When your car descends into remote Malakoff Diggins in Nevada County it seems unlikely that you are actually entering what was once the richest hydraulic gold mining in the world. However back in 1851 gold was discovered in the area around North Bloomfield and the area still shows the scars of that discovery. Two years after the discovery gold hydraulic mining was begun.
For nearly 30 years Malakoff Diggins was a major producer of gold. However in 1884 after a lawsuit brought on my non-mining interests the area began a steep decline. When it was over the hydraulic mining operations had moved over 41 million cubic yards of earth and left a whole in the ground that was nearly 600 deep and a mile long.
Very isolated and about sixteen miles down an unpaved road from Nevada City is the old town of North Bloomfield. First settled in 1852 the town was originally know as Humbug then later Humbug City, Bloomfield and finally North Bloomfield. In 1860 the North Bloomfield Mining and Gravel Company began operations in town. They mined the area just south and west of town extensively for gold, gravel and all other materials. By 1876 the sleepy town had grown to nearly 2,000 people making it one of the largest settlements in the California foothills. However because of the water taken by the mining company, Sacramento farmers suited and prevailed in a lawsuit that caused the mining company to shut down. It was the beginning of the end of North Bloomfield.
Today walking the streets of North Bloomfield there wasn't a single soul to be seen. Perhaps it is because the town is isolated a minimum of 15 miles from Nevada City down an unpaved road or 22 miles down a round about paved road. Many of the town's buildings have been constructed by the California Department of Parks and Recreation to provide a recreation of what North Bloomfield must have been like. Other buildings have slowly decayed through neglect. The town of North Bloomfield is located within the Malakoff Diggins State Park. The park is scheduled to close down in July, 2012 due to cuts in the California State Budget. Not a good sign for the still well preserved town of North Bloomfield.
As a native Californian I had always been intrigued by the name of the town Rough and Ready but had never visited it.
So coming back on a late afternoon I made a detour off of the main highway and searched for it. There is not much to the town. A few buildings, a post office, churches and a store here or there. An historical marker and a few other remains. Estimates are that approximately 900 people live in the area surrounding Rough and Ready.
Rough and Ready was named after President Zachary Taylor who previously served as a military officer during the Mexican War. In 1850 the town of Rough and Ready voted to secede from the Union. This was mainly because of the fact that the early settlers, primarily from Wisconsin, wanted to free of all regulations and government control. Later that year they voted themselves back into the union.
There is not much to see in Rough and Ready. If your time is limited I would suggest going down Highway 20 further to the South Yuba State Park and visit the longest covered bridge in the United States.
DIRECTIONS: To get to Rough and Ready turn west off of Highway 49 coming from Auburn or Nevada City. The first turn will be to Rough and Ready in approximately five miles. Turn right at the light and Rough and Ready is approximately three miles up a winding road.
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is located just over 20 miles from Nevada City. At the park the destructive impact of hydraulic mining on the environment can be witnessed. Early in the California Gold Rush, the easy pickings were retrieved and mining operations resulted to blasting the landscape with streams of pressurized water. They carved away the hillsides and methodically searched the debris and retrieved any gold. After over a hundred years of natural reclamation, the effects of this destructive mining technique are still vividly apparent throughout the park. Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park has hiking trails for exploring the foothills and old mining sites and well as a campground. When camping be sure to secure any food at night as this is bear country.
From Nevada City, travel 11 miles north on Highway 49. Take the Tyler Foote Rd. turnoff from Highway 49 and follow the main paved road to the park. The road changes names a few times (Cruzon Grade Road, Back Bone Road, Derbec Road, and North Bloomfield Road).
(North Bloomfield Road is not recommended as it is unpaved, rough, and narrow.)
During the Gold Rush, individual prospectors came first, followed by large mining companies. They developed highly cost-effective techniques for underground mining, and this park provides detailed, guided tours and explanations. The Empire Mine was in business for over a century, closing in 1956. During those years, the mine extracted about 5.6 million ounces of gold.
While the mine was open, the owners maintained a blacked-out "Secret Room", where they planned their operations. It includes a scale model of the hundreds of underground mine shafts (most are now underwater), which provides a sense of the size of this endeavor. Only a few trusted employees were allowed in here.
The yard contains a vast assortment of mining equipment. The park also has a housing for a mine shaft, where visitors can explore the upper end. Please don't venture beyond the limit; it's too dangerous down there (a park employee is on hand to guide you).
This is a must-see for history buffs. Located outside Grass Valley, at 10791 East Empire Street.
Nevada City is the seat of Nevada County. As such, it is home of the Nevada County Courthouse. The courthouse is a historic building perched high behind downtown. However, renovations have altered some of the structure’s historic flavor.
The first courthouse of record dates back to 1850 and was at the Eagle Hotel on Broad Street. (This actual site vanished with the construction of the freeway.)
A courthouse on the present site, located at 201 Church Street, was constructed from 1855 to 1856, but was promptly destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt, and damaged by fire again in 1863. A new courthouse was constructed on the same site and was completed in 1865.
A remodel of the building was done in 1900. In 1937 an extensive renovation of the building was completed. In 1963 an annex was added. Today, courthouse is still in use. However, its exterior has a Twentieth Century look that tends to mask its 1865 roots.
This is a most unique old gold mining "pit" where hydraulic mining was used. it was outlawed in 1890's due to the severe erosion into the nearby creeks/rivers. It is a State Park area, and entry is $10, mainly to see the old town of North Bloomfield. There are trails around and through the carved out pit area, and they are moderate in challenge. The park is 3,000 acres, and it has 20 miles of trails, besides fishing in Blair Lake, and camping (3 in North Bloomfield).
