Iowa Hill

Town History - Gold Discovery, Early Citizenry, Legends

Historic Sites - Local Ruins, Relics, Buildings & Scenery
      • The Wells Fargo Vault

Travelers' Tips - Directions, Museums, Lodging, &c

Town History

      A group of miners from Iowa discovered gold here in 1853, and as no one else was around to object, they named their camp Iowa Hill. Located high atop a narrow slice of ridge between the North Fork of the American River and Indian Canyon, Iowa Hill had the good fortune to be situated directly atop the ancient Blue Lead Channel. Other camps soon followed, such as Independence Hill, Roach Hill, Birds Flat, Grizzly Flat, and Succor Flat, and within a few years hundreds of miles of tunnels had been dug into the side of the mountains to reach the rich cement of the Blue Lead. By 1856, the mines in the area were producing in excess of $100,000 worth of gold a week.
      After the channel running beneath the town had been drifted out, hydraulic operations began working in the area, virtually washing away the mountains. In fact, parts of the ridge road leading into town are barely wide enough for two cars to pass and appear ready to fall away at any moment, as the mountain walls on both sides have been so eroded by the hydraulickers. It makes for an interesting drive.
      With so much gold being mined (over $20 million by 1880), the town had no choice but to thrive and prosper. Stores, breweries, saloons, fraternal lodges, homes, a church, school, temperance hall, and all the other outposts found in a successful mining town were here during the mid and late 1850’s. Until a fire in 1857 devastated the town, reducing it to a pile of smoldering ashes in a few hours time. The town struggled back, but never truly regained its former size. Several other fires occurred during later years, which eventually claimed all the old, historic buildings and left the town a quiet ghost of its former self.
      The scenery along the Iowa Hill Road is beautiful and reason enough to visit the old mining camp if you’ve an hour or so to spare. Be prepared for steep, twisting mountain roads (one-lane at times) with no guard rails, sheer cliffs, a river crossing, and lots of spectacular views should your eyes wander off the road. Roads like these and the remote camps they lead to show how thoroughly the prospectors covered the hills in their search for gold, and makes you wonder about their sanity.
      Iowa Hill is located nine miles east of Colfax via Iowa Hill Road.

Travelers' Tips
      • Town Map

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