Malakoff Diggins

Park Brochure

brochure Malakoff Diggins - Park Brochure
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park Our Mission The mission of California State Parks is to provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. At Malakoff Diggins, the world’s largest hydraulic gold mine devastated the pristine landscape — leading to the first California State Parks supports equal access. Prior to arrival, visitors with disabilities who need assistance should contact the park at (530) 265-2740. If you need this publication in an alternate format, contact CALIFORNIA STATE PARKS P.O. Box 942896 Sacramento, CA 94296-0001 For information call: (800) 777-0369 (916) 653-6995, outside the U.S. 711, TTY relay service Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park 23579 North Bloomfield Road Nevada City, CA 95959 (530) 265-2740 © 2010 California State Parks (Rev. 2017) environmental law enacted in the nation. M alakoff Diggins State Historic Park preserves and interprets the    1850s -1880s hydraulic mining era, when gold seekers combed the Sierra foothills and washed away entire mountains looking for the precious metal. PARK HISTORY Native People The park lies within the territory of the Hill Nisenan. Nisenan territory once extended from the lower reaches of the Yuba, American, and Feather Rivers to the east bank of the Sacramento River and up to the 10,000-foot Sierra crest. The Hill Nisenan lived in multi-family villages or in extended-family hamlets. Several hamlets might be grouped together under one leader in the largest village. Villages were located below 3,000 feet elevation, in small valleys and open canyons. The families stayed in these villages during the winter, but spread to smaller camps — often at higher elevations in rough terrain— from spring through fall to collect and hunt food. The Nisenan’s first contact with the Spanish came in 1808, when General Gabriel Moraga passed through the Nisenan territory. The great malaria epidemic of 1833 wiped out many of the Nisenan. The final blow to Nisenan culture came with the 1848 gold rush, when miners overran their territory, bringing new diseases and disrupting Nisenan harvest patterns. The surviving Nisenan in the Nevada County region seek to have their federal recognition restored as they strive to preserve their ancestral heritage. Gold miners of the area methods to separate more gold from larger amounts of the deposits. These methods included long, slanted sluice boxes or “rockers.” Miners added liquid mercury (also called quicksilver), which created a gold-mercury amalgam that settled to the bottom of the devices while water, sand, and gravel ran off. Some mercury was inevitably lost from the sluice and flowed downstream with the sediments, but the miners were fairly efficient at using and re-using the valuable mercury to aid in the recovery and concentration of gold. In 1852, a French-speaking Canadian miner named Anthony Chabot bypassed the need for ditches and flumes by hooking up a canvas hose and directing the water flow at the ore supply. When his partner, Edward Mattison, increased the water pressure by adding a nozzle to the hose, hydraulic mining was born. Discarded dirt and gravel ore, called debris or slickens, was discharged into the rivers. Miners Find Gold Gold panning in Sierra streambeds quickly exhausted the readily available gold. Miners sifted through stream deposits of sand and gravel— a process called placer mining — looking for gold. Placer mining began here in 1852 after a rich gold deposit was found in Humbug Creek, near the South Yuba River. Each placer miner staked claim to a 30- by 40-foot section of ground. They would scoop and sieve gravel, dirt, and water from a running creek or river into flat-bottomed pans. They agitated these alluvial deposits, then poured off the water. The heavier gold, if present, would gleam as flakes or nuggets in the bottom of the pans. A town called Humbug soon sprang up to house the miners. They began High-pressure monitors wash gold from ancient river beds. devising more efficient In 1858, the townspeople decided to change the name from Humbug to the more attractive North Bloomfield. The surrounding area became the Bloomfield Township, which also included Lake City, the village of Malakoff, Derbec, and nearby Relief Hill. Many Chinese immigrants labored in the gold mines and grew vegetables for the town’s residents. Some miners became discouraged at the small return in gold for the amount of effort they had expended; they left to try their luck at richer pickings in Nevada. In 1866, French immigrant Julius Poquillion and others bought and consolidated many abandoned claims until they had amassed 1,535 acres. The local miners then convinced a group of San Francisco financiers to invest in large-scale hydraulic gold mining, forming the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company. The group the Diggins pit to Humbug