About Auburn, CA

Endurance Capital of the World

Auburn is the county seat of Placer County, California. Its population was 13,330 during the 2010 census. Auburn is known for its California Gold Rush history, and is registered as a California Historical Landmark.

Auburn is part of Greater Sacramento and is home to the Auburn State Recreation Area, Gold Country Fairgrounds, The Mandarin Festival and The Pepper Festival. The park is the site of more sporting endurance events than any other place in the world, giving Auburn the undisputed and internationally acclaimed title of Endurance Capital of the World.

Examples include the Western States Endurance Run; the Western States Trail Ride, also known as Tevis Cup Equestrian Ride; American River 50 Mile Endurance Run; American River 50 Mile Equestrian Ride; Way Too Cool 50 Kilometer Endurance Run; Auburn International Half-Ironman Triathlon; Auburn Century 100 Mile Bike Ride, Coolest 24 Hour Mountain Bike Race, Rio Del Lago 100 Mile Endurance Run, Sierra Nevada 50 Mile Endurance Run, and the Coolest Run: Ride & Tie.


Auburn's Historic Courthouse. Photo by TPF

Archaeological finds place the southwestern border for the prehistoric Martis people in the Auburn area. The indigenous Nisenan, an offshoot of the Maidu, were the first to establish a permanent settlement in the Auburn area.

In the spring of 1848, a group of French gold miners arrived and camped in what would later be known as the Auburn Ravine. This group was on its way to the gold fields in Coloma, California, and it included Francois Gendron, Philibert Courteau, and Claude Chana. The young Chana discovered gold on May 16, 1848. After finding the gold deposits in the soil, the trio decided to stay for more prospecting and mining.

Placer mining in the Auburn area was very good, with the camp first becoming known as the North Fork Dry Diggings. This name was changed to the Woods Dry Diggings, after John S. Wood settled down, built a cabin, and started to mine in the ravine. The area soon developed into a mining camp, and it was officially named Auburn in August 1849. By 1850, the town’s population had grown to about 1,500 people, and in 1851, Auburn was chosen as the seat of Placer County. Gold mining operations moved up the ravine to the site of present-day Auburn. In 1865, the Central Pacific Railroad, the western leg of the First Transcontinental Railroad, reached Auburn, as it was being built east from Sacramento toward Ogden, Utah.

The restored Old Town has houses and retail buildings from the middle of the 19th century. The oldest fire station and the Post Office date from the Gold Rush years. Casual gold-mining accessories, as well as American Indian and Chinese artifacts, can also be viewed by visitors at the Placer County Museum. Auburn was the home and birthplace of noted science fiction and fantasy poet and writer Clark Ashton Smith. A memorial to him is located near Old Town.


John Travolta and Kyra Sedgwick star in Phenomenon, filmed in Old Town Auburn in the fall of 1995.

The following films were, at least in part, shot in Auburn:

  • The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000) – Starring Robert De Niro, Rene Russo, Jason Alexander, John Goodman, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters
  • Protocol (1984) – Starring Goldie Hawn, Chris Sarandon
  • Breakdown (1997) – Starring Kurt Russell, Kathleen Quinlan
  • Phenomenon (1996) – Starring John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker, Robert Duvall. Shot in Old Town Auburn in the fall of 1995, the bar scenes in the film were shot in the old Shanghai restaurant/bar which is now Auburn Alehouse. The garage that Travolta’s character worked at was a temporary structure built between the old post office and what is now Auburn Alehouse. Travolta and Duvall rented homes in Lake of the Pines (a gated community in North Auburn) during shooting.
  • Wisdom (1987) – Starring Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Tom Skerritt
  • xXx (2002) – Starring Vin Diesel, Samuel L. Jackson
  • The Ugly Truth (2009) – Starring Katherine Heigl, Gerard Butler

Tidbit: Auburn is the town where George and Lennie were raised in John Steinbeck’s novel, Of Mice and Men.