Marysville along with Stockton and Sacramento were the original hubs of commerce in the central valleys of California. Marysville has one of the most impressive collections of historic buildings in the state. Marysville boomed after gold was discovered in the Sierra Nevada in 1849. It was a port, a point of departure and commercial center for the exploding population of miners and farmers in the area. By the 1860s gold miners switched from simple panning operations to large scale industrial operations. One of the techniques they used was hydraulic mining where large amounts of water were diverted from mountain streams and rivers and used to carve away entire hillsides. Hydraulic mining sent vast amounts of silt and loose gravel down the rivers into the valleys. Extensive gravel wastelands still exist upstream from Marysville along the banks of the Yuba River.
The silt from hydraulic mining operations choked off waterways making them useless for navigation and raised river beds making the rivers more prone to flooding. Marysville's port became inaccessible for much of the year and flooding became regular. Sacramento was impacted by hydraulic mining as well but the impacts were greater in Marysville. Hydraulic mining was gradually outlawed starting in the 1880s. The citizens of Marysville encircled their town with a high levee in the late 1800s to protect the town from floods that were growing worse every year. Marysville never annexed any land outside of it's levee. As a result the city stopped growing geographically very early in it's development. Yuba City and Linda on the other sides of the Yuba and Feather river have absorbed all of the region's growth for the last hundred years.
Marysville's decline or stagnation has left it with a commercial district much larger than most cities its size and many of its commercial buildings sit empty. Marysville's historic Chinatown is especially interesting and completely empty of operating businesses. Outside of downtown, streets are lined with an impressive collection of Victorian and pre-war houses and apartment buildings.