bridge over the river was built. The Columbia-Vallecito bridge in use today opened in 1979. The bridge is one of the tallest of its kind in the country.

Area visitors and cyclists can enjoy panoramic views of the Sierra Nevada and the confluence of the Stanislaus and New Melones Rivers. This marker is one of 17 commemorative markers on the Mark Twain Bret Harte Trail through the Gold Country.

The California Historical Marker is located on the bridge’s western edge on Parrott's Ferry Road or E18. This site is part of the Mark Twain Bret Harte Trail.

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 county, 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: 38.0463116 Longitude: -120.4482525 Elevation: 809 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 1800s 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

1860 to 1903


Beautiful views! We got here by accident. We were going to the Natural Bridges and we missed the turn and we ended up here. We decided to have a look and we were amazed by the beautiful scenery of deep blue green water and verdant hills. The marker was hard to read however, because of patina buildup. It can use some cleaning. Would love to come back and explore the trail

Cheerie M., 7/26/2016

During the Summer of 2015 in the height of California's massive drought, I had the privilege of walking across the ghostly bridge built in 1903. It was surreal, and magnificent. My husband and I wanted to share the experience with our 11 month old daughter as there may never be another opportunity during her lifetime to set foot on that historic bridge that now rests far below the water's surface. Although she will not remember the experience, she'll be able to say she was there as a baby. We took a photo I can't wait to share with her as she grows.

Natalie Wiemeyer , 9/5/2017

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