California's Best Preserved Gold Rush Town
California's best preserved Gold Rush town, Nevada City, has a lot to offer far beyond this well-deserved distinction. Nestled in a basin on the Western Slope of the Sierra Nevada, it is framed and protected by ridgetops and promontories. At 2,500 feet above sea level, Nevada City is surrounded by forest. Deer Creek flows through and graces the center of town. Whenever you begin your descent into Nevada City, you can sense that you are approaching something good.
For thousands of years Nevada City and its environs were inhabited by the indigenous Nisenan. It was first settled by outside influences from the Gold Rush in 1849. At times it was referred to as "Nevada" and at others as "Nevada City." Eventually the word "City" was permanently added to avoid confusion with her neighbor, the state of Nevada.
Steeped in history, this full-service city of 3,000 people has seen its ups and downs. With the diminution of gold mining and timber harvesting, plus the slice that the Golden State Freeway took out of the core of the city in the 1960s, city leaders looked to historic preservation as the path into the future. Creating its own historical district in 1968 has led to a slow but steady increase in visitors and vitality as well as designation on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today Nevada City once again has significant economic, cultural and social substance. It is the county seat, headquarters of the Tahoe National Forest, and site of businesses such as Robinson Enterprises, Inc., Telestream, Gyro Stabilized Systems (GSS), and 2Wire's design facility. Fine restaurants, bars, overnight accommodations, two wineries, a Railroad Museum, Firehouse Museum, the Miners Foundry Cultural Center and the Nevada Theatre are noteworthy, alive and well.
The Nevada City Film Festival and the South Yuba River Citizens League's (SYRCL's) Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival call it home, along with a bevy of environmental and nonprofit groups that are headquartered here. KVMR community radio is in its 31st year and has increased its budget, reach and popularity dramatically over time. NCTV, a community programming television station covering local government and community items of relevance, is spreading its wings as well.
The Nevada City School District serves 1,300 students, grades K-8 at 3 locations. Student test scores are among the highest in the state. The teachers are dedicated, qualified and solidly backed by parents committed to their children's education. Down the road is Nevada Union High School, an award-winning and noted for its academic and vocational excellence. Adjacent to Nevada Union is the Nevada County branch of Sierra College, part the California community college system.
Nevada County operates the Madelyn Helling County Library, the Doris Foley Library for Historical Research and the Nevada County Historical Society hosts the Searls Historical Library.
Long-time residents and newcomers together represent a wide spectrum of interests and perspectives. Their city's small-town qualities, character and sense of community are clear. As someone once said, beyond all the wonderful things in and all around Nevada City, the best part is that "there is still a ‘there' here."