Introducing Sonora & Jamestown
Settled in 1848 by miners from Sonora, Mexico, this area was once a cosmopolitan center of commerce and culture with parks, elaborate saloons and the Southern Mines’ largest concentration of gamblers and gold. Racial unrest drove the Mexican settlers out and their European immigrant usurpers got rich on the Big Bonanza Mine, where Sonora High School now stands. That single mine yielded 12 tons of gold in two years (including a 28lb nugget).
Today, people en route to Yosemite National Park use Sonora as a staging area, wandering through its pubs for refreshment or grabbing quick eats at the chain restaurants and stores that have cropped up on the periphery. Fortunately, the historic center is well preserved (so much so that it’s a frequent backdrop in films).
The smaller Jamestown is 3 miles south of Sonora, just south of the Hwy 49/108 junction. Founded around the time of Tuolumne County’s first gold strike in 1848, it has suffered the ups and downs of the region’s roller-coaster development, and today it limps along on tourism and antiques. It has its charm but is only a few blocks long.
Two highways cross the Sierra Nevada east of Sonora and connect with Hwy 395 in the Eastern Sierra: Hwy 108 via Sonora Pass and Hwy 120 via Tioga Pass. Note that the section of Hwy 120 traveling through Yosemite National Park is only open in summer.