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Cartoon animation hiking bear Pinecrest Lake
Tuolumne the
Bear says:
Come hike
with me at
Pinecrest Lake!
Map-Based Guide
Lodging Map
Eat & Drink Map
Central Columbia Map
Maps in PDF

Experience Columbia, California

Visiting downtown Columbia today is much like walking into a prosperous California Gold Rush mining town, circa 1857.

You can visit the Wells Fargo Express building, see its scales for weighing gold, and ride a horse-drawn stagecoach. You can visit the Matelot Gulch mining supply store, pan for gold, and climb around the marble rocks.

Columbia also has many events throughout the year. See the list of upcoming events at the far right column. You can also see videos of some past events by clicking on the "Videos" button above.

Above all, you can see historic buildings, with many including exhibits. Use the Map-Based Guide to explore downtown--its map with pop-up photos as you move the mouse allows you to take a virtual walk down the street.

You can see a live play at the Fallon Theatre. Coming is "Church Basement 2", "The Sound of Music", "Mark Twain's A Murder, A Mystery, and a Marriage", and "Sanders Family Christmas".

You can take an aerial tour of Yosemite in a small plane from the Columbia Airport.

You can fish at the Springfield Trout Farm.

Columbia also has many restaurants where you can have breakfast, lunch, or dinner, from the historic Black Bart's Inn and City Hotel Restaurant to Mexican and family/Greek food outside the park.

You can also have beer and other alcoholic drinks or sarsparilla at the three saloons in Columbia.

A Tour of Columbia, California
as it looked in 1858

History of Columbia, California

The town of Columbia began as the result of some clothes and blankets that had become wet. A party of miners led by a Maine physican named Thaddeus Hildreth had been prospecting without success in Calaveras County for a month. On their way back to Woods Crossing they spent the night camping. Overnight it rained, and the next morning, while waiting for their clothes and blankets to dry, one member of the party decided to pan in a nearby gulch. He found gold, and soon all five men in the party were finding substantial amounts of the yellow metal. The date was March 27, 1850, more than two years after the initial find at Sutter's Mill near Sacramento. Other miners, hearing of the discovery, soon arrived, and within a few months the area was a thriving tent city of more than a thousand miners. They named it "Columbia".

There were difficulties. Toward the end of the summer the creek dried up and there was no water to wash the gold from the gravel and dirt. Rains that winter allowed mining to resume, but it was a dry winter and the water again ran out. An initial effort to build a ditch to a nearby creek helped, but it was not until the ditch was extended, with wooden flumes, to the Stanislaus River that there was a reliable source of water. Once that happened, the town thrived. The gold was rich, and by the end of 1852 there were perhaps 5,000 people and one hundred and fifty businesses in the town. By 1857 it had 27 restaurants with some of the finest chefs from Europe.

Fires hit Columbia in July, 1854 and again in August, 1857, devastating the town, which intially had only wooden buildings. Each time Columbia was rebuilt, bigger and grander, with new buildings increasingly stone with iron shutters to protect against fire. The town also acquired two hand-pumper fire engines and built underground cisterns to store water for use against fire.

By the 1870s, the gold began to be played out, and the population of Columbia dwindled. In 1945, the California legislature created Columbia State Historic Park. Existing historic buildings were restored, and new replica buildings were constructed from old photos and plans, leading to the town you can see today.



Events in Columbia
January 1, 2014–December 31, 2014
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Columbia SHP Gold Rush Days. 
Come and enjoy learning about life during the California gold rush! Many open exhibits and venues for you to explore...
Details

January 1, 2014–December 31, 2014
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Free Town Tours Every Sat/Sun in Columbia SHP. 
Come enjoy an hour long free town tour of a real gold rush town! Led by park staff or docents, you will learn about the...
Details

September 26, 2014–October 26, 2014
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Mark Twain's "A Murder, A Mystery & A Marriage" in Columbia. 
Heroes! Heroines! Villains! Great tunes, goofy jokes and red hot fiddlin' - all spun from a Mark Twain yarn. The zany...
Details

