As the largest of California's original 27 counties, Mariposa County is known as the "Mother of Counties." Mariposa County birthed 11 other counties in whole or in part out of its original geographic area. It is home to the first hard rock gold mine in California. The founding of this mine has been attributed in part to Kit Carson. John C. Fremont owned a vast area here during the gold rush which made him the largest private land owner in the United States. When gold was discovered here as part of California's Gold Rush, Fremont made his home in Bear Valley near Mount Bullion. Mariposa's streets are still named after members of Fremont's family. Mariposa County mines including the Josephine, Pine Tree and Princeton were some of the most productive in the motherlode. One of the highest grades of crystalline gold found anywhere in the world is still mined here.
Even if your family members were not renowned explorers, you may along with many Californians discover your roots here in Mariposa County. The first Republican candidate for President, a Civil War General, the First Provisional Governor of California, and the largest private land owner in the United States (John Fremont) were all Mariposans.
Today visitors can experience a sense of what life was like during the gold rush by visiting our museums and history centers. The Mariposa and Coulterville museums have stunning exhibits that depict how those miners lived during history's largest migration There are several small towns that can be visited where historic buildings still have steel shutters and doors. In Hornitos, the small town square seems to echo with voices of the past. Famous for being a favorite hangout for Joaquin Murieta (romanticized in many countries as the Robinhood of the West), Hornitosalso produced the first Ghiradelli store. Coulterville is one of the most unspoiled gold rush era towns any where in California. Besides the compelling museum and Historic Register downtown area, Coulterville also offers a tour of old-fashioned pioneer roses. Other attractions include the Mariposa County Courthouse which is the oldest courthouse still in continuous use west of the Rockies and the Mariposa Gazette which is California's oldest weekly newspaper in continuous publication.
Authentic hold-up of the "stage" on Chowchilla Mountain. Picture taken with the permission of the robbers by a man from Australia travelling with his wife to Wawona in Yosemite National Park.
Picture courtesy Lee Berlin collection.
The California State Mining and Mineral Museum is California's newest State Park. Located at the Mariposa Fairgrounds, this is the State's premier exhibit of gems, gold and minerals with specimens contributed from all over the world. This is a favorite destination for people beginning or ending their tour of California's Gold Country. Mariposa County's position on the Southern end of Highway 49 (the historic route of California's 49er Gold Miners) is the perfect start or finish to your quest for gold.
Mariposa County is also known as the Home of Yosemite. Here others have sought and persevered for another treasure - the conservation of a world treasure - Yosemite National Park. John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Ansel Adams, and many others were compelled to accomplish great things. Modern visitors talk about their experience of Yosemite as spiritual. There are perhaps few other places that are so dramatic and grand in scale that a visitor's problems and concerns have no room to invade.
There is no place better then Mariposa County for scenery, history, diversity of cultures, elevation variations and climates. One might peruse lowland wildflowers or go bird watching one day, and enjoy spring skiing in Yosemite the next. Hiking, golfing, shopping, wine-tasting, bicycling, boating, fishing, camping, panning for gold are year round favorite activities, and with over 300 sunny days a year, Mariposa County is the perfect all-season vacation destination.
To see Yosemite, enter Mariposa County by one of five highways: Highway 49 to Coulterville; Highway 132/120, the boating and water sports route; Highway 140 from Merced, the "All-Season Route"; or Highway 41, the favored route from Southern California. Yosemite features popular lodging and recreation provided by the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad, Wawona Golf Course and the Yosemite Pack Station. Cross-country and down hill skiing are available, as are biking on miles of old logging roads, the pioneer Yosemite History Museum and numerous restaurants and shops. Museums include those displaying gold rush artifacts, Indian art and baskets as well as contemporary exhibits. The Ansel Adams Studio features the work of the famous photographer along with that of other artists. The Park Service and the Yosemite Concession Service offer many free programs, camera walks, and naturalist excursions.