Sutter's Fort

Sutter’s Fort

Learn about the importance of Sutter’s Fort in the establishment of the west coast of the United States when you visit the California Trail Interpretive Center. Without Sutter’s Fort, those traveling to California as part of the westward expansion and the gold rush would have found things much less hospitable. Weary travelers found food, shelter, and news about what was waiting ahead. They rested and recovered at Sutter’s Fort in what would soon become the city of Sacramento.

Mexico & Sutter’s Fort

This California Trail fort was founded in 1841 by Swiss Immigrant John Augustus Sutter, with a land grant of nearly 49,000 acres provided by Mexico. Sutter had convinced the Mexican government that allowing him to purchase the land would prevent Americans from invading. He established the colony of New Helvetia (New Switzerland). It was an incredible success. The main building of the fort was completed in 1844.

A Hub For Westward Expansion

The Fort became the final hub of several trails, including The California Trail, as pioneer travelers headed for their final destinations within the Golden State. It was a thriving farming and ranching operation, growing crops like barley, wheat, peas, beans, and cotton. These agricultural pursuits contributed to John Sutter’s wealth and allowed travelers to restock their dwindling supplies.

Famous Associations

Sutter’s Fort also launched several rescue operations to travelers on the trails. The most famous rescue attempt was the Donner party, which ended in tragedy for more than half of their ill-fated members. Other people of note associated with Sutter’s Fort include:

  • Military Colonel John C. Fremont
  • Mountain Man And Explorer, Kit Carson
  • Carpenter James Marshall
  • General William T. Sherman
  • John Bidwell

Overrun By The Search For Gold

Once gold was discovered in California, Sutter’s Fort became overrun with the mass expansion of pioneers hoping to find their fortunes. By the 1860’s the fort was nearly gone, with only a few buildings remaining. What had once been a thriving trade center, agricultural farm, casino, hospital, and housing area had deteriorated to a pig pen and stable. Some efforts to preserve the site began in the 1880’s. Today the fort is a state park in the center of Sacramento.

History Is Waiting For You

Visit us at the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko Nevada to learn more about Sutter’s Fort today. Our interactive exhibits, activity days, and knowledgeable staff teach about the travelers who helped make this historic location famous. Come experience pioneer life and learn about indigenous tribes. History is waiting for you.