purchased the Creek in 1872. Eight vertical Bowman Ranch shafts were sunk at 1,000-foot and Rudyard intervals along the tunnel Reservoir, angled toward the creek, constructed dams, which led to the South Yuba and built a huge River. Two crews would flume and ditch enter each shaft and dig in system to carry opposite directions along water to wash the tunnel line. This method ore at the claim. of tunneling shaved a year North Bloomfield today At capacity, the from usual tunnel methods, resulting water power could work 100,000 enabling miners to dig into the pit’s rich tons of gravel per day at the diggings. The pay dirt and process the material through North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company the tunnel before ejecting debris into the continued to expand and invest in more river. Fifteen crews dug simultaneously. On water supplies and hydraulic mining November 15, 1874, the tunnel was completed facilities; they built over 100 miles of canals at a cost of $498,800. and ditches that carried water to claim sites In 1876, the company began using for hydroblasting the rock and soil. seven full-scale Craig monitors — powerful The Company began work on a 7,847-foot water cannons — to wash the gravel from drainage tunnel through the bedrock from the mountainside and capture any gold it held. This effective method brought new prosperity and workers to North Bloomfield — as mounds of spent debris choked downstream waters. The company’s records show expenditures of $3 million for all capital improvements. They had collected only $3 million in gold before a judge issued an injunction to cease using water cannons and river dumping. Lake City, ca. 1870 The Sawyer Decision During the 1850s, concerns emerged about the debris from hydraulic mines. Toward the end of the 1860s, as large-scale hydraulic operations got underway, the debris problem became severe. Farms and towns in the Central Valley were flooded and destroyed. Silt traveled all the way to San Francisco Bay, impairing marine navigation of the Sacramento River and parts of the bay. River channels were closed to steamboat traffic. Because mining had contributed to valley towns’ prosperity, many towns depended on the mines for sustenance. The valley inhabitants simply built their levees higher to hold off floods. In 1875 the town of Marysville flooded. Because the town was surrounded by high levees, the floodwaters swept in and filled the area as if it were a giant bowl. Many residents lost their property or their lives. Finally, a petition was submitted to the State Legislature requesting that laws regulating mining operations be passed. Years of skirmishes followed, both in and out of courts. In addition to the lawsuits, injunctions, and appeals, some destruction of Water cannon display on Humbug Day property also took place. When the Rudyard Dam on the Yuba River failed in 1883, miners suspected the dam had been dynamited. On January 7, 1884, after months of testimony and argument, Judge Lorenzo Sawyer handed down his decision in the case of Woodruff (a Marysville property owner) vs. the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company. In a 225-page document that described the damage caused by mining debris, Sawyer issued a permanent injunction against dumping tailings into the Yuba River. Attempts were made to keep hydraulic mines profitable, such as impounding the debris, but within a couple of decades, California’s environmentally devastating hydraulic-mining era ended. As a result of the Sawyer decision, North Bloomfield’s population had shrunk to half by 1900. Several buildings stood empty and decaying. When the first World War began in 1914, some buildings were demolished for their lumber. Prohibition later closed the town’s saloons. The population grew during the Depression era, when former residents returned to North Bloomfield’s empty buildings seeking a free place to live. When World War II started in 1941, people left to find work in other places, and more buildings were razed. By 1950, North Bloomfield’s permanent residents numbered fewer than twenty. The legacy of hydraulic gold mining can still be seen in the gouged hillsides and choked streambeds around Malakoff Diggins. Scientists are investigating the enduring effects of introduced mercury on the ecosystem —  evaluating soils, native fauna, and water quality to understand the extent of biological uptake in areas affected by historical gold mining. Becoming a State Park In the 1960s, Nevada County locals initiated a campaign to preserve the history of North Bloomfield and hydraulic mining. The idea caught on, and Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park was created in 1965. Park visitors can see the way miners lived near the remnants of the main Malakoff mine and five other claim sites that were blasted with water to get at the gold thought to lie embedded beneath. NATURAL HISTORY Geology and Vegetation Sedimentary