Auburn California Gold Rush City Photos & Information

Auburn, known for California's historic Gold Rush, is approximately 130 miles from San Francisco and 30 miles northeast of Sacramento along Highway 80 in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Home to the county seat of Placer County, this small city is a popular tourist attraction providing the look and feel of the California Gold Rush experienced in buildings from that era. Guests visiting can pan for gold, kayak the American River and tour the fantastic buildings where ghosts of the gold still reside. Nearby attractions include Sacramento and beautiful South Lake Tahoe with gambling casinos such as Harvey's and Harrah's across the Nevada State Line.


Named in 1849 to commemorate a place so many settlers came from, Auburn, NY, the word "auburn" aptly describes the reddish-burnt color of the hills and gullies near the Auburn Ravine where gold was discovered in 1848.


As you enter the city, a huge forty-five ton statue of a gold miner Claude Chana, pays a larger-than-life tribute to the man responsible for Auburn’s beginnings. Located on Washington Street, the massive sculpture stands near a spot where Chana may have panned for gold. Local dentist Kenneth Fox made the statue in 1975 and sold it for $8,000. Fox used Paul Avery, a local resident who often panned for gold, as a model for his popular sculpture since no photos or drawings of the famed Frenchman, Chana, were available. The dentist moved most the stones for the sculpture himself but also got help from his kids. Fox, who moved to Auburn at the age of three and opened a dental office in 1947, also created other statues tourists can see and photograph. They include the 420-foot Amazon Archer, Chains of Freedom and several more.


People drawn to this beautiful, hilly town with its dry hot summers and cool winters come to see historic buildings and hear the tales of the gold rush era. An overnight stay can include your choice of five hotels, all with outdoor swimming pools, three accepting pets and modern conveniences such as cable TV that would cause early miners roll their eyes and wish they'd had it so good. 


These miners who came to search for gold first lived in tent cities near the ravines, close to the laborious work that consumed them. Their rickety homes were made of highly-flammable brush, wood, cloth and canvas. It's no surprise that a fire completely destroyed their campsites. Re-establishing themselves in more secure accommodations, the population moved uphill away from the ravines. New homes were built of stone and brick and fitted with iron doors for fire protection. This historic portion of town still stands, following the contours of the hills and gullies that twist and turn. Known as Old Town, most the buildings from the 1860’s are still in use today, and guests are invited to explore the shops, businesses and museums open to the public. Be sure to look at several buildings of significance: Placer County Courthouse, Oldest Operating US Post Office and Historic (red) Firehouse.

The Placer County Courthouse listed on The National Register of Historic Places  is a three-story Classic Revival structure with a bracketed cornice and  Renaissance Revival dome. Completed in 1898, there's a museum containing the Pate Collection of Native American Art. A Sheriff's Office, Placer County Museum Gift Shop, Placer County Research Center and Museum Gallery with a holographic image of a miner and historical exhibits are located in the Courthouse, which is open to the public, free of charge. Location: Placer County Museum, 101 Maple Street, Auburn


A friendly chamber of commerce welcomes tourists with a healthy list of activities and things to do throughout the year. From weekend guided walking tours of Old Town to an old-fashioned Christmas Tree Lighting and holiday merriment, guests feel they've rolled back the clock to enjoy a lifestyle and values missing in larger cities. Auburn, the “Endurance Capital of the World” hosts the Tevis Cup and Western States ultra run each year. Visitors can enjoy shopping, fine dining, entertainment, antique shops, art galleries, museums, and many activities and events nearby such as fishing, hiking, camping, mountain biking, golfing, horseback riding, backpacking, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, sailing, sailboarding and water skiing.


Numerous books document Auburn's history and significance in the California Gold Rush. But for those who seek a brief glimpse into the past, the first known inhabitants approximately 4,000 years ago were native Americans, an offshoot of the Maidu Tribe. They enjoyed a bounty of fruits and meats in the mountains and lakes of the Sierra Mountain foothills.  Before European contact there were approximately 200,000 Indians in the Sacramento Valley, with the largest population near the major rivers.


In 1832 - 1833, the Hudson Bay Co. sponsored a fur trapping and scouting expedition to California. The expedition introduced small pox, influenza, and measles to the Indian population. Resulting in a 50 percent reduction in the entire California Indian population, entire villages and tribes were destroyed. In the 1850s, the Gold Rush further devastated the Indian population. By 1860, less than 20 percent of the original Indian population remained. Continued pressures on Indian populations have resulted in less than 5 percent of the original population in the Sacramento area remaining today. For more information, visit Auburn Rancheria.


The discovery of gold by Frenchman Claude Chana on May 16, 1848, put Auburn on the modern-day map. In 1850 the population was 1200. Known as one of the milder, friendlier gold mining camps, there was less crime and murders in Auburn. Still, nearly every historical account mentions the town’s first lynching which took place on Christmas Day, December 25, 1850. An English miner named Sharp shot and killed another miner. He turned himself over to the sheriff but the crowd wasn't appeased.  They reportedly seized the prisoner, held a miners’ court, quickly handed down a guilty verdict and hanged him from an oak tree in the middle of town.


Interestingly, the hangings in the surrounding gold towns are remembered and fairly well documented. Another Gold Rush city nearby, Placerville, was once called Hangtown. An effigy of a man wearing a noose hangs from the second story window of Hangman's Tree Historic Spot, 305 Main St. As gold played out in a few short years, Auburn pushed forward, celebrating Central Pacific Railroad's official stop in Auburn which began on May 13, 1865. Rail transportation in and out of the region created new industries such as lumber, livestock, dairy and agriculture.

The Placer County Department of Museums system is composed of six museums that focus on the rich heritage of Placer County. Call: (530) 889-6500

291 Auburn-Folsom Road, Auburn
(530) 889-4156

1273 High Street, Auburn
(530) 889-4134

1225 Lincoln Way, Auburn
(530) 889-4134

Taylor Road, Penryn
(530) 663-1837

32820 Main Street, Dutch Flat

24601 Harrison Street, Foresthill

California Welcome Center, Auburn
13411 Lincoln Way
Auburn, Ca 95603
Tel: 530-887-2111


Be sure to visit the Auburn Chamber of Commerce web site for the extensive events calendar with charity balls, outdoor farmer market shopping, guided history tours, holiday town gatherings at Christmas, Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving, plus concerts and many fun things to do throughout the year. An airport and fairgrounds provide added venues for popular events such as Thunder in the Sky held in August.

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