Knights Ferry History
Dr. William Knight founded the town of Knights Ferry as we know it today in the early months of 1849. In addition to being a doctor, Dr. Knight was a well-known fur trader who founded several communities in Northern California, including Knights Landing. The location of Knights Ferry was chosen because it was a suitable location for a ferry that would cross the Stanislaus River and give Knight a lucrative business opportunity in a still-undeveloped region of California. James Vantine, a local, and Knight soon formed a partnership to operate a ferry that would become the major source of revenue for Knights Ferry.
In modern Knights Ferry, you can still see many remnants of the gold rush, including the old mill, the covered bridge, the fire station, as well as original stores and hotels. Both the neighborhood bed and breakfast and the general store have been in business for more than a century. To the east of the town's center, there lies a century-old temporary iron jail. This area is now nationally recognized as a historical district, you can view a full map of historical markers in Knights Ferry here.
At the heart of CA-120 to Yosemite Valley
California Highway 120 is the most direct route to Yosemite Valley from the San Francisco Bay Area. Oakdale & Knights Ferry sit at the heart of CA-120, making it the perfect hidden-gem destination to add to your California road trip itinerary. Learn more about Oakdale, the Cowboy Capital of The World, here.
Knights Ferry Recreation Area | Museum, Hiking & Rafting
This is the main picnic area and entrance for the park. The Knights Ferry Information Center is located here and is a fantastic resource for learning about local history, wildlife, and local activities.
BBQ and picnic along the river, take a hike on Knights Ferry's trails, or even book a rafting trip on the Stanislaus River through Sunshine Rafting Adventures!
Knights Ferry Covered Bridge
Because of Knights Ferry's rising population during the Gold Rush, eventually the ferry crossing was phased out and in 1857 the first bridge spanned over the Stanislaus River in Knights Ferry. The original was an uncovered wood bridge that was eventually destroyed in 1862 when flood waters washed away another bridge upstream - the washed away bridge collided with the old Knights Ferry Bridge and destroyed it.
The present-day Knights Ferry Covered Bridge was built in 1863, spans 330 feet, and is the longest covered bridge west of the Mississippi River. With as many as 100 wagons passing through each day during the California Gold Rush, Knight's Ferry quickly established itself as a crucial link in a heavily used mining route.
Today only 12 covered bridges remain in the State of California.
Tulloch Mill Ruins
The first flour mill at Knights Ferry was constructed by David Loche in the late 1850s. After the 1862 flood destroyed it, David Tulloch constructed a second new mill in its place.
Water was channeled to a water wheel that turned the millstones via a dam upstream.
David Tulloch's son Charles transformed the flour mill into a hydropower plant before the turn of the century. Up until the late 1920s, this factory supplied the surrounding region with electricity.
Other Historic Buildings & Businesses
Knights Ferry General Store, Saloon & Grill
This was the second structure built in Knights Ferry, constructed by Moulton and Drew in 1852. The original building still stands and is considered the oldest operating general store in the State of California!
The store has gone through many changes and survived several floods that hit Stanislaus County. Inside the store are a saloon, grill and even a small venue where live musicians used to perform.
You can also find an old telephone, a pot-belly stove original from the 1800's and remnants of the original Knights Ferry Post Office which used to operate here.
This was the best saloon, pool hall, card room, and dance hall in the neighborhood; built in the 1860s by Fred Miller. In 1903, it was sold to R. V. Shaw, who ran a hotel here for many years before renaming it John Greenhalgh Hall. The Knights Ferry History and Museum Associates purchased this building from the Napier family in 1985.
After being purchased by the museum association, the building was refurbished in the 1980's and brought up to code.
Miller Hall is now home to the Knights Ferry Museum, the post office, an ice cream shop, a read-and-return library, a boutique, and the community services district office.
Knight's Ferry Iron Jail
This old county jail is claimed to have formerly been an Oakdale powderhouse, sitting among the weeds and grass, surrounded by a few sparsely shaded trees. The jail saw a majority of its use at the beginning of the 20th century.
The Goodwin Diverting Dam above Knights Ferry was being built at the time. On Friday and Saturday nights, the dam workers frequently made their way into town and occasionally engaged in disruptive behavior. The offenders were forced to spend the night on one of the bunks in one of the jail's four cells; they were then typically freed the next day after getting sober.
Oakdale, CA is the Cowboy Capital of the World and is located in the heart of California between San Francisco and Yosemite National Park. Learn more about Oakdale and the surrounding area here!