Take a peek into the past and find gold… From the rugged mountain peaks of Truckee where the ill-fated Donner Party wintered, to the lucrative deep quartz mines below Grass Valley and beyond, Nevada County offers fascinating historic reminders at every turn. Nevada County’s many historic buildings, museums, state parks and sites offer an intriguing look into the region’s fascinating history. In addition to paying homage to the robust Gold Rush era, these historic destinations also offer vibrant insight into hearty emigrants, Native Americans and Chinese populations who filled the county’s history books.

All those interested in the history of Nevada County will be delighted to learn that much of that history can now be accessed through a web based interactive map, which can be found here.

For more gold-rush information and NEW photos click here.


The California Gold Rush… Eureka! Discovery of gold in 1848 carried California’s name around the globe. Men came from the East, from England, Germany, Chile, China, and all around the world.

Grass Valley and Nevada City offer a range of gold mining history UNEQUALLED ELSEWHERE in the Gold Country. All of the different mining techniques are explained and there are numerous exhibits of mining gear and memorabilia. And if you’d like to try your hand at recreational gold panning, you can still find color in Nevada County rivers! For more on gold panning, click here.

Historic Park Sites

Nevada County is home to several state parks that offer history and recreation opportunities at one scenic location. Twenty-six miles from Nevada City, Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is the site of California’s largest hydraulic mine and features a visitor center with exhibits on life in the old mining town of North Bloomfield. Grass Valley’s Empire Mine State Historic Park is the site of one of the oldest, largest and richest gold mines in California. Today the park features historic mine buildings, as well as guided tours and living history presentations. Donner Memorial State Park is home to the Emigrant Trail Museum, as well as a wonderful self-paced interpretive walking trail.


Nevada County residents take great pride in their colorful history, so it’s no surprise that the region is punctuated with museums of every ilk. Housed in a vintage orphanage, the Grass Valley Museum’s collection depicts the Gold Rush days through 1930. Also in Grass Valley, the Northstar Mine Powerhouse and Pelton Wheel Museum focuses on mining history, while in Nevada City, the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum focuses on railroad history.

Nevada City is home to the circa 1861 Historic Firehouse No. 1 Museum, which features horse-drawn fire wagons, handcarts and “modern” motorized engines through 1938, as well as Native American, Chinese and Donner Party relics. Historical researchers will enjoy spending time at Nevada City’s circa 1872 Searls Historical Library with its treasure trove of historical photos, maps and books.

To learn about the emigrant experience and the Donner Party, look no further than Truckee’s Emigrant Trail Museum at Donner Memorial State Park. In Truckee’s historic downtown, the Old Jail Museum is one of the few remaining 19th century jailhouses and currently houses interesting artifacts from this town’s fabled past.

4th of July Celebration

Beginning in 1902, July 4th parades have alternated between Nevada…

Bridgeport Covered Bridge

Built in 1862 by David Isaac John Wood with lumber from his mill…

Calanan Park Monitor & Drill Core

This hydraulic mining monitor used pressurized water to wash…

Broad St. and Union St.,
Nevada City, CA 95959

Donner Memorial State Park & Emigrant Trail Museum

Located in the beautiful Sierra Nevada, Donner Memorial State…

12593 Donner Pass Road,
Truckee, CA 96161

Empire Mine State Historic Park

The Empire Mine was the richest hard rock mine in the State of…

10791 East Empire St,
Grass Valley, CA 95945

Firehouse No. 1 Museum

Firehouse No. 1 is perhaps the most-photographed building in…

214 Main St,
Nevada City, CA 95959

Gold Quartz Discovery Site

This is where George McKnight discovered gold in Grass Valley…

Jenkins Street & Hocking Avenue,
Grass Valley, CA 95945

Gold Rush Days

Travel back in time to a different era. A time when the whole…

Mill Street,
Grass Valley, CA 95945

Grass Valley Downtown Association

Your link to all that is historic downtown Grass Valley! A Nevada…

125 Neal St,
Grass Valley, CA 95945

Grass Valley Museum

The Grass Valley Museum was an orphange in Gold Rush times, established…

410 South Church St,
Grass Valley, CA 95945

Hardrock Gold Mining


Empire Mine State Historic Park
© 2012 California State Parks.
Photo by Brian Baer
An estimated $500 million in gold has been mined with in a one-mile…

415 Central Ave.,
Grass Valley, CA 95945

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

Created in 1965, Malakoff Diggins preserves the exciting and…

23579 North Bloomfield Road
Nevada City, CA 95959

Miners Foundry Cultural Center

The foundry dates to 1856 and for many years provided metal and…

325 Spring St,
Nevada City, CA 95959

Miners Picnic at Empire Mine

The first Miners Picnic was held in 1895 to raise money for miners’…

Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum

Located in Nevada City, California, the Nevada County Narrow…

5 Kidder Ct,
Nevada City, CA 95959

Northstar Mining Museum

Operated by the Nevada County Historical Society, this museum…

933 Allison Ranch Road,
Grass Valley, CA 95945

Old Truckee Jail Museum

Old Jail Museum, Truckee, CA
Truckee’s historic jail is one of only a few surviving 19th…

10142 Jibboom Street,
Truckee, CA 96160

Ott's Assay Office

Ott’s Assay Office is said to have had $27 million in gold…

130 Main Street,
Nevada City, CA 95959

Pelton Wheel & Five-Stamp Mill

The mill was built in 1853 and used to crush ore at the Fortuna…

Red Ledge Stamp Mill

This three-stamp mill was donated to the city of Grass Valley…

Main Street & Auburn Street,
Grass Valley, CA 94945