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Calaveras County Historic Mining Towns

Sierra Nevada Mountains, California (June 2008)

Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay, Eagle Falls, Vikingsholm, Rubicon Trail, sailing
Calaveras County California off-grid living and waterfall

The foothills of the Sierra Nevadas were sprinkled with remains of towns that bustled with thousands of people during the go-go heyday of the California gold rush in the 1800s, only now to have perhaps a hundred or so residents and no visible signs of the original towns. Some towns, however, continued on in a smaller fashion. They retained some of their more interesting historical buildings (especially those built of stone, brick, and steel roofs to resist wild fires), and catered to interested visitors plus the growing wineries of the region.

The towns of Amador City and Sutter Creek were near each other on old highway 49. Amador City had some nice funky ambiance, and didn't have the tourist facilities of some other towns but that helped keep it quieter and more authentic. It did offer a very interesting small volunteer run museum and a self-guided walking tour of the town.

Amador City Calaveras County California sitting on bench on Main Street

One of the pastimes of Amador City: sitting on a bench on Main Street, watching...


Amador City Main Street in Calaveras County California

Main Street of Amador City


Sutter Creek was larger and more refined, with good lodging, restaurants, galleries, and shops intermixed.

Sutter Creek Main Street Calaveras County California

Main Street of Sutter Creek


Sheep Ranch was a very small town (entrance sign says "Population 32"), once the home of over 10,000 people during the heyday of the Gold Rush. Now it is mostly comprised of remote ranches, timber land, and the remnants of shacks and barns from the past.

Sheep Ranch California old gas station and convenience store long closed

The "downtown" Sheep Ranch gas station and convenience store; an "18 cents a gallon" sign kinda shows it hasn't been open for a while


Murphys was known as a fun place to catch free wine tasting from the many local vineyards, live music, interesting galleries, small town events, and a bit o' history. One evening we caught live music at the town square park bandstand, on the bank of the creek.

Ironstone Vineyards outside of Murphys in Calaveras County California

Wine tasting room of Murphys' largest vineyard, Ironstone Vineyard


The California Fireman's Muster Association had its annual Fireman's Muster in Murphys. A bunch of men and women got together to play with old fire trucks, hand-pushed hose carts, and pumper carts in low key competitions. Fun stuff, and they gave out free ice cream!

Murphys Firemans Muster starting official with lingerie panties flag

The starting line official looked serious, even though his flag was a woman's panties


Murphys Firemans Muster fire hose cart running competition

Fire hose cart running competition at Murphys Fireman's Muster


Murphys Firemans Muster fire truck racing to line

Fire truck "racing" down Main Street and squealing tires to brake at a line before everyone piled out


Murphys Firemans Muster firemen spraying and aiming fire hose

After dragging the hose from the truck, opening up the gush of water


Murphys Firemans Muster women team aiming fire hose

Concentrating on aiming the fire hose at a target


Murphys Firemans Muster spraying fire hose down Main Street at target

Launching water down Main Street...


Murphys Firemans Muster shooting water from fire hose at traffic cone target on Main Street as part of fire hose cart competition

... and hitting the target to stop the clock!


Murphys Firemans Muster fire hose cart competition team running

Firemen giving it their all for fun in the fire hose cart running competition



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