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California Caverns at Cave City (No. 956 California Historical Landmark)

Historic Site or District

California Historical Landmarks Program

Historical Landmarks are sites, buildings, features, or events that are of statewide significance and have anthropological, cultural, military, political, architectural, economic, scientific or technical, religious, experimental, or other value. Historical Landmarks are eligible for registration if they meet at least one of the following criteria:

1) Is the first, last, only, or most significant of its type in the state or within a large geographic region

2) Is associated with an individual or group having a profound influence on the history of California

3) Is a prototype of, or an outstanding example of, a period, style, architectural movement or construction or is one of the more notable works or the best surviving work in a region of a pioneer architect, designer or master builder

California’s Landmark Program began in the late 1800s with the formation of the Landmarks Club and the California Historical Landmarks League. In 1931, the program became official when legislation charged the Department of Natural Resources—and later the California State Chamber of Commerce—with registering and marking buildings of historical interest or landmarks.

In 1948, Governor Earl Warren created the California Historical Landmarks Advisory Committee to increase the integrity and credibility of the program. Finally, this committee was changed to the California Historical Resources Commission in 1974. Information about registered landmarks numbered 770 onward is kept in the California Register of Historical Resources authoritative guide. Landmarks numbered 669 and below were registered prior to establishing specific standards, and may be added to the California Register when criteria for evaluating the properties are adopted.

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The historical significance of California Caverns is well established as a major cavern system and as one of the earliest recorded caves (1850) in the Mother Lode region of California. They were discovered by Captain Joseph Taylor in 1849 or 1850, and he opened it for public tours. He named the cavern Mammoth Cave, but by 1894 it was known as Cave City Cave.

Cave City was the first tourist operation in the Sierra Nevadas. Historical documents show the caves opened as a tourist attraction in 1854. Early visitors to the caves include Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and John Muir. Muir wrote about the caves in his The Mountains of California in 1894.

The California Caverns at Cave City are unique from other caves in the Mother Lode- the California Caverns have the most extensive cavern and passageway system. It is still a popular attraction for tourists to the region.

The California Caverns are located on Cave City Road, approximately 4 miles from Mountain Ranch Road via Michel Road, 11 miles east of Highway 49 in San Andreas.

Calaveras County

Along with Mark Twain’s famous "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" story that spun into an annual fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee, Calaveras County is rich with Gold Rush history and folklore. Remnants of the railroads and Hispanic culture add to the charm of the county located in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Calaveras Big Trees State Park, a preserve of Giant Sequoia trees, and the uncommon gold telluride mineral Calaverite was discovered in the county in 1861, and is named for it.

Calaveras is a Spanish word meaning "skull." The name was first given to the river because of the great quantities of human skulls found along the lower reaches of the river.

Calaveras County is famous for its lode and placer mines, and the largest gold nugget from the United States was taken from the Morgan Mine at Carson Hill in 1854, weighing 214 pounds. For many years it was the principal copper-producing county in California. Cement deposits from its vast limestone deposits has become one of the county's major industries in recent years.

Time Period Represented



Daily 10 am to 5 pm

Seasons Open



Walking tour adult: $14.95. Walking tour child (ages 3-12): $7.95. Mammoth Cave Expedition (ages 8 and up): $99.00. Middle Earth Expedition (ages 16 and up): $130.00

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