Coulterville is one of those forgotten towns of the Old West. Famous and bustling during the Gold Rush Era, today it’s a visitor’s dream.
Whistling Billy is one of the most notable relics from Coulterville’s mining days. The eight-ton locomotive’s final stop was beneath the branches of the town’s old hanging tree. Note both engine and tree in this photo.
This little steam engine was shipped around the Horn and came to Coulterville in 1897 by mule team. Billy ran on thirty-inch gauge track and was capable of hauling fifteen ore cars, each weighing five tons when full. Its four-mile route was a steep and twisting climb, for which it earned the title, “Crookedest Railway in the World.”
One of the last unspoiled gold towns, many of the old buildings from the Gold Rush Era are still standing along Main Street. Photographers love the fact that utilities are underground so great shots aren’t spoiled by utility lines. Coulterville is perfect to explore on foot. Everything is close by including several old cemeteries dating back to the Gold Rush Era.
A must see is Sun Sun Wo Co., the old Chinese store. Built in 1851, it’s still around today. The original shelves and counters are still inside and there’s evidence that part of the office was used as an opium den. Earthen, fireproof walls spared the Sun Sun Wo Co. from fires that destroyed other less durable buildings.
Coulterville is small enough that you can walk all over town — including “downtown” where you’ll find the historic Magnolia Saloon. In operation since 1851 (check out this vintage photo), the Magnolia is still serving up brews and grub today.
Explore mining exhibits at the Northern Mariposa History Center, visit the town’s several shops or enjoy the town’s beautiful tree shaded park equipped with barbecues, picnic tables, a children’s play area and a community pool. The park is also host to Coulterville’s annual Coyote Howl. Held in May, the Howl includes lots of music, frivolity, a coyote howling contest and a treasure hunt for hidden gold!
In short, Coulterville has to be seen and experienced to be appreciated. It’s small; it’s friendly and it is real. Enjoy the many reminders of the Gold Rush here without the hyperbole. Savvy visitors to this historic community may wish to spend a night or a weekend here. Three local favorites: Penon Blanco Lookout Bed & Breakfast Rose Cottage Bed & Breakfast
Yosemite National Park is close by via scenic, historic Highway 132 which joins up with the Highway 120 corridor just above Groveland.