Downieville is an unincorporated community in and the county seat of Sierra County, California, United States.
Downieville was settled in late 1849 during the California Gold Rush and was first known as "The Forks" for its geographical location and shortly thereafter was renamed after Major William Downie (1820-1893), a Scotsman who led the expedition up the North Fork of the Yuba River and who was the town's first mayor. Major Downie's travels are documented in his 1893 autobiography, "Hunting for Gold." Downieville reached a peak population of over 5,000 people in 1851 but declined sharply by 1865. Downieville is situated at the confluence of the Downie River and North Fork of the Yuba River. Downieville was vying to become the state capital of California along with fifteen other California communities in 1853 before the capital was moved to Benicia, and then shortly thereafter its current location in Sacramento. In July 1851 Downieville gained a distinction it may not have wanted when a mob lynched a Mexican woman, known as Juanita, for the murder of a white miner. It remains the only lynching of a female in California history.
The northern mines area was populated by a number of gold rush camps with colorful names, places like Brandy City, Whiskey Diggins, Poverty Hill, and Poker Flat. While many of these camps entirely disappeared after the gold rush, Downieville survived due both to its geographical location and status as the seat of Sierra County government.
Downieville is a popular mountain biking destination, hosting the world famous race, the Downieville Classic, a two day event consisting an Enduro style or Super-D downhill race as well as an extremely challenging cross country race. The Single Speed World Championship was also held in Downieville in 2003.
Other popular outdoor activities include off-road motorcycling, kayaking, hiking, and gold panning. Fishing for planted rainbow trout and for German browns also is an attraction.
The Downieville Museum is housed in a building converted from a store originally built by Chinese immigrants circa 1852. Today, the museum contains objects that depict life from the Gold Rush era to the present.
There are a variety of lodging options in the area, ranging from campgrounds to motels to on-the-river cabins such as those at Sierra Shangri-la and The Lure.
Downieville is home to the state's oldest weekly newspaper, the Mountain Messenger. Default wired telephone numbers for the town follow the format (530) 289-xxxx. In a typical year, the high school graduates about a half-dozen students. Downieville has its own post office (on Main Street) and its ZIP code is 95936. The elevation is around 2,900 feet (880 m).
Because Loyalton is Sierra County's most populous municipality and its only incorporated city, generally half of the meetings of the county's board of supervisors are held in Downieville and the other half are held in Loyalton.
In the state legislature Loyalton is located in the 1st Senate District, represented by Republican Dave Cox, and in the 3rd Assembly District, represented by Republican Rick Keene. Federally, Loyalton is located in California's 4th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +11 and is represented by Republican Tom McClintock.