The Heritage Trail | Eighteen free sites to showcase Placer County’s history |

The Heritage Trail | Eighteen free sites to showcase Placer County’s history

Courtesy Anita YoderThe Soda Springs Hotel image is representative of the many photos available at the Donner Summit Historical Society Museum.

TAHOE/TRUCKEE, Calif. and#8212; Eighteen local museums, all located between North Lake Tahoe and Roseville, Calif. will open their doors admission-free during the 5th annual Heritage Trail Aug. 11-12, an event which showcases Placer County’s captivating history in fun and fascinating exhibits and activities.

Artifacts in the museums, which stretch from historic Roseville and Rocklin through Penryn, Auburn, Foresthill, Colfax, Dutch Flat, Boreal Mountain, Donner Summit and North Lake Tahoe, tell stories of hardship, courage and triumph.

Placer County, Calif. was home first to a thriving Native American culture, then the California Gold Rush beginning in 1848, the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, and later a booming agricultural industry with high quality fruit shipped to the East Coast. Today it also boasts a thriving outdoor recreation and tourism industry, often built on the accomplishments of the past. The museums on the tour showcase early Placer County’s role in these dramatic events and help visitors learn how they helped shape California today.

Most museums on the Heritage Trail are located with easy access to Interstate 80 between North Lake Tahoe and Roseville. Admission will be free to all visitors, and all museums will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday.

Activities at each museum are varied. Some visitors may primarily wish to explore the historic artifacts, while other visitors, particularly families with children, may prefer to join in living history activities.

For example, visitors to the Western SkiSport Museum at Boreal Mountain Resort can see the wooden skis dating from 1853 when gold miners on 14-foot and#8220;longboardsand#8221; raced at 80 miles per hour down perilous slopes for sport, alongside photos and memorabilia from the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley. The museum also houses the mailbag and skis of and#8220;Snowshoeand#8221; Thompson, who provided the only mail delivery service through the Sierra in the winter beginning in the 1850s.

The Donner Summit Historical Society Museum, located in Soda Springs, features the unique history of Donner Summit. There is information about Native Americans, who crossed Donner Pass thousands of years ago, leaving behind petroglyphs and grinding rocks. Exhibits focus on and#8220;first eventsand#8221; across Donner Summit, such as the first wagon train to California, the first Transcontinental Railroad, Transcontinental highway, Transcontinental telephone line and Transcontinental air route. The museum also houses countless historic photos and posters.

The Watson Cabin is the oldest building constructed on-site in Tahoe City, in 1909, and is set up as a typical Tahoe pioneer family dwelling of that era, with many artifacts from the Watson family. The cabin was built by Robert Montgomery Watson as a wedding present for his son. Docent tours are available on site.

The Gatekeeper’s Museum, also in Tahoe City, is a reconstruction of the original cabin used by the gatekeeper who controlled the flow of water out of Lake Tahoe into the Truckee River. This museum showcases Tahoe history, including Washoe inhabitants, the logging era and establishment of tourism in the Tahoe Basin. Also, the Marion Steinbach Indian Basket museum on site includes more than 800 vintage and contemporary Native American baskets, jewelry, pottery and dolls.

At the Gatekeeper’s Museum, visitors can also come face-to-face with a real black bear, preserved and presented as part of a special exhibit and#8220;Ursus Among Us: The American Black Bear in the Tahoe Basin.and#8221; It describes black bears in their wild state and examines the at-times complex relationship between people and bears living in the basin.

Visitors to other sites, such as the Placer County Museum in Auburn, may meet Alma Bell who was incarcerated in the dingy outdoor granite quarters under the courthouse steps, or pan for gold and play 19th-century games at the Gold Country Museum or watch a blacksmith in action at the Forest Hill Divide Museum.

Visitors may be able to ride a chartered bus which stops at several museums each day, however, they must purchase tickets in advance. Buses leave the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn at 8:45 a.m. and cost $10 each day.

On Saturday, the bus stops at the SkiSport Museum, the Golden Drift Museum in Dutch Flat, the Colfax Area Heritage Museum, and the Forest Hill Divide Museum before returning to Auburn. Tickets remain available.

The Sunday bus heads west to the Rocklin Historical Society Museum, the Maidu Historic Site and Museum, the Roseville Historical Society Carnegie Museum and the Griffith Quarry Museum before returning to Auburn. All tickets on this bus have currently been sold. For up-to-date information about the buses, please call 1-530-889-6500.

Free printed Heritage Trail Guides, which includes maps and detailed site information, are available at every Heritage Trail museum. A copy may also be downloaded at Information is also available by phone.

Sponsors of the Heritage Trail are the County of Placer, Capital Public Radio, WAVE Broadband and the Native Sons of the Golden West (Auburn Parlor #59 and Lincoln #63 Silver Star Parlor).

Listed below are the museums participating in the Heritage Trail. The mountain museums, located in the Sierra Nevada and North Lake Tahoe, include the Forest Hill Divide Museum in Foresthill, Colfax Area Heritage Museum, Golden Drift Museum in Dutch Flat, Donner Summit Historical Society Museum in Soda Springs, Western SkiSport Museum at Boreal, and Gatekeeper’s Museum and Watson Cabin in Tahoe City.

Auburn area museums located within one mile of the Historic Courthouse, include the Benton Welty School Room, Bernhard Museum Complex, Gold Country Museum, Placer County Museum, Joss House Museum and Gold Country Medical History Museum.

The valley museums, located in South Placer, include the Lincoln Area Archives Museum, Maidu Museum and Historic Site in Roseville, Roseville Historical Society Carnegie Museum, Rocklin History Museum, and Griffith Quarry Museum in Penryn.

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