In 1885 the San Joaquin and Sierra Nevada Railroad Company completed a narrow-gauge railroad from Brack's Landing to Valley Springs. The line eventually became the property of Southern Pacific Company, and a standard gauge-line into Valley Springs was substituted.
The narrow-gauge line was planned to extend to Big Trees, but this plan never came to fruition, and instead Valley Springs became the terminus for the line. The railroad connected Valley Springs to Stockton, Sacramento, and San Francisco, as well as surrounding Calaveras County towns.
Railroads played a significant role in California history, bringing people and goods to and from towns throughout the state and the rest of the United States. The narrow-gauge line, and the subsequent standard-line in Valley Springs, are representative of this history. Before highways and automobiles, railroads were the main transportation mode across the Sierra Nevada.
Originally named Spring Valley and settled shortly after the discovery of gold in Coloma in 1849, Valley Springs served as a way-point for travelers and prospectors heading to San Andreas to the east, Jenny Lind, and Copperopolis to the south, and Ione, Jackson, and Sutter Creek to the north. Valley Springs was not a gold rush town, though it served as a resting point for many miners. Prior to Anglo settlements, the area also served as a way-point for native Mi-Wuk and Yokut tribes traveling from lower to higher elevations. Evidence of pre-historic settlements have not been found in Valley Springs, however grinding stones found in Valley Springs indicate that Native Americans passed through it.
Valley Springs is located at the intersection of State Highways 12 and 26.
Along with Mark Twain's famous "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" story that spun into an annual fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, Calaveras County is rich with Gold Rush history and folklore. Remnants of the railroads and Hispanic culture add to the charm of the county located in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a preserve of Giant Sequoia trees, and the uncommon gold telluride mineral Calaverite was discovered in the county in 1861, and is named for it.