"There's gold in the hills of California!" These words echoed around the world in 1848 and started a mass migration to the wilderness of interior California. Gold seekers trekked from every part of the world and every walk of life to sift the streams for gold. Mining companies brought machines to the mountains and turned camps into boom towns as they blasted and dug deep into the earth to follow the gold bearing veins.
There is still gold in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum, in historic Mariposa. This is where explorers John C. Fremont and Kit Carson found the rich Mariposa Vein and opened the first mill to crush ore and extract gold in California. You are invited to discover for yourself California's mineral wealth, colorful history and geologic diversity as you view the official mineral collection of the state of California. The collection, which began in 1880, contains over 13,000 objects including mining artifacts, rare specimens of crystalline gold in its many forms, as well as beautiful gem and mineral specimens from California and around the world. The collection was moved to Mariposa in 1983 after residing in San Francisco, for over 100 years. The museum became a state park in 1999.
The museum includes the Fricot "Nugget", a rare and beautiful specimen of crystallized gold discovered in the American River in 1864. This spectacular 13.8-pound. specimen is the largest remaining intact mass of crystalline gold from 19th century California, when these finds were more common but usually were simply melted down. You can also take a trip back in time as you walk through our mine tunnel and see how gold was mined in the mid-1800s, when California was a wilderness, being transformed by rapid development. Our assay office and working scale model of a stamp mill will help you discover how gold was found and extracted from the rocks.
The museum is dedicated to helping families and students learn about the importance of mining and minerals to our history, our environment, and our future. It offers free activities for children and youth groups, including a Junior Ranger Program. It also provides school tours relating to geology, rocks and minerals, the gold rush, and mining history to hundreds of students each year. Custom tours can also be arranged for special groups.
The museum even sponsors an annual gem and mineral show each spring featuring exhibits, speakers, food, educational children's activities, and dealers of beautiful mineral specimens and lapidary work from around the world. Call the museum for dates and times. It also features special mineral related activities and crafts during the annual Mariposa County Fair, over Labor Day weekend. The museum shop offers a wide variety of jewelry, mineral art, and mineral specimens as well as many books about rocks, minerals, prospecting, mining, and California history.