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Roseville to North Lake Tahoe: 19 Free Museums this Weekend

Nineteen local museums, all located between Roseville and North Lake Tahoe, will open their doors admission-free during the the 6th annual Heritage Trail planned for August 10 - 11, 2013, an event which showcases Placer County's captivating history in fun and fascinating exhibits and activities. 

Six of these museums are located in South Placer County.   Another six are located in Auburn within one mile, so close together that visitors can park once and walk to all six.  The other seven are in Placer County mountain communities.   Free trail guides including maps are available now at all museums.

Admission is free to all visitors, and all museums are open from 10 AM to 4 PM both days.

Placer County, California, which crosses the majestic Sierra Nevada, was home first to a thriving Native American culture, then the California Gold Rush beginning in 1848, the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, and later a booming agricultural industry, from which high quality fruit was shipped to the East Coast.    These local museums showcase Placer County's role in these dramatic events, and help visitors understand how Placer County people helped shape California today.

Bus tours, which visit several museums each day and are popular with many trail travelers, are available on both Saturday and Sunday.  The bus leaves from and returns to Auburn each day; tickets are $10 per day.  Reservations are required; call 1-530-889-6500 as soon as possible, as buses may fill early.

Free printed Heritage Trail Guides, complete with maps to all 19 sites, are available at every Heritage Trail museum.  A copy will also be available for download at  For more information, visitors may also call 1-530-889-6500. 

Each of the 19 museums offers  different opportunities and activities. Some visitors may primarily wish to explore the historic artifacts, while families with children may prefer living history activities. 

Some museums feature "what happened here" through displays and local artifacts.  For example, information in the Rocklin History Museum and a walk through the Griffith Quarry Museum in Penryn help show how granite was extracted from the earth and used to build now-historic structures.  At 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 11, there will be a demonstration at the Rocklin History Museum as  Roy Ruhkala, whose family has been in the granite business for more than 100 years, demonstrates how to split large granite blocks with simple hand tools.
 The Roseville Telephone Museum showcases one of the most extensive collections of antique telephones and memorabilia in the nation.  Visitors will get a hands-on opportunity to see how old  equipment placed calls and how modern technology functions.
The Donner Summit Historical Society Museum is leading a free history hike for visitors both Saturday and Sunday mornings.  The second annual Margie Powell hike to Summit Valley will leave at 9:30 each day from the Van Norden Dam opposite the Soda Springs Ski Area.  The two-mile hike will include information about the dam, the historic Lincoln Highway, the Dutch Flat Wagon Road, Native American activities, wagon train passes, the sheep industry and the railroad, during the two-plus hour tour before lunch.  The museum features the unique history of Donner Summit. 

At the Gatekeeper's Museum in Tahoe City visitors can come face-to-face with a real black bear, preserved and presented as part of an exhibit "Ursus Among Us: The American Black Bear in the Tahoe Basin."  The display examines the at-times complex relationship between people and bears living in the wild.  The museum is a reconstruction of the original cabin used by the gatekeeper who controlled the flow of water out of Lake Tahoe into the Truckee River.  It showcases Tahoe history. The Marion Steinbach Indian Basket museum on site includes more than 800 vintage and contemporary Native American baskets, jewelry, pottery and dolls.   The Watson Cabin is nearby, the oldest building built on-site in Tahoe City, in 1909, and is set up as a typical Tahoe pioneer family dwelling of that era.

Visitors to the Placer County Museum located in the beautiful Historic Courthouse in Auburn may see where Alma Bell was incarcerated in the dingy outdoor women's jail quarters outside under the historic Placer County courthouse stairs.  The museum includes an overview of the early Nisenan inhabitants, the renowned Pate Collection of Native American artifacts and the original Thomas Kinkade painting "Auburn Centennial."

A variety of living history activities are available for children at the Bernhard Museum in Auburn, while adults may taste wine at the historic winery which is also located onsite.   Visitors to the Gold Country Museum nearby can try their hands at gold panning or try on historic attire for a photo.

The Lincoln Area Archives Museum displays native American artifacts, historic Gladding McBean & Co. displays and three beautifully restored buggies. 

The Roseville Historical Society Carnegie Museum features a working model railroad layout exhibit incorporating the rail history of Roseville, plus old toys, irons, tools, business cameras, and a horse-drawn carriage.  Recently, the museum received a 1910 map of the City of Roseville and historic records from the Fiddyment family.

Visitors to the Maidu Museum in Roseville can explore an ancient Indian village site where Valley Nisenan Maidu Indians lived for thousands of years.  There will be hands-on children's activities.

Also in Auburn are the Joss House Chinese Museum and the Benton Welty School Room in Auburn's City Hall Building, which opened as Auburn Grammar School in 1915.  At the Gold Country Medical Museum in Auburn, visitors can choose to be "zapped" to experience some historic phony cure devices.

Other mountain museums also host an array of fascinating exhibits about the Gold Rush, mining, the Transcontinental Railroad, the Maidu, pioneer families, fruit ranching and much more.

The Forest Hill Divide Museum (in Foresthill) will feature a working blacksmith and the first motorized fire engine on the Divide.  The Colfax Area Heritage Museum features the history of the railroad, gold mining, fruit ranching and the struggles of pioneer families, plus an extensive array of historic pharmacy supplies.  The Golden Drift Museum in the charming town of Dutch Flat is considered the best preserved Gold Rush town in Placer County, and displays of  old photos, Native American projectile points, mining and railroad displays and Chinese artifacts.

Visitors to the Western SkiSport Museum at Boreal Mountain Resort can see the wooden skis dating from 1853 when gold miners on 14-foot "longboards" raced at 80 miles per hour down perilous slopes for sport, alongside photos and memorabilia from the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley.  The museum also houses the mailbag and skis of "Snowshoe" Thompson, who provided the only mail delivery service through the Sierras in the winter beginning in the 1850's.

Sponsors of the Heritage Trail are the County of Placer, SureWest, KAHI,  WAVE Broadband, and the Native Sons of the Golden West (Auburn Parlor #59 and Lincoln #63 Silver Star Parlor), who also make their historic wagons available for photos at the Bernhard Museum.

Here is a list of all the museums participating in the Heritage Trail.
Free trail guides include maps and directions to all sites and are now available at all museums.

Valley Museums - Located in South Placer
Lincoln Area Archives Museum
Maidu Museum & Historic Site (Roseville)
Roseville Historical Society Carnegie Museum
Rocklin History Museum
Griffith Quarry Museum (Penryn)
Roseville Telephone Museum

Auburn Area Museums - Within one mile of the Historic Courthouse in Auburn
The Benton Welty School Room
Bernhard Museum Complex
Gold Country Museum
Placer County Museum
Joss House Museum
Gold Country Medical History Museum

Mountain Museums -Located in the Sierra Nevada and North Lake Tahoe
Forest Hill Divide Museum  (Foresthill)
Colfax Area Heritage Museum 
Golden Drift Museum (Dutch Flat)
Donner Summit Historical Society Museum (Soda Springs)
Western SkiSport Museum (Boreal)
Gatekeeper's Museum (Tahoe City)
Watson Cabin (Tahoe City)

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