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Jackson: A city of historical wealth in the heart of the Mother Lode

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Jackson: A city of historical wealth in the heart of the Mother Lode

The Kennedy Tailing Wheels just north of Jackson is a gigantic contraption that, in its heyday, carried vast amounts of gravels up and over the hills into a settling pond.

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POSTED June 6, 2014 7:31 p.m.

It’s a city with a small-town charm. And that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to the mining of all the visual and historical – among many other things – attractions that draw visitors in droves to the city of Jackson nestled in the heart of the Mother Lode. The proof is in the numbers. While this quaint and quiet city in Amador County is home to just 4,300 residents, the number swells up to more than 15,000 on the weekends when the tourist traffic is at its busiest.


Wealth of historical highlights

Jackson has some of the richest gold-producing mines in California. The city started as a gold mining camp in 1848 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. If you visit and plan to soak up as much of historical knowledge and feel of the place as you can, take advantage of the Walking Tour guide which will take you to all the historical sites in the heart of Jackson’s Main Street including the Pioneer Cemetery.

But while it’s swimming in historical wealth, Jackson today is a blend of the old and the new. It’s still city that boasts plenty of small-town charm and surrounded by scenic wide open spaces but it also has plenty of modern-day creature comforts that you can expect in a big city.

Downtown Main Street Jackson though is not the place you can go to truly appreciate the feel of the city and its immediate surrounding area. Within a few minutes’ drive from the heart of the downtown area are other places to visit and are just as full of historic attractions. Below are just three of them.


Other attractions near Jackson

• Kennedy Tailing Wheels just above Jackson just a quick drive from downtown Jackson off Highway 49. It was named after Andrew Kennedy, an Irish immigrant believed to have discovered a quartz outcropping in the last 1850s near what is now Highway 49. The huge tailing wheels, which were built in 1913, is a sight to see even though all of the original wheels, with the exception of two, have vanished to oblivion. But the remaining pair is enough to fire up one’s imagination and visualize how the gigantic contraption looked like during its heyday when it carried vast amounts of gravels up and over the hills into a settling pond. The ruins of some of the wheels which have succumbed to the elements and just simply by their age are still there, strewn around the rocky grounds. For visitors’ convenience, there are picnic areas as well as restrooms located here.

• Knight Foundry and Shops. This historic site in Sutter Creek, just a quick car hop north of Jackson, is not open to public foot traffic as far as the inside of the galvanized-iron building is concerned. Still, it stands as a mute reminder of a rich past. Knight Foundry is a cast iron foundry established in 1873. Its role was to supply heavy equipment and repair facilities to the gold mines and timber industry of the Mother Lode. Samuel N. Knight invented the high speed, cast iron impulse water turbine – the forerunner of the Pelton wheel design. The Knight Foundry is significant in that it is the last water-powered foundry and machine shop in the United States. Knight Wheels were used in some of the first hydroelectric plants in California, Utah, and Oregon. An organization called Knight Foundry Corporation is continuing its efforts to acquire the property from its current owners in the hope of stabilizing it and making it safe for visitors, and to preserve this historical site for future generations. (

• Daffodil Hill, with its beckoning golden blossoms in early spring, is further up northeast of Jackson. Be prepared for the winding drive along many scenic spots, but the sight waiting for you at the Hill will be more than worth the wait.

• Chaw’se Indian Grinding Rock State Park in Volcano just below Daffodil Hill. This is a historic park nestled in a little valley in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Created in 1968, it’s a sprawling 135-acre park and is home to the largest collection of bedrock mortars in North America. It also home to the Chaw’se Regional Indian Museum which boasts some of the most outstanding collection of Sierra Nevada Indian artifacts. In the heart of the small valley is a reproduction of a Miwok village complete with a ceremonial roundhouse. 


About the City of Jackson

Incorporated in 1905, the City of Jackson is the seat of government in Amador County. It is home to less than 4,500 residents. But weekend visitors – tourists all – swell that population level up to 15,000 on the weekends which points to the wide popularity of this quaint and quiet small general-law incorporated city as a tourist destination.

While the city has put in plenty of effort to retain its Gold Rush-era ambience and attraction, Jackson also offers a lot of modern conveniences to offer visitors accustomed to the creature comforts of big metropolitan cities. Blending in subtly with the charming Victorian-era neighborhoods in the heart of the historic city and immediate vicinity are modern residential subdivisions and shopping centers. And there’s no shortage of fine ethnic and American dining destinations in the downtown district to please every discriminating palate.



Jackson is a just a 45-mile drive east from Sacramento and Stockton. From Manteca, you can choose between two major highways to get there – Highway 88 and Highway 49 via Highway 4 which is off Highway 99 – both offering scenic routes.

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