October 11, 2014–October 12, 2014
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Harvest Festifall in Columbia SHP. 
An educational fun-filled weekend used to demonstrate and share 1850s hobbies, crafts, music, dancing and daily living!...
Details

October 13, 2014
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Chris Van Cleave and Friends in Concert at The Fallon House Theatre. 
Singer, songwriter and star of Sierra Rep's A Murder, A Mystery and A Marriage, Chris Van Cleave performs with select...
Details

October 19, 2014
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38th Annual Bach Festival Locals' Concert. 
This Concert features outstanding local musicians. Come early to get a good seat to hear your friends and neighbors in...
Details

October 25, 2014
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Seminar At Bel Giardino " Edible Landscaping ". 
Concerned about increasing food costs due to drought-related shortages? Looking for organic food but not higher costs?...
Details

October 25, 2014
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4th Annual Gateway Expressions Student Art and Poetry Contest. 
The Gateway Expressions Student Art and Poetry Contest celebrates creativity of youth in Yosemite gateway communities....
Details

October 25, 2014
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Edible Landscaping Workshop presented by Bel Giardino Sustainable Living. 
This seminar focuses on using edibles as the landscaping or as part of the landscaping in combination with ornamentals....
Details

November 7, 2014–November 9, 2014
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ITSA Film Festival. 
Celebrity & Industry speakers and special guests! ECA Films Screening: Emerging Cinematographer Award Films. Workshops,...
Details

November 14, 2014–December 21, 2014
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"Sanders Family Christmas" in Columbia. 
It's Christmas Eve in 1941, just 18 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The Sanctified Sanders Family Singers are...
Details

December 5, 2014–December 6, 2014
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Lamplight Tours at Columbia State Historic Park. 
Join us for a walking play that wanders the streets of Columbia at night and ends with music, dance, and refreshments....
Details

December 6, 2014
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47th Annual AAUW House Tour. 
A tour of four outstanding homes in Sonora and Columbia area, noon to 4 pm. Tickets are $20 which includes tea and...
Details

December 12, 2014
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8th Annual Merry Merchants at Columbia SHP. 
Enjoy an evening of old fashioned Christmas charm in Columbia! Shop in the tradition of times gone by without the...
Details

December 13, 2014–December 14, 2014
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Miner's Christmas in Columbia. 
Enjoy the Christmas decorations and spirit while sitting around a campfire drinking hot cider or coffee. Join in...
Details

December 14, 2014
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Columbia All Equestrian Christmas Parade. 
Come Join us! This all equestrian parade up Columbia State Park's Main Street is open to all ages of equine...
Details

December 14, 2014
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32nd Annual Las Posadas Nativity Procession. 
A Spanish tradition that re-enacts the biblical story of Mary and Joseph's search for shelter with a distinctive 1850s...
Details

December 19, 2014–December 21, 2014
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THE POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride at Railtown SHP. 
THE POLAR EXPRESS Train Ride is coming to Jamestown this December! Your family will enjoy their trip to the North Pole...
Details

December 20, 2014–December 21, 2014
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Miner's Christmas in Columbia. 
Sit around a campfire drinking hot cider or coffee and join in conversations with miners as they roast chestnuts. Meet...
Details

June 13, 2015
.
Farms of Tuolumne County Farm and Ranch Tour. 
Event takes place in Columbia this year. Tour is from 10am-4pm. Tickets are $8.00 in advance or $10.00 the day of the...
Details

June 26, 2015–August 16, 2015
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Sierra Repertory Theatre Presents "The Music Man". 
Seventy-Six trombones and much more arrive at the Fallon House Theatre heralding Meredith Wilson's The Music Man....
Details

September 18, 2015–October 18, 2015
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Sierra Repertory Theatre Presents "Always, Patsy Cline". 
More than a tribute to the legendary country singer, the show is based on a true story about friendship with a fan from...
Details

November 13, 2015–December 20, 2015
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Sierra Repertory Theatre Presents "A Christmas Carol". 
Awakened on the last stroke of midnight, Ebenezer Scrooge encounters three visions - of his past, his present and his...
Details

(Events are courtesy of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau)