Did This Mangled Oak Tree Start The California Gold Rush?

Someone had to be the first person to discover California's gold deposits and as the story goes it was a premonition received beneath what is now known as the "Oak of the Golden Dream" that inspired the first successful prospector.


As the story goes, it was on a spring day in 1842 that mineralogist Francisco Lopez decided to take a leisurely nap beneath the tree now known as the Oak of the Golden Dream. While sleeping, Lopez had visions of being floated along a river of pure gold. When he awoke, he found that he was famished and dug up some wild onions, but discovered flecks of gold (whole nuggets according to some accounts) clinging to the roots when he pulled the vegetables from the ground. All visions aside, this was the first documented discovery of gold in the California region. After Lopez brought his gold to Los Angeles to be appraised, other prospectors began to smell the possibility of riches in the Western soil and the famous California Gold Rush was underway.

The Oak of the Golden Dream is now an official California Historic Landmark and its gnarled trunk can still be visited in the Placerita County Natural Area. Come sleepy and you may just walk away rich.

Image Credits:Cathy Cole, Mitch Barrie

Written by Eric Grundhauser, this is a slightly modified version of an article that originally ran on Atlas Obscura, the leading guide to the wondrous and curious places across the earth. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook!

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