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During the gold rush era, Sonora was known as Queen of Southern Mines. It was the richest and wildest town in the southern Motherlode. Its history is seen today in its hundred year old buildings. Sonora remains a thriving small city and is the county seat for Tuolumne. Yearly on Mother’s Day, Sonora hosts the Motherlode roundup. Sonora is also home to St.James Episcopal Church, one of the oldest Episcopal churches in California. Get to Sonora from Highway 49.
The first place gold was discovered in Tuolumne County is right here in Jamestown. A fifty pound piece of crystalline gold is one of the most impressive finds that came out of Jamestown. This mass of crystalline gold can be viewed at Ironestone Vineyards in Murphys. In Jamestown you will find numerous antique shops and historic buildings dating back to the 1870s. In 1897 the railroads first arrived in Jamestown. Much of this rail history is on display at the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park located in Jamestown. Jamestown is off of Highway 108/49.
Once known as the Gem of Southern Mines, The Columbia State Historic Park, is the best preserved historic gold rush town. The discovery of gold in the area soon resulted in a town bustling with life and activity. There were over a hundred stores, various shops, saloons, a church and more. Much of the 1850-1870 gold rush history has been preserved in this park. The park staff bring the past to life by dressing in traditional costumes and enacting events of the time such as the Christmas candlelight procession and Easter Parad. The Columbia State Historic Park can be found off Highway 49.
Groveland is a former gold rush town. Its close proximity to the monumental Yosemite National Park makes Groveland a host to visitors from around the world. Pine Mountain Lake, a resort like living planned community developed in the 1960s, also make Groveland a popular retirement destination. While in Groveland, be sure to stop in at the Iron Door Saloon. This saloon is the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. Get to Groveland from Highway 120.
In Twain Harte you experience all four seasons and have direct access to the various activities that come with each season. In the winter you can ski at Dodge Ridge, in the spring you can hike along lush trails, in the summer you can swim and fish in the refreshing lakes, and in the fall you can golf among the pine trees. Twain Harte’s beautiful environment, diverse year round activities, and great shops and restaurants make it a popular place to visit and retire to. Highway 108 will take you to Tawin Harte.
Chinese Camp got its name originally from the Chinese mining laborers who used to set up camp here. You would not know that Chinese once lived here though, since little of the original heritage remains. Chinese Camp was once a bustling transportation center for the Sonora-Big Oak Flat stage route, but the popularity of the automobile ended the need for such a hub. The lack of jobs and wild fires drew people away from the area leaving a few ranchers behind. Today, Chinese Camp remains a small town. It is actually the smallest town in Tuolumne County. It is home to the Roman Catholic Church St. Francis Xavier, one of the first churches built in Tuolumne County. You can get to Chinese Camp off Highway 120/49.