Natural and Cultural History

About Trinity County 

Trinity County has a rich history of breathtaking sceneries, outdoor recreation, and a wealth of gold. Located in the northwestern part of California, it’s a large, rugged, mountainous, heavily forested county and is the center of a larger region. It has several points of entry, including Siskiyou County to the north, Mendocino County to the south, Shasta County to the east, Humboldt County to the west, and Tehama County to the southeast.   

First Explorers 

Founded in 1850, it takes its name from the Trinity River, named in 1845 by Major Pierson B. Reading, the area’s first recorded explorer. Thinking that the river emptied into the Pacific Ocean at Trinidad Bay, Reading named the river “Trinity,” the English translation of “Trinidad.” However, four years later, while looking for a way to the ocean, two miners discovered that the river flows into the Klamath River, not the sea. 

The Wintu Indians 

Long before the first white men landed on the North American continent, the Trinity County area was a permanent home for the Wintu Indian tribe. Most of the Wintu Indians, as with most California Indian tribes, died off due to smallpox, influenza, and outright extermination, leaving few reminders of their long occupation of the area. 

Trinity County Gold Rush 

Trinity County grew exponentially with the gold rush, which was in full swing by 1850. Miners worldwide came to Weaverville after discovering gold at Sutter’s Mill in Coloma. At this time, more people lived in the area than ever before and have never again been matched.  

By 1853, close to 2,000 Chinese lived and worked in Weaverville. While the Chinese were considered good for the economy, racial tensions with the white miners often flared into incidents. By the 1860s, mining gold began to fade as a source of income, and the Chinese had moved on to work on the transcontinental railroad being constructed across the Sierra California mountains. The only remaining signs of their community are the Weaverville Joss House, museum artifacts, and miles of carefully piled boulders along Trinity Alps streams. 

Post-Gold Rush  

Despite a large amount of placer gold and lode gold deposits, prolific mining ensured that by the early 1900s, most of the gold sources in the area were already exhausted. After the commercial mining stopped, locals focused on ranching, logging, and farming. With the coming of the railroads in the late 1800s, logging and sawmilling became more important local industries than mining. However, traces of placer gold in the river still make for great panning activities, and even today, enthusiasts are often rewarded with quality gold nuggets. 

Trinity County Today 

Trinity County residents take pride in its rich historical past and lack of traffic lights, freeways, parking meters, or incorporated cities. Weaverville, the county seat, has the distinction of housing some of California’s oldest buildings. The Joss House is a locally famous Taoist temple built in 1873. The courthouse, built in 1856, is the second oldest in the state, and the Weaverville Drug Store has been filling prescriptions since 1852.  

Today, Trinity County is known for its endless opportunities for outdoor activities, such as toe dabbling, fishing, and gold panning. Largely underdeveloped, the area offers conveniences and creature comforts in a natural environment without the hustle and hassle of more structured recreational communities. For visitors who enjoy leisure, a shady spot awaits them to read, laze, and sleep beside the river current crashing against rocks. Whatever their interests, Trinity County offers adventures and relaxation for everyone in the family.