The Gold Country
The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill (north of Placerville) in 1848 set off an unprecedented gold rush that brought hundreds of thousands of people to California - and the Sierra Nevada foothills. Within two years cities had sprung up along virtually the entire length of the Sierra foothills and populations reached levels that in some areas have yet to be surpassed.
The center of attention was the fabled "Mother Lode", located in a narrow stretch of the foothills from Mariposa to Georgetown. However, the largest yields were from the Grass Valley area and the river dredging along the valley's edge. 1852 was the peak year of gold mining in California, with over $81 million in gold extracted.
Commercial mining still occurs in places like Carson Hill (near Angels Camp), and recreational miners still ply Sierran streams.
Source: Atlas of California, 1979.