October 2009: Empire Mine State Historic Park

Grass Valley, California
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THE PARK
The Empire Mine was the richest hard-rock mine in California, operating for 106 years and producing almost six million ounces of gold. But it never came easy. Logger George Roberts discovered a quartz outcropping glistening with gold near where the present-day parking lot is shortly after the 1849 Gold Rush began. Miners swarmed the area but to get at the gold they had to dig and blast and by 1851 most of the prospectors sold off their claims to a consortium that consolidated them into the Empire Mine. It would not be until the 1880s that the mine would turn a profit. Eventually 367 miles of tunnels, some over a mile deep, would be excavated at the Empire Mine.

Today you can get a look at the main mine shaft and explore ten miles of wooded trails with your dog. The interpretive Hardrock Trail investigates the mills and machinery necessary to mine gold across two miles and 20 trail stations. A one-mile loop off the main drag climbs Osbourne Hill that is sprinkled with old mine sites and foundations. Across Highway 174 from the Visitor Center the Pipeline Trail on Union Hill follows the route of a pipe that carried water from a reservoir to power mining machinery.

WALKS
Today you can get a look at the main mine shaft and explore ten miles of wooded trails with your dog. The interpretive Hardrock Trail investigates the mills and machinery necessary to mine gold across two miles and 20 trail stations. A one-mile loop off the main drag climbs Osbourne Hill that is sprinkled with old mine sites and foundations. Across Highway 174 from the Visitor Center the Pipeline Trail on Union Hill follows the route of a pipe that carried water from a reservoir to power mining machinery.

DIRECTIONS
Take I-40 to Exit 317 and take Hwy. 127 north for 46 miles. Turn right on Highway 154 and travel another 12 miles to the park entrance.