Jeepers Jamboree

Georgetown

RUBICON COUNTRY

Elevation: 2,649 feet feet

WHAT TO DO IN GEORGETOWN

Some Favorites From Our Expeditions

  • Connector.

    Buy a Georgetown bumper sticker at Frog Pond Antiques & Gifts.

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    If you’re an adventure driver with the right kind of wheels, stop in at Jeepers Jamboree to learn all about the Rubicon Trail.

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    If you’re not up for off-roading, take the windy drive from Georgetown to Placerville on Highways 193 and 49. Keep your eyes peeled on 49 for the fence capped off with dozens of old boots.

Way Beyond Cool

Situated between the Middle and South Forks of the American River, the Georgetown Divide consists of Cool, Garden Valley, Georgetown, Greenwood, Kelsey, Mosquito, Pilot Hill and Quintette. A running bumper sticker joke in the area references Cool and the distance to two other towns. Greenwood is described as “Beyond Cool” and Georgetown is noted as “Way Beyond Cool.”

Early Fire Prevention: Georgetown’s Wide Streets

All of Georgetown is registered as a California Historical Landmark and besides the going-back-in-time buildings, one of its other defining features is an unusually wide Main Street. The reason is an 1852 fire that nearly destroyed the community. When the residents rebuilt, they chose a new location and made the streets wider so that any future blaze would have trouble jumping and causing more destruction. Main Street is 100 feet across and side streets are 60.

The Fricot Nugget: Famously Massive Gold Too Big to Steal

Like most of Gold Country, Georgetown’s roots are steeped in mining. It was once known as Growlersburg for the area’s gold nuggets, said to be heavy enough that they made growling sounds in miners’ pans when rubbing against the other sediment that had been captured. Georgetown thrived during the Gold Rush, having both placer and lode mining.

One of the most famous finds was the Fricot Nugget, a cluster of crystalized gold that weighed approximately 13 pounds and was displayed at the Paris Exposition in 1878. Years later, it would go on display in San Francisco’s Ferry Building and later the Mariposa Mineral Museum in Mariposa. In 2012, a group armed with pick-axes tried to steal it in a heist. They eluded capture with more than $2 million worth of the museum’s treasures, but not its massive prized possession.

The Rubicon Trail: Driver’s Paradise

Georgetown lies at the beginning of the Rubicon Trail, a former Indian route that connected the Sacramento Valley and Lake Tahoe. Immigrants were using it by the mid-1800s, and over the years it transitioned from trail to a rudimentary road. The opening of the Rubicon Mineral Springs Resort and Hotel brought more travelers in the 1890s, and when the first car came through in 1908 it was major news.

In the 1920s, the Rubicon would be promoted as the optimal Georgetown-to-Tahoe route and a promotional auto trip was organized to drum up publicity. The coverage that followed also mentioned plans to improve the road. But this wasn’t meant to be. The Rubicon Springs Hotel closed later that decade and the Rubicon lost its traffic, taking plans for the upgrade with it. Decades of disuse followed, but in the early 1950s it gained a new following: off-roading enthusiasts.

Jeepers Jamboree: Brainchild of an Original Auto Explorer

Today, the 22-mile Rubicon trail — most of it still non-maintained — is considered one of the premier adventures for four-wheel drive vehicles, notably Jeeps.The annual Jeepers Jamboree has been an organized event for more than 60 years. Founded to boost Georgetown’s economy, it’s a multi-day affair that includes Rubicon off-roading, guides who offer advice to the less-experienced, camping, music and other events. There’s also a Jeepers Jamboree headquarters in Georgetown, with information about the trail and a museum with vintage models.

Founder Mark A. Smith was captivated by Jeeps from a young age and went on to become a consultant for the brand and a trusted test driver of various models. Besides being known for popularizing Jeeps as recreational vehicles, making off-roading a popular sport and traveling with a pet Husky named Jeep Jr., Smith was also a certified explorer, recognized by the Explorers Club for his Jeep-based expeditions — he drove one on every continent.

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