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Photo Malakoff Diggins State Park in Nevada City and Grass Valley, in the Gold Country of Northern California

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Nevada City/Grass Valley, California

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Empire 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 underground passage.

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 rock technique.

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 hazard.

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.

Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park

23579 North Bloomfield Road, Nevada City, California,
(916) 265-2740

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.

South Yuba River State Park

17660 Pleasant Valley Road Penn Valley, CA. 95946
The land today known as the South Yuba River Canyon is the center piece of a new State Park called the South Yuba River State Park. The Park is unique in the California State Park System: along the South Yuba River canyon from Englebright Reservoir below Bridgeport into the Tahoe National Forest, it is a 20 mile patchwork of lands under several jurisdictions.

Historically, this area is a treasure trove. Trails, scenic vistas of fast water rolling over massive granite ledges, historic toll crossings and bridges all tell a story of day-to-day life during the Gold Rush era. California State Parks own some 2000 acres along the South Yuba River, and approximately 9000 acres are under federal jurisdiction. Access to some features of the South Yuba River Project may be limited. Visitors are advised to inquire concerning difficulty of passage before setting out on a trail leading to some historic sites.

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