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Gold Hill Ranch/Wakamatsu Colony Site

Historic Site or District
Postcard – ARC

ADA Accessibility Notes

Not wheelchair accessible at this time.

The American River Conservancy (ARC) acquired and manages the Gold Hill Ranch/Wakamatsu Colony site, a mere 3 miles from our headquarters at the historic Kane House in Marshall Gold Discovery Park in Coloma, California. Our Nature Center is conveniently located next to the South Fork of the American River and a brief stroll away from where the Gold Rush began and where over 400,000 visitors and more than 70,000 school children visit annually.

For more than 20 years, the American River Conservancy has been preserving rivers and land for life. As a non-profit community organization in the central Sierra Nevada foothills, we work to preserve natural areas and cultural resources and build an enduring ethic of care, building a sustainable future for humans in harmony with nature.

We purchase or accept land and conservation easements from willing landowners and actively partner with governmental agencies, private donors, and foundations to acquire funding and to transfer these lands into the public domain. To date, we have achieved more than 10,000 acres of success.

We build an enduring ethic of care by providing environmental education and outdoor recreation for adults and children alike, and by promoting habitat restoration, trail building, and maintenance projects with volunteers.

We focus on the American and Cosumnes River watersheds. Ranging in elevation from a few hundred feet to over 10,000 feet, the American and Cosumnes River watersheds encompass a wide diversity of habitats. Within this area lies a unique combination of gabbroic soils that support some rare plants that grow nowhere else on earth. Of all the states in the US, California has both the highest total number of plant and animal species and the highest number of endemic species – those that occur nowhere else.

Our location is ideal to monitor the quality of water flowing from Sierra Nevada streams into State and Federal water projects that deliver domestic water supplies to Sacramento and 23 million California residents and that supply much of the water to irrigate California’s crops.

The South Fork American River is the most commercially rafted river in the state. Recreational opportunities are abundant, from rafting and kayaking to fishing, mountain biking, riding horses, and hiking and backpacking. We build preserve systems that connect the South Fork American River in the foothills to Folsom Recreation Area and to the American River Parkway in Sacramento.

A site like the Gold Hill Ranch/Wakamatsu Colony encompasses all of these aspects. It has native species (western pond turtle) living in its aquatic resources – ponds and streams –, diverse habitat for a variety of wildlife, and historical significance in its Native American use, Japanese settlement, the California Gold Rush, and ranchers/farmers using the property for over a century. As both an historical site and watershed near the South Fork American River, the ARC combines its experience in an historical setting with its experience in practicing habitat restoration.

The National Park Service recently placed the Wakamatsu Colony site on the National Register of Historic Places at a level of "National Significance."

In June of 1869, the Wakamatsu Colonists purchased approximately 200 acres, a farmhouse and farm outbuildings from Charles Graner who settled the Gold Hill Ranch in 1856. Once on the Colony site, the colonists quickly went to work planting mulberry trees, tea plants and other crops. The Wakamatsu colonists successfully displayed silk cocoons, tea and oil plants at the 1869 California State Agricultural Fair in Sacramento and at the 1870 Horticultural Fair in San Francisco.

This historic colony site was first settled by Japanese colonists from Aizu Wakamatsu (Fukushima Prefecture) in July 1869. To the best of our knowledge the Wakamatsu Colony site is the first Japanese colony in North America; contains the gravesite of Okei Ito, the first Japanese woman buried on American soil; is the birthplace of the first naturalized Japanese-American; and is the only settlement established by samurai outside of Japan.

In establishing this colony in western El Dorado County (40 miles east of Sacramento), the Wakamatsu Colonists were the first to introduce traditional Japanese horticulture to California including silk worm farming, the cultivation of tea, rice, citrus, peaches and other stone fruit varieties, paper and oil plants and bamboo products.

In addition, the ranch is an interesting mosaic of springs, streams, wetlands, blue and live oak forest, sweeping vistas and prime agricultural soil. Ranch ponds and the small lake are a draw for wildlife, particularly migratory waterfowl during the winter and early spring.

Pet Friendly Notes

No pets please.

Time Period Represented

Pre-historic resources date back 2,500 years. Other cultural resources date from 1854 to present-day.


Please contact American River Conservancy for tour and accessibility information.

Seasons Open

This property is not open to the public, but can be viewed during open house and tours. Please go to for more information.


Price Style for this Establishment

Not applicable.

No fees at this time, donations encouraged.

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