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News & Press: Community Spotlights

AIC Shines Its Community Spotlight on Placerville

Wednesday, June 24, 2020  
Posted by: Payton Grover
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City of Placerville

Placerville is one of the historic gold mining boomtowns of the Boise Basin Mining District. It is in the heart of the beautiful Boise National Forest and is surrounded by a mixture of private, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management lands. Rugged mountains, with some peaks rising over 7,000 feet, surround the city. Today, the city is but a shadow of its boomtown period. However, many historic buildings remain. Many Treasure Valley residents have built second homes or purchased building lots in or near the city. Each summer the population swells with tourists, campers and part-time residents. They come each year to envision the events of a bygone era and enjoy the fabulous beauty of this high-mountain community.

Historical Tidbits

The origin of Placerville followed the August 2, 1862, discovery of gold in the Boise Basin. At that time, a band of 11 prospectors came into the Boise Basin and made the first discovery of significant quantities of placer gold in what is now Grimes Creek. The news of the discovery spread rapidly. The next year, 16,000 miners and prospectors descended into the Boise Basin. It was the largest gold rush in the United States since California. The prospectors established mining towns wherever they found large quantities of placer gold. The largest town was Idaho City, 14 miles southeast of Placerville. By September 1863 about 3,200 miners and prospectors resided in Placerville. Tents, shacks, prospectors and mining claims lined the many creeks that run in or near the city. Placerville was an unusual mining boomtown in that it had a street grid and a town square—known locally as the “plaza.” Around the plaza was an Episcopal church; thirteen saloons; seven restaurants; five butcher shops; five blacksmith shops; hotels; druggists; express agents; bakeries; livery barns; carpenters; sawmills; and, attesting to the presence of women, a dressmaker and a millinery shop. The miners first panned for gold. Then they used sluice boxes and, later, they brought in water cannon to wash mountainside soils into their sluice boxes. By 1870 the mines had largely played out. By that time, the population had shrunk to 318. Many of those remaining were Chinese reworking the area’s abandoned mining claims. On February 4, 1864, the Idaho Territorial Legislature created Boise County with Idaho City as the county seat. On July 18, 1897, the Boise County commissioners made Placerville an incorporated city.

Amenities and Attractions Today

The former town square—“Plaza,” dating back to 1863—is still a historic community landmark. However, the historic plaza is now a park named Placerville City Square. It has a pavilion, picnic tables and electric power. The city has two museums funded by public donations and manned by volunteers. These museums are open weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day and by special request. The entire old city of Placerville is on the National Historic Register. It has 31 historic buildings listed with the National Park Service. Many visitors visit the city cemetery and the many graves and markers that date back to gold rush days. Numerous outdoor activities are available in the nearby mountains and streams. Many people, including families, come to hunt, fish, camp, hike, ride horses, cross-country ski, snowshoe, view the scenery, learn of the history or just enjoy the solitude that the area offers. Rainbow and brook trout are favorite game fish. Hunters find plentiful elk, deer and blue grouse. Snowmobiles and ATVs can travel for miles on forest service roads. Yurts are available for reservation throughout the year. Contact the U.S. Forest Service office for permits and reservations. Other attractions include side trips to nearby historic Boise Basin boomtowns including Idaho City, Pioneerville and Centerville.


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