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From the East Coast, a sailing voyage around the tip of South America would take five to eight months, and cover some 18,000 nautical miles (33,000 kilometres).An alternative was to sail to the Atlantic side of the Isthmus of Panama, take canoes and mules for a week through the jungle, and then on the Pacific side, wait for a ship sailing for San Francisco.Settlements of the Gold Rush era, such as Portuguese Flat on the Sacramento River, sprang into existence and then faded.The Gold Rush town of Weaverville on the Trinity River today retains the oldest continuously used Taoist temple in California, a legacy of Chinese miners who came.The California Gold Rush began at Sutter's Mill, near Coloma. Marshall, a foreman working for Sacramento pioneer John Sutter, found shiny metal in the tailrace of a lumber mill Marshall was building for Sutter on the American River.Marshall brought what he found to John Sutter, and the two privately tested the metal.By the time it ended, California had gone from a thinly populated ex-Mexican territory to the home state of the first nominee for the Republican Party. Whole indigenous societies were attacked and pushed off their lands by the gold-seekers, called "forty-niners" (referring to 1849).The first to hear confirmed information of the gold rush were the people in Oregon, the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii), and Latin America, and they were the first to start flocking to the state in late 1848.
San Francisco grew from a small settlement of about 200 residents in 1846 to a boomtown of about 36,000 by 1852.
The Mexican–American War ended on February 3, 1848, although California was firmly in American hands before that.
The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo provided for, among other things, the formal transfer of Upper California to the United States.
The first discovery of gold, at Rancho San Francisco in the mountains north of present-day Los Angeles, had been in 1842, six years before Marshall's discovery, while California was still part of Mexico.
By 1850, most of the easily accessible gold had been collected, and attention turned to extracting gold from more difficult locations.