Gold Country and the Central Valley of California Travel guide
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Gold Country and the Central Valley

The 49ers, now the name of San Francisco's world famous football team, the term was coined for the thousands of miners who flocked to the region after gold was discovered at John Sutter's California gold country mill On the morning of January 24, 1848. James Marshall a carpenter was working on the mill in Coloma when he chanced upon a gold nugget on the south fork of the American River. Despite John Sutter's best efforts to keep it a secret, word leaked out, GOLD, a word that would change the destiny of California from that moment on.

The news spread like wildfire, throughout the country and the Gold Rush was on. Within 3 years, California's population exploded from 15,000 to more than 265,000. Most of these hopeful prospectors were soon attracting a camp following of women (of questionable virtue) and speculators (with even more questionable intent) who also hoped to make their fortunes. Many of them did unlike the miners most of whom became bankrupt in their search for untold riches.

The legacy of the boom is there for all to see take a trip along any Main street off California 49, whilst humming "do not forsake me oh my darling on this our wedding day", from the northern mines to the southern mines and you will see a scene straight from the hundreds of Westerns that have been filmed here. You will recognize the frontier setting with its saloons, wooden sidewalks and Victorian shop fronts; I could picture Mongo KOing the horse in Blazing Saddles on my first trip through this evocative area. When you stop for your evening chow it is hard not to order a shot of redeye on the side and shoot out all the mirrors behind the bar.

The Gold Country boom lasted less than a decade as the seams were duly exhausted. During this period Sacramento had grown as the supply town at the base of the goldfields. Sacramento, now the State capital, continued to expand as it exploited another source of wealth, the fertile Central Valley to its south which was becoming the vegetable-and-fruit garden of the nation. Sacramento is not a tourist town but it is worth a visit to look at the old town and to potter around on the American River. Sacramento gets hot in summer and if you have had enough of San Francisco's chilling fogs and Pacific breeze, Sacramento will soon thaw you out! California's great Central Valley stretches from Shasta County to Kern County--some 450 miles long and typically 40 to 60 miles wide. It encompasses 18 counties with a total of over five million people and over 42,000 square miles, one-sixth of the population and more than two-fifths of the land area of the state. Running between the Sierra Nevada and the coastal foothills, the Central Valley, is California's agricultural heartland. This enormous valley, one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, is laced with thousands of miles of waterways and dotted with green pastures, orchards and vineyards. Although there several good sized cities in the Central Valley, Bakersfield and Fresno, it is also filled with the largest concentration of fruit farms, almond groves and vineyards in the U.S. And there are little towns and wildlife refuges scattered along the back roads that can't even be glimpsed from the main highways. Despite the scarcity of water (it receives less than 10 in. of rainfall per year), a breathtaking panorama of orange and pistachio groves, grapevines, and gold country ghost town strawberry fields stretches uninterrupted for miles. Today the vineyards, orchards and fields produce 25 percent of America's table food! Today, the communities of the Central Valley enjoy rural expanses, urban prosperity, and an abundance and variety of fresh fruits and vegetables unrivaled in the world. It truly is a land of plenty.

The Central Valley also stands on the doorstep of some of America's greatest attractions, the most well known being Yosemite National Park. The two Central Valley towns, Merced and Visalia, are good gateways to Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon, respectively. For all the information on these national treasures go to our feature on the California Mountain Region

After you have read and digested all we have written about this wonderful holiday destination we will help you with every facet of planning, booking and savouring that tingle of anticipation that comes with a major trip to the Golden State. We will offer you the latest offers and best deals for your cheap flight to California, Hotels in California, best-priced tickets for Disneyland California, all your accommodation in California if you are traveling, plus the cheapest car hire in California, a guide to the wine country with a guide to the best California wine to sample. There is an exclusive guide to the national parks at Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon. We leave nothing to chance for your holidays in California so while you are "California Dreaming"; we are constantly updating the offers in our California guide so that you can rest happy "on such a winter's day!

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