Celebrating a nugget of history: Gold Nugget Days


Flyer courtesy of Gold Nugget Museum.

In April 1859, miners found a massive 54-pound gold nugget in the Feather River near Magalia.

At the time, it was the largest gold nugget to have been found in California. The discovery sparked a massive influx of prospectors and led to the formation of several towns that speckle the ridgelines of Butte County. 

100 years later, the first Gold Nugget Days was celebrated in 1959, and now it is an annual tradition that brings the community together for a long weekend full of family-friendly events. 

Saturday’s festivities will start with a pancake breakfast and the Donkey Derby in Magalia, where the 54-pound gold nugget being carried from the river up to Skyway is reenacted.

Several donkeys and their handlers compete for the best time to complete the steep and grueling hike out of the canyon,  hauling 54-pound weights. When they reach the top, they walk through an obstacle course where attendees can see the donkeys in action.

Hank and Jason Walton, the 2022 Donkey Derby winners.
Hank and Jason Walton, the 2022 Donkey Derby winners. Photo taken by Brykelle Lang.

The Gold Nugget Days Parade starts at noon in Paradise, but a portion of Skyway closes at 11 a.m. to accommodate the parade, so arrive early. In the downtown area both sides of the road fill with eager onlookers.

A procession of floats representing community organizations and schools, E Clampus Vitus members wearing red and black, go-karts, and dancing horses make for a lively scene that echoes down the ridge.

Remember to check out the museum where there will be an array of gems and minerals to view, some of which will be available for purchase. A wealth of knowledge can be gained by conversing with the rock enthusiasts who participate.

Glow in the dark rock, purchased at Paradise Gem and Mineral Show in 2022.
Glow in the dark rock, purchased at Paradise Gem and Mineral Show in 2022. Photo taken by Brykelle Lang.

For a full list of events and more information about the history of mining in Butte county, visit the Gold Nugget Museum website.

Gold Nugget Days Events, 2023.
Flyer courtesy of Gold Nugget Museum.

The Gold Nugget Museum organizes and facilitates the event, and their presence on the ridge since 1973 has helped to keep the ridge’s rich mining history alive and accessible to anyone with a desire to learn. 

Many of the historical artifacts that the museum had carefully safeguarded and the building that housed them were destroyed in the Camp Fire

Events like this help support a revitalization of the community and provide a great opportunity for people from the surrounding areas to visit and enjoy a day on the ridge. 

Brykelle Lang can be reached at [email protected].