This area was formed after Julius Poquillion bought out many separate claims, and encompassed 1534 acres. He obtained investor money form Sacramento. It washed 100,000 tons of earth/dirt a day, with a lot washing into the Humbug Creek, and on down to the Yuba River. Hydraulic mining was legally stopped in 1884, and by that time, this operation only broke even in the end. They dug a 7847 foot tunnel, called Hiller tunnel into Humbug Creek that you still can walk through; but it is dark and wet.
The park is located off North Bloomfield Rd, and you can take a rough/bumpy road just north of town and go about 12 miles, or take a longer route around for 22 miles Off Tyler Foot Rd
This town is only 5-6 miles south of Nevada City, and is more, or less connected to the daily needs of locals between the town towns. It has one main strip of old buildings still preserved from 1860-1890's. These buildings are mostly for restaurants, and shopping, and 1-2 bars.
The town was one of many gold mining towns that started up in late 1840's. This town was founded 1848, but in 1855, 300 buildings burned due to fire. The rebuild was a lot of brick to take its place from wood structures. The town is just off Hwy 49 and about 12 miles NW of Auburn.
If you are interested in hiking, you should plan a visit to the Yuba River! There are several places where you can start your hike. And then you can walk, walk, walk.... Be aware of the poison ivy though! The best time of the year is the summer. When it is hot enough, a refreshing dip into the river is mostly recommendable. I will look for a picture to add to this suggestion! :-)
South Yuba River State Park is a surprise of wonderfully preserved bridges, great hiking trails, brilliant scenery and a very nice little visitor center during an early January trip. During the summer it is a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, horseback riding and canoeing. It can
best be thought of as a twenty mile non-continuous string of properties along the river.
Coming from Nevada City, the best way to get to the park is via Highway 40. Take the Pleasant Valley Road exit off of Highway 40 From there Pleasant Valley Road winds through Penn Valley, some country estates, a school and nice scenery until after another eight miles you arrive in the old town of Bridgeport. There is not now and never was much to the town of Bridgeport even though the South Yuba River runs through it. Descendants of one of the pioneer families of the area, the Kneebones, developed a popular swim resort in Bridgeport in 1926 it included a dance pavillion, gas station and several cottages. However with the continuation of hydraulic mining the resort eventually went out of business.
This was my second trip to South Yuba State Park. The first time was in early 2012 when it appeared that the park would be closed due to budget cuts. The second was in July of 2013 with my wife, son, and his girl friend. The highlight of the trip was walking the 3 mile round trip Wildflower Trail. The trail is on the side of the road opposite the visitor center. A very pretty trail that climbs above the river. My son's girlfriend's dog loved swimming in the Yuba River at the end of the trail.
Today Bridgeport contains the South Yuba River Visitor Center, a restored gas station and the world's longest covered wooden bridge. There are several hiking trails that also leave this area with one connecting with Malakoff Diggins State Park some 20 miles up the river.
The Bridgeport Covered Bridge is worth seeing. Originally constructed in 1862 this beautiful bridge was constructed with douglas fur trusses, wrought iron rods, and covered in sugar pine shakes. The bridge served as a means of crossing a river whose flows often were above flood level during spring months. Today the bridge is not in use and is gated to protect from vandalism.
In the same area the gas station from the Bridgeport Swim Resort has recently been rebuilt. It stands a few hundred feet from the visitor center. Plans by a local historical group are to restore part of the structures of the Swim Resort in the next few years.
The park is also noteworthy in that one of the trails, Independence Trail, is completely handicapped accessible. It was the first major trail in any state or federal national park to be completely handicapped accessible.
Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=496Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=496
This is a good place for boating, fishing, and water sports. Skipper's Cove Marina is the primary place for boaters. It also has boats for rent. There is a launching ramp there, too. The camping ground is accessible only by boat.
The lake was created by the Army Corps of Engineers, who dammed up the Yuba River. It's off of Highway 20, between Penn Valley (east of Marysville) and Grass Valley.
This mountain stream, in the Sierra Nevada foothills, has been designated a wild and scenic river, and for good reason. It has three different sections, in the vicinity of Nevada City and Grass Valley. Each one is great for hiking, swimming, kayaking, and picnicing. It also has the longest single-span covered bridge in the world. In addition, it has the remnant of an old logging operation, complete with a long flume (used to float logs down to their destination). Parts of the old flume are gone; that part of the trail is accessible to those with limited mobility.
And it's definitely off the beaten path. Not many tourists ever come out this way. It narrowly escaped being dammed up, but will probably never be overcrowded.
The Gold Rush produced many new, innovative mining techniques. One of the most efficient was spraying the soft, sedimentary rock with large, powerful, high-pressure hoses. This enabled miners to extract gold quickly and easily.
Unfortunately, it caused erosion and poured vast amounts of sediment into the nearby streams. From there, it flowed down to the rivers, and eventually San Francisco bay. At every step along the way, it created problems--it hindered navigation, increased flooding, and displaced plant and animal life.
In the 1880s, the state legislature banned the practice. It was among the first pieces of environmental legislation. This park provides a cautionary tale about taking care of our environment. You can see for yourself what happened.
To visit the park, follow Hwy 20 from Nevada City, north until you see the signs. It's about a half-hour trip, along scenic back roads.