COLOMA, Calif. (KTXL) – In this week’s Destination California, we’re exploring Coloma, a place where visitors can experience the history that gave the Golden State its name. 

“This is where it all started,” Holly Thane said.

Even the best kept secrets have a way of getting out and once they do, they can change everything.

“The gold was found in the tail race of the sawmill,” Ed Allen explained. “It was a chance discovery.”

“James Marshall found that first piece of gold,” Thane said. 

That first gold nugget was the size of a pea. 

“Then he looks down at his feet and realizes that’s not the only gold there,” Allen said.

Marshall was asked to keep his discovery a secret.

But, word got out and the world rushed in. In the period of one year, the population of California went from about 12,000 to more than 90,000.

“And it kicked off the largest mass migration of people here,” Thane said.

Now, this informative state park is one of the best places families can come to see and touch something they’ve only read about in books.

“Just to see education being lived, I just love the excitement of the kids,” Thane explained.

“It’s just kind of fascinating that someone found gold here and all the people just went crazy,” Steven Reynolds said.

“For me it really takes me back in time,” Kirsten said.

When visitors step back in time, they’re met with all kinds of activities, from the working black smith, to the old structures, to the tools and devices that miners used.

And, of course, people can try gold panning for themselves. 

Just outside the park there is even more to do including river rafting, hiking and camping.

“We keep finding new things all the time,” Allen said. 

The original gold rush brought people from all over the world to Coloma. Today, they come for a different reason.

“So we get people from all over the world who can find some tie to their country and roots here at the park,” Thane said.