Sun. May 19th, 2024

Bringing Life To The Dead | Ghost Town Series: Columbia

black and white image of columbia california

The earthy, musty, almost fermented scent of decaying leaves that have fallen to the ground. The unforgettable aroma of Sarsaparilla – like root beer, but not quite. Mouthwatering cinnamon candy, pies, and popcorn. It’s all there! The smell of smoke. Ah, yes, campfires! But yet, that’s not all – an older scent – like cigarettes and pipe tobacco mixed with mildew and alcohol. A smell that that makes you think of days gone by, or maybe an aging saloon? You know the scent; not quite pleasant, yet familar, and oh so memory-stirring!

It is said that the sense of smell is one of the strongest triggers of memory and emotion. (Called The Proust Effect) Perhaps that is one of the reasons these ghost towns are sure to remain a vivid memory for those who visit. Each of these towns has been brought back to life in one way or another, whether it’s a state of arrested decay, or active preservation. As you will see, each of these towns are distinctly unique as well.

In This Post, We Explore: Columbia State Historic Park

Columbia was settled in 1850, after a prospecting party led by Dr. Thaddeus Hildreth discovered gold there. The history of Columbia is available in detail at the Columbia Chamber of Commerce and Western Mining History websites. Per Western Mining History: “By 1852 Columbia had 8 hotels, 4 banks, 17 general stores, 2 firehouses, 2 bookstores, 1 newspaper, 3 churches, and over 40 saloons and gambling halls. . . In 1859 Columbia was California’s third largest city.”

Columbia is located in the heart of California’s Mother Lode region. While technically not a ghost town, Columbia is more of a living history representation. Vendors and docents dress in period costume, giving visitors a taste of what Gold Rush life might have looked and felt like. Main Street is where most of the action is, but don’t let that fool you; there is plenty more to be found just off of Main Street!

ghost town jack-o-lantern sitiing on a trash can in Columbia State Park
This is Jack. We met him around Halloween.
  • Gold Panning at Matelot Mining Company.
  • Climb and explore the limestone rocks, with hidden crevices and trails.
  • Explore Columbia Cemetery and the nearby historic school house on School House Street.
  • Ride the stagecoach.
  • See a play by Sierra Repertory Theatre at the Fallon House.
  • Museum
  • Vintage bowling, using wood ball and pins.
  • Blacksmith Shop.
  • Old time photos at Kamice’s Photographic Establishment

In the mood for food? Locals and visitors alike, rave about two places in particular. The St. Charles Saloon at the north end of Main Street is well known for craft beer, hot sandwiches, and pizza. Plenty of parking right across the street, with both indoor and outdoor seating available. They have to be doing something right, rating 4.8 stars on Google Maps!

Columbia Kate’s is another highly rated favorite. Columbia Kate’s Teahouse serves a large selection of loose leaf and prepared teas, sandwiches, desserts, and more. They have interior and garden seating available. (Our favorite is brunch in the garden) Columbia Kate’s Bakery is right across the street, and also rates an impressive 4.8 stars! We can attest; their breakfast sandwiches, quiche, and pasties are all amazing!

Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen has been creating handmade confections for five generations! Stop by and see candy being made the old way. Trust us when we say “you’ll want to pick up something for the road”. If you don’t take our advice though, you can still pick something up at their two additional locations in nearby Sonora and Murphys, California.

Blacksmith working at Parrott’s Blacksmith Shop.

Main Street is where most of the action is, but don’t let that fool you; there is plenty more to be found just off of Main Street!

Events Galore!

There is always something happening in Columbia. Our favorites include the Lamplight Tours and 4th of July Celebration, but there are so many more. The Friends Of Columbia State Historic Park detail the events and much more on their website.

We hope that we’ve shared enough information to help you plan an unforgetable trip the Columbia, California. We absolutely love it, and hope that you will as well! If you’ve been, please let us know how you like it. If you haven’t, and have questions, let us know. We’ll be happy to help!

  • Mike, The Unplanned Route

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