Empire Mine State Historic Park
Photo © Empire Mine State Park
The Empire Mine State Historic Park in Grass Valley, California is the site of the oldest, largest, and richest gold mine in California. From 1850 to its closing in 1956, it produced 5.8 million ounces of gold. These 5.8 million ounces of gold would fill a box 7 feet on each side. It is estimated that this represented only 20% of the available gold...80% remains. The Park contains many of the original mine buildings, the owner’s cottage and the restored gardens and grounds as well as the entrance to 367 miles (the equivalent of a round trip from Grass Valley to San Jose) of abandoned and flooded shafts and tunnels. The park consists of 845 acres of forested back country and 12 miles of trails for hikers, bikers and horseback riders.
History: George Roberts, the original discoverer of the gold soon sold his interest, and by 1869 William Bourne Sr. owned the controlling interest. The Bourne family maintained control of the mine until 1929 when it was sold to Newmont Mining Corporation. It ceased operation in 1956. In 1975 the state of California purchased the surface property as the Empire Mine State Historic Park. The Park continues to draw thousands of worldwide visitors each year and is noted for its historical tours of the Bourne Cottage, the mine yard and "living history" events.
Park Attractions: In addition to the tours noted above, the Park museum has a scale model of the underground workings of the Empire/Star mine complex, a "gold room" which displays ore samples from local mines, an Assay Office, and an extensive mineral collection. A video entitled "Tears from the Sun" depicting various gold mining techniques is shown on a regular basis. On Mother's Day Weekend, a Springtime Open House is held. It features the "Living History" programs, food service, and entertainment. As an added bonus, during the spring the gardens are in bloom!! The annual Miner's Picnic is scheduled for late summer and over Thanksgiving weekend the State Historic Park sponsors a "Holiday Open-House".
Year-round (Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day)
Fees: $5.00 for adults over 16; $3.00 for children 6 to 16; children under 5 are free. TOURS: Cottage, Mine yard and Grounds & Gardens - $2.00 each (adults).(all Tours are weather permitting and schedule is subject to change)
Dogs are allowed only on leash in designated areas. Visitors should check at the park for specific rules and regulations.