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Up The Road: Where To Now? More Downtown Sacramento & Around

Bob Wick, US Bureau of Land Management
Cosumnes River Preserve south of Sacramento, home to California’s largest remaining valley oak riparian forest.

A truly engaging “museum”—curated from marble markers, lush Victorian gardens, and strange, brave stories from around the globe—is the old Sacramento City Cemetery, once known as the City of the Dead. This, the oldest public cemetery west of the Mississippi, founded by John Sutter in 1849, offers final rest to more than 25,000 gold-rush pioneers, immigrants, and their families and descendants. The marble monuments make good reading, if they can still be read. Just a few wooden “headboards” survive.

Local scandals are buried here too. To get the dirt, sign up for a docent-led tour. If live tours aren’t yet available, download self-guiding brochures from the website, one of which details local brewers and breweries—alcohol being a gold-rush mainstay. A big deal are October’s Lantern Tours, an annual fundraiser that sells out fast.

Monument marking the grave of John W. Rock, Sacramento City Cemetery.

Notable City of the Dead residents include Captain John Sutter, Jr., who founded the city and laid out its streets. Not to mention E.B. Crocker and family, noted art collectors; Mark Hopkins, storekeep turned railroad baron, one of the Big Four; three former governors; and gold miner William Stephen Hamilton, who died here during the cholera epidemic, son of Alexander Hamilton.

Downtown buildings and skyscrapers, together, make an architecture and art museum. Near the Capitol, on the circle, 914 Capitol Mall, the beautifully restored 1928 California Library and Courts Building—open weekdays only—is one of the state’s most gorgeous government buildings, and a de facto Maynard Dixon exhibit. The Fresno-born artist, husband of photographer Dorothea Lange, painted the murals on the second-floor corridor. Dixon’s immense A Pageant of Tradition on the third floor, in Gillis Hall, depicts a romanticized California history. The courtroom, one of the nation’s most striking, is home to the Third District Court of Appeal, and sometimes the California Supreme Court.

The lobby honors California veterans who died in World War I, and features 12 murals by San Francisco artist Frank Van Sloan that depict the history of war. That story ends with WWI—then known as the Great War. People thought it was the last one.

The 1911 beaux-arts Sacramento City Hall, 915 I Street, is much more “local” in emphasis, its exterior cornucopia of fruits and vegetables paying homage to agriculture.

Tony Webster
“Highlands of the Mind,” pediment of the State Library and Courts Building.

Fruit-and-veggie Sacramento also remembers California before farming. Quietly spectacular Cosumnes River Preserve, not far south, is one of the Nature Conservancy’s 75 “last great places,” more than 50,000 acres of floodplain and ag lands cooperatively managed as wildlife habitat by public agencies and private owners. The ultimate goal is to protect the entire lower Cosumnes and upper Delta watershed. Walk miles of trails, birdwatch, and kayak.

Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Freeport, also supports riparian birds and wildlife. Take the short Blue Heron Trails, for up-close nature education, and sign up for guided nature walks and kayak trips when they’re offered again.

Until next time, this is Kim Weir for Up the Road.

Up the Road Encourages Responsible, Safe Travel

Here are previous Up the Road episodes that explore why we should travel, how to do it responsibly, and how to travel responsibly now, in the shadow of COVID-19. Not everyone should be traveling now, of course. But everyone who does travel needs to do so responsibly, to prevent viral spread. Take a listen:

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Kim Weir is the founder of Up the Road, a nonprofit public-interest journalism project. She researches, writes, and hosts Up the Road, a radio show and mini-podcast about California co-produced by North State Public Radio. Kim got her start as a travel journalist in 1990 with the publication of the first and original Moon Handbooks Northern California, a surprise best-seller. Six other Moon books on California soon followed. She is a member, by invitation, of the venerable Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Kim earned a BA in environmental studies and analysis, with an emphasis on botany and ecology, and also holds an MFA in creative writing. She lives in Paradise.
Matt Fidler is a producer and sound designer with over 15 years’ experience producing nationally distributed public radio programs. He has worked for shows such as Freakonomics Radio, Selected Shorts, Studio 360, The New Yorker Radio Hour and The Takeaway. In 2017, Matt launched the language podcast Very Bad Words, hitting the #28 spot in the iTunes podcast charts.