Mine State Historic Park
The Empire Mine State
Historic Park is the site of the oldest, richest, hard rock
gold mine in California. From the time in 1850 when George
Roberts discovered gold in a quartz outcropping, which became
the Ophir vein, until the mine's closure in 1956, an estimated
5,800,000 oz. of gold were extracted from 367 mines of
The Empire changed
hands several times throughout its history, usually due to a
temporary lessening in gold production. As word spread that
hard rock gold had been found in California, miners from the
tin and copper mines of Cornwall, Britain, flocked to this
area to share their wealth of experience and expertise in hard
Of particular note
was the Cornish contribution of a unique system of pumps,
operated on steam, which emptied the depths of the mine of its
constant water seepage. This enabled increased productivity
and expansion underground. The Cornish provided the bulk of
the labor force from the late 1870s until 1956.
By 1956, an incline
depth of 11,007 ft. had been reached. The 367 miles of shafts,
drifts, and large caverned-out scopes were fully electrified,
continually pumped, and renowned for maintaining a phenomenal
degree of personal safety. It was a good mine to work in and a
recognized training for every phase of mining.
The forced shut-down
of the Empire-Starr Mines by the war production board started
a gradual decline in profits. Even though the mine
re-activated, expenses far exceeded the price of gold, which
had been fixed by the government in 1934 at $35 an ounce. The
mine shut off its pumps and auctioned equipment and buildings.
For close to 20 years the mine was idle. Even the gigantic
headframe was felled in 1969 to eliminate a potential public
In 1975, the Empire
properties were purchased by the State of California. The park
consists of 784 acres including approximately 750 acres of
forested backcountry. The Empire Mine State Historic Park is
undergoing gradual restoration which will enable the visiting
public to understand and appreciate the importance and
fascinating story of hard rock mining in our history...and our
future. An emphasis on historic integrity was inherent in the
development of the park.
Diggins State Historic Park
Bloomfield Road, Nevada City, California,
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park contains over 3,000
acres of oak, woodlands, pine forest and meadows. Several
small lakes are to be found as well as some year-round creeks.
History is very much
alive in the North Bloomfield townsite located in the middle
of the park. Several buildings have been reconstructed and
refurnished to show what life was like in the 1870s when the
town had a population of 1,500. You may also view the site of
the largest hydraulic mining pit in California, another main
feature of the park.
In summer, the days
may reach 90 degrees and swimming in the Blair Lake is a
favorite activity. In the fall, as the days cool down and the
nights become crisp the leaves bring splashes of Autumn color
to the diggings and the town of North Bloomfield.
At 3,500 feet
elevation, the park may receive several feet of snow in the
winter but is most always open to the public. In the spring,
green meadows are full of wildflowers and migratory song birds
decorate the forest.
Throughout the year,
Malakoff Diggins is a wonderful area for nature study, gold
rush history, and outdoor exercise whether it be swimming,
mountain biking, hiking, or cross country skiing. A day-use
fee is collected at the museum.