In an obscure valley by the American River, a fortuitous stumble over gold dust would change America. The dream to acquire wealth in a matter of months became a reality for few, and out of reach for a hopeful multitude. In the early 1840's, California was a removed outpost housing a handful of residents. Less than a year after the unexpected discovery in 1848, people crossed oceans from Europe, Asia, and South America on ships destined to California. In towns all over the United States, merchants closed their shops, soldiers abandoned their positions, and farmers deserted their fields. The title for the miners "49ers" arose from the year 1849, when they embarked on their journey. The moment a man stepped towards California, he left his home, family, security, and everything that was familiar to him. He traveled alone, knowing nothing about the wilderness, frontier life, and driving covered wagons. All he knew was that gold was waiting there at the end of his trek. Hundreds of thousands of these men hustled to the Pacific Northwest during the mid- 1800's. Being uninhabited, the newly born towns were lawless and barbarous, as class society of the east was absent. Without women, the men were rough. They reveled in whiskey, fights, adultery, and gambling. The miners were changed by this brutal environment and lost their manners and civility. Under pressure to get rich before returning home, the 49ers recklessly polluted the delicate ecosystem of California. As a result, the adverse effects of the California gold rush were intense racism, ruined lives, and devastation of native Indian tribes. .
The pristine beauty of California was marred by the California gold rush. In the wild free-for-all environment, miners readily tore nature apart to collect gold. Instead of cleaning after themselves, a big mess was left without a second thought. Mining tools and debris choked up rivers and streams. A combination of sand, mud, and gravel frequently clogged the waterways , forcing rivers' banks to rupture.