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The California Sierra and Cascade Backcountry was the exclusive homeland of native Californians until the years of the Gold Rush. The first Spanish settlements, 1769-1820, were situated in Pacific coastal valleys. The Mexican ranchos, 1820s-1840s, were located in the coastal region and also in the central valley. Mountain men and then settlers began crossing the Sierras and Cascades in the early 1820-40s, but these passages were swift and no effort to explore or understand the backcountry was made beyond establishing overland passage.

When gold was discovered along the American River, just below the Sierra foothills, in 1848, the backcountry became the California promise of rich rewards for individual miners who streamed into California from around the world, following the Sierra and Cascade rivers up stream in search of a hoped-for successful mining claim and instant wealth.

The Gold Rush forever changed the California Backcountry. The Gold Rush-era backcountry saw mass, but temporary, habitation by Americans and foreign miners; it saw the destruction of the natural waterways and the starvation of the Native Americans who had relied on those waterways for fish and game; and it saw the complete change of the previous 10,000 years of human and wilderness existence.

Let us look now at the different forces at work during their gold rush, and their impact on California, and on the California Backcountry.

Video: Goldmining at "Goler Gulch" California - Richard Dreher

The Gold Rush

Alta California - Before the World Rushed In

A Unique Situation

The First Golden Summer

The Brotherhood of Miners

Gold Fever !

Dream Meets Reality

Women in the Goldrush

Reading - The Gold Rush

Bret Harte - Gold Rush Stories

Brown at Calaveras

Outcasts at Poker Flat

The Luck of Roaring Camp

The Adventures of Mark Twain - Main Menu

Mark Twain in California

Pocket Mining

The Miner's Cat

How the Miner's Cat Came to be

Jumping Frogs - How the Story Came to Be

Jumping Frogs - the 'real' story

The Life of Samuel Clemens

Joaquin Miller - buckskin bard

Joaquin Murietta poem

Twain's California Pioneer Men

Mark Twain Story Contest

Mark Twain Quiz 1

Mark Twain Quiz 2