Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Backstories: Grizzly River Run

German emigrant Jakob Probst discovered gold at Grizzly Peak in the mid-1800's. But far from being a genius, Probst's discovery was by pure chance. Frustrated at failing to get his mule across Grizzly River, Probst threw his hat into the river and trampled it. Picking it up and putting it back on his head, he discovered a one-pound gold nugget had fallen inside. Probst immediately staked a claim he later sold for millions to the Eureka Gold & Timber Company.

Nicknamed "The Pride of the Sierra", the Company was a successful business throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gold was extracted from the mountain and shipped to San Francisco. A company office and adjoining store were built right next door as well. But by the early 1950s the mine was exhausted and Eureka Gold & Timber closed down. The structures stood empty for years with only the office and company store remaining in use, converted to an outdoor supply store.

The land itself was sold to the government to create the Grizzly Peak Recreation Area. Over the next few decades the land was reborn with trees growing back and rivers clearing up. Eventually, California's rafting enthusiasts discovered the whitewater thrills of Grizzly River and the word got out about the crystal-clear waters and Class V rapids there. By the 1980s, that hobby had grown into a business with several companies offering guided raft trips to customers. One of those companies was run by a savvy group of young entrepreneurs. They purchased the old mining structures to use as their base of operations. The Grizzly River Rafting Company was born.

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