Located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills, also known as California's "Mother Lode Country", Columbia State Historic Park isn't just some magnificent Californian park filled with preserved nature and nothing else... In fact, nestled in the town of Columbia, you might not even realized they are in a state park at all.
Columbia State Park is also known as Columbia Historic District, which includes 30 buildings built during the California Gold Rush that are preserved in the oldest part of town. The Main Street is closed to cars, but it attracts visitors on foot, bicycle and in horse carriage traffic.
Since 1961, this National Historic Landmark has served as both a state park and a working open-air museum. Visitors to this old mining town will not find a ghost town by any means. Instead they are greeted by the sights, sounds and smells of a 19th century mining town -- from merchants dressed in their 1850s' apparel, to rich coal smoke rising from the blacksmith shop. Visitors can pan for gold, enjoy historic exhibits and learn about the history of the California Gold Rush.
Hidden Treasure Gold Mine
The Hidden Treasure Gold Mine was never really a gold mine, like it plays at being today. However, the building itself does have some history. In the mid-1800s' this building was originally a bee keeper's cabin located three miles away on Shaw's Flat Road. The cabin was transported to Columbia in the 1900s' and serves as the biggest and most important attraction in Columbia State Park.
This is where visitors can head to try their hand at panning for gold -- a popular method of trying to make it rich during the California Gold Rush. The gold mine provides education on the history of gold panning and shows visitors how to do it. The staff give demonstrations on different gold panning techniques after which the knowledgeable miners will help you with your first pan.
While there is a fee to take part, any gold or precious gem stones found while panning are yours to keep and are guaranteed to be authentic. This is a perfect activity for those with children, but is often the most popular stop in the park so the crowds can build up fast.
What is a state park without some greenery? The Rosemary's Roses shop hosts the largest rose garden in Tuolumne County, with over 1,400 roses of all different types growing on the grounds.
Of course, this garden is really only a thrill during growing season, which is why it is only open during that season. Visitors can walk the grounds filled with the sweet fragrant scent and rest in the gazebos to take in the sights. Visitors can enjoy the grounds for free or give their patronage to the shop buy buying a bouquet of custom picked roses. There is nothing like a bundle of a beautiful variety of roses to turn a fun outing into a romantic one.
Quartz Mountain Carriage Rides
Those who have amped up their visit with a bouquet of roses should consider stepping up their game once more with a romantic carriage ride.
The Quartz Mountain Carriage Company out of Jamestown lends its services to the park by giving people a break from walking. Owner Tom Fraiser and his family have been involved with horses and horse drawn transportation for generations, starting with Tom's great, great uncle, who drove horse carriages around Quartz Mountain 100 years ago.
Their beautiful carriage horses are well taken care of and groomed, so well that their smooth coats practically glitter in the sun. The carriages that those horses pull are authentic stagecoaches from the 1800s. These polished wooden stagecoaches can seat four and the rides go around the park and last for approximately 30 minutes.
Sierra Repertory Theatre At Fallon House
'Fallon House' is a deceiptive name, as it was never really a house, but rather during the 1800s it served as a hotel. In 1947, it was bought by the Columbia State Park and it now serves a different purpose. It is here that the artists of the Sierra Repertory Theatre crew call their second home.
These talented actors and actresses travel to Fallon House to perform old-timey shows like Mark Twain's A Murder, A Mystery & A Marriage, All My Sons and Church Basement Ladies.
After a day of exploring all the other park activities and re-enactments, it is a nice treat to sit down to a thrilling drama, hilarious comedy or glittering musical.
Kamice's Photography Establishment
At Kamice's, visitors can get an old time picture taken that looks hundreds of years old. No, you won't have to stand still for hours in front of a lens like they had to back then. The wonders of photo technology just make it look old while keeping it easy. Kamice's also offers a whole variety of fun costumes that visitors can put on for their pictures, including cute frilly dresses, top hats, fake beards and fake guns.