The town is named for its setting in a bowl-shaped valley which early miners thought was caused by a volcano. The early morning fog rising from the valley floor only reinforced that belief. Barely 130 people live in Volcano today. Volcano was a rip-roaring gold town with more than 5,000 inhabitants. Nearly $100 million was extracted from the area. Because there were many Southern sympathizers during the civil war, a cannon was brought to Volcano to protect outgoing gold shipments to the Union side. It remains on display a few feet where no firing ever happened. Notable firsts for Volcano include: first theater group in the state, California’s first debating society, first private school, first law school, and first astronomical observatory. Nearby, Black Chasm Cavern is a National Natural Landmark open year-round.
The landmark St. George Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.