At one time Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater lake west of the Great Lakes. In the 1930s farmers choked off the four major rivers that fed the lake and it quickly dried up. Once the home to millions of birds and herds of tuleelk and antelope, the lake bed is now covered in agriculture. But like all things great in California, the lake refuses to disappear completely. During very heavy winters, the lake partially re-fills with water and stops motorists in their tracks as they come across a huge lake amongst the vineyards and orchards that fill the valley. Huell and Luis take a very special canoe ride inthis magical lake.

Anybody who has studied California history knows the name James Marshall and his discovery of gold which sparked the beginning of the gold rush. Does the name Jenny Wimmer ring a bell? Probably not, but she played a major role inMarshall’s discovery. Jenny Wimmer cooked for and took care of twenty men who worked at Sutters Fort including James Marshall. When Marshall reached down into the tail race of the mill and picked up a small shiny nugget, it was Jenny Wimmer he went to for conformation. Jenny had done quite a bit of mining and knew how to test for gold in a lye bucket she used for making soap. Huell and Luis travel back to Coloma to re-create that historic moment. As an special treat, the actual “Wimmer Nugget” comes home for the day as does many of Jenny’s descendants.

Contacts: Marshall Gold Discovery State Park 530-622-3470.

 1999