- California State Mining and Mineral Museum
- Coulterville Museum
- Mariposa County Library
- Mariposa Museum and History Center
- Yosemite National Park
Photo Gallery (.mov)
There is still gold in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, in historic Mariposa. This is where explorers John C. Fremont and Kit Carson found the rich Mariposa Vein and opened the first mill to crush ore and extract gold in California. You are invited to discover for yourself California's mineral wealth, colorful history and geologic diversity as you view the official mineral collection of the state of California.
The collection, which began in 1880, contains over 13,000 objects including mining artifacts, rare specimens of crystalline gold in its many forms, as well as beautiful gem and mineral specimens from California and around the world. The collection was moved to Mariposa in 1983 after residing in San Francisco, for over 100 years. The museum became a state park in 1999.
The Northern Mariposa County History Center, commonly referred to as the Coulterville Museum, offers visitors a glimpse of the life and times of early California, from the early 1800s through the boom days of the 1849 gold rush and the post gold rush era of the late 1800s and early 20th century. Local residents, many third and fourth generation descendants of the original miners, ranchers and shopkeepers that settled the area, established the NMCHC in 1976 as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, securing the land, buildings, exhibits and financial support to open the Museum to the public in 1980.
Precious family heirlooms, old photographs and bits of local history continue to steadily be donated to the museum, not only by local residents, but from people around the globe who send the items "home," allowing for fresh and expanded exhibits that are updated each January.
While the museum appears to be a single "old" building from the outside, once inside, visitors can tell that two distinct buildings, each with its own, unique history, house the various exhibits. The entrance to the museum is within a remnant of the Coulterville Hotel. The earliest legal description of this building is dated 1863. It was a private rock walled residence until the 1890s when Percy Davis leased it and added two wooden stories, turning it into the hotel, only to have them burn down in the third great Coulterville fire in 1899.
The adjacent Wells Fargo brick structure was built in 1856, originally housing both the local Wells Fargo office as well as McCarthy's General Store. Nelson Cody, brother of Buffalo Bill Cody, was an agent here in the 1870's and served as the area's postmaster.
An additional structure in the rear houses a variety of old wagons, mining and farm equipment. Adjacent to the museum is "Whistling Billy", an eight-ton Porter Locomotive that was shipped around the Horn and brought to Coulterville by mule team to bring gold ore from the Mary Harrison Mine four miles to the "forty-Stamper" mill. The locomotive stands under the town's Hanging Tree, from which the likes of Leon Ruiz was hung in 1856 for robbing and killing two Chinese miners.
The museum is staffed by volunteer docents. Pre-arranged guided tours are available for groups. Visitors may also take a self-guided tour.
Located in California's central Sierra Nevada, Mariposa County Library has a main library and four branch libraries, and is a member of the San Joaquin Valley Library System and the Heartland Region of the Library of California.
Founded in 1957, the Mariposa Museum & History Center is administered as a non-profit corporation and is truly a labor of love for the dedicated volunteers who, over the years, have helped to create the museum you see today. We have been dubbed "The Best Little Museum of Its Size West of the Mississippi" by the Smithsonian Institution–high praise, indeed!
Our museum’s mission is to authentically portray the people and lifestyle of Mariposa County from the Native American and Spanish periods to the California Gold Rush and through the early 1900s. Original documents and artifacts, gold displays, artwork, photos, and Native American baskets, implements, and beadwork are just a few items to enjoy when you visit us.
Our outdoor displays boast the only operational 5-stamp gold ore mill in California, a fully functional blacksmith shop and broom-making shop, in addition to other significant pieces of mining equipment. Furthermore, two historical Mariposa buildings have been conveyed to our museum grounds for your viewing pleasure.
Inside exhibits include an extensive Miwok Indian display, an interior view of a miner's cabin, an authentic Mother Lode saloon, a one-room schoolhouse, and furnishings belonging to former Mariposa County resident—and the West’s most famous explorer—John C. Fremont, and his wife, Jessie.
The museum also houses a research library for those interested in historical and genealogical research (by appointment only, please). Docents are always available to answer questions, while group tours, gold panning lessons, and stamp mill demonstrations can be arranged with advance notice.
P.O. Box 577
Yosemite National Park, CA 95389
Phone: (209) 372-0200
Not just a great Valley...but a shrine to human foresight, strength of granite, power of glaciers, the persistence of life, and the tranquility of the High Sierra.
Yosemite National Park, one of the first wilderness parks in the United States, is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more.