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Mariposa County

Mariposa ~ Hornitos ~ Coulterville

Mariposa ~ mair-uh-poh'-suh; Spanish: Butterfly

Mariposa County is the gateway to Yosemite National Park. Founded in 1850, it has some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, with elevations up to 12,120 feet. The town of Mariposa is the County seat. Principal industries are timber, recreation, mining, tourism, livestock, poultry, agriculture, wine grapes.

Places of interest include:

  • The California State Mining and Mineral Museum, Mariposa
  • The c.1854 Courthouse, the longest in continual use
  • Mariposa Gazette, oldest California newspaper in continuous publication
  • The remains of the Princeton Mine at Mt. Bullion
  • Bear Valley, where General Fremont's home is located
  • The 1855 Ghirardelli store
  • Mt. Ophir, where a private mint issued $50 gold slugs in 1850
  • The railroad exhibit at El Portal
  • Yosemite Valley, discovered in 1851 by Major Savage
  • The Wawona Historic Hotel and golf course

Places in the County include: Benhur, Bootjack, Mt. Bullion, Mt. Ophir, Bear Creek, Midpines, Greeley Hill, Fish Camp, Bagby, Mormon Bar, Dead Man's Gulch.


Mariposa ~ The southernmost Mother Lode outpost, gold was mined here well after the turn of the century. It was one of the few camps located on a Spanish rancho, and it was here that miners, in August 1849, first chipped into the actual Mother Lode, discovering the fabulous Mariposa vein. In March 1850, claim-jumping became popular at this gold-rich site. This was once part of Fremont's empire, which appeared worthless when he acquired it (just before gold was discovered on it). It is now the Mariposa County seat.

Hornitos ~ [Spanish: Little Ovens] It was thus named for the oven-shaped Mexican graves found there. This town was formed by Mexican outcasts from Quartzburg, which is all but gone and forgotten now, while Hornitos is one of the best preserved ghost towns in Gold Country. Joaquin Murieta supposedly stayed here. The remains of the 1855 Ghirardelli building are here, once owned by the Ghirardelli's of chocolate fame in San Francisco.

Coulterville ~ The ruins of this mining camp are located on Highway 49 between Mariposa and Jamestown. Originally called Banderita [Spanish: Little Flag] by Mexican miners, it was renamed by George Coulter when American miners arrived. The only railroad in Mariposa County operated here, and it was the shortest and crookedest in the world. The engine is parked in front of the Wells Fargo building under Hangman Tree. The camp used to host 25 saloons and ten hotels, but not much is there today. The c.1850 Jeffrey Hotel with its adobe walls, the Wagoner Store, two Bruschi stores, and the town jail can be found in the area.

Yosemite ~ We couldn't resist throwing in a few words about Yosemite, even though it's not a Mother Lode mining camp. The first inhabitants were Uzamati Indians. Miners or soldiers were probably the first white men to see the area, and Yosemite Valley was "officially" discovered in 1851 by Major Savage while pursuing Indians. President Lincoln made the area a State Reserve; John Muir convinced politicians it should be a National Park. Yosemite Valley boasts of some of the most magnificent scenery in the world, with its massive rock outcroppings, sheer granite cliffs, and towering waterfalls in every direction.



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