and volcanic rocks are evident in the cliff walls of the Diggins, with alternating layers of conglomerates, white fine-grained clays, and iron-stained siltstones. Landslides and erosion have changed the profile of the pit since the days of hydraulic mining. The pit is about 6,800 feet long from southwest to northeast, and it ranges from 1,000 to 3,800 feet wide from north to south. More than 100 feet of eroded deposits have accumulated on the pit floor, transforming its raw, u-shaped surface into a flat plane. Native vegetation has become established in the once-barren areas. About 3,200 forested acres in the park surround the pit, at 2,500 to 4,000 feet elevation. The second-growth ponderosa pine forest also has incense cedar, black oak, white and Douglas-fir, and sugar pine growing on its upper slopes. Whiteleaf manzanita is the park’s most profuse woody shrub. Hillsides are covered with ceanothus, including buckbrush and deerbrush. Spectacular wildflowers bloom in the spring. Wildlife Nocturnal animals such as black bears, mountain lions, coyotes, and bobcats roam in the dark. Black-tailed deer may be seen during the day. The park’s bird species include the darkeyed junco, mountain chickadee, California quail, Steller’s jay, black-throated gray warbler, and mourning dove. Fishing — Rainbow and brown trout may be caught in South Yuba River. Blair Lake reservoir holds black bass, bluegill, and rainbows. All anglers 16 and over must possess a valid California fishing license. Hiking — The park has more than 20 miles of scenic foothill trails with degrees of difficulty varying from easy to strenuous. The renowned South Yuba Trail connects to this trail network. Programs and events —  Gold panning near China Garden and guided tours of historic town buildings are offered during museum hours. Humbug Day takes place each June, and an Ice Cream Social celebrates September. Environmental Living Programs are available to school groups. Call the park museum at (530) 265-2740 or visit for a current schedule of events. Climate From October through April, the western slope of the Sierra receives between 40 and 60 annual inches of rainfall. Snow is common at higher elevations. Spring, summer, and fall temperatures range from the high 50s to the mid-80s. RECREATION Camping — Three miner’s cabins in North Bloomfield may be reserved. The 30 family campsites at Chute Hill each have tables, food lockers, and fire grates. The group campsite is reservable for 9 to 40 people with no more than 10 vehicles. Reservations are recommended for weekends or summer weekdays. For camping reservations, call (800) 444-7275 or visit Swimming — Blair Lake has a small swimming section near the picnic area. No lifeguard service is available, so please use caution and swim at your own risk. The Diggins at Malakoff hydraulic mining pit NEARBY STATE PARKS • South Yuba River SP (Bridgeport crossing) 17660 Pleasant Valley Road Penn Valley 95946 (530) 432-2546 • Empire Mine State Historic Park 10791 East Empire Street Grass Valley 95945 (530) 273-8522 ACCESSIBLE FEATURES The restrooms are accessible. For accessibility updates, visit This park receives support in part from a nonprofit association. For more information, contact Friends of North Bloomfield & Malakoff Diggins (affiliated with South Yuba River Park Association) • (530) 265-2740 PLEASE REMEMBER • Dogs must be on a leash no more than six feet long and must be under control at all times. They must be confined to a tent or vehicle at night. • All natural and cultural park Poison oak features are protected by law and may not be disturbed or removed. • Step with caution. Watch for rattlesnakes and poison oak in many parts of the park. • Disease-carrying ticks may be present. • Black bears can smell food and toiletries stored in cars or tents. Use the bearresistant metal lockers for all food and scented items. • Please check in and pay day-use fees at the park headquarters/museum in North Bloomfield. • Please use only marked roads and trails. Off-road vehicles and making or using unofficial trails are not permitted within park boundaries. n s ter 4 Ea 12 8 il 9 C ru z 2 4200 400 on G ra d 0 B e Ro ad b ack on 4200 ad 0 4000 see detail map d b u g Cr e ek l gT ra i ch m f ie Ma es icl eh Re yo n Campground: Group 1-30 oo Bl th 36 340 Bu ck Rd Exhibit 00 Fishing 0 Locked Gate 3400 0 320 k 99 0 South Yuba River SP Nevada City 80 32 00 65 45 49 0 0 32 00 00 Sou 00 r 00 1.75 2 Kilometers 0 00 00 40 FOREST 38 0 320 1.5 360 0 1 Mile 0.75 1 3400 380 0.5 0.75 N AT I O N A L 3600 00 0.5 SP 3200 TA H O E N AT I O N A L FOREST 32 0.25 0.25 Rive TA H O E SYR 0 uba th Y 32 00 0 r a il u t h Yu ba T S TAT E PA R K 2800 30 So 00 0 0 RIVER 260 00 Property 2400 2600 300 SOUTH YUBA 28 Land Management 2200 SP 24 Bureau of 0 24 Trail a R iver RIVER S TAT E PA R K 2600 240 So SYR Yu b SOUTH YUBA 00 © 2010 California State Parks (Rev. 2017) 2800 00 26 00 h Yu ba 2600 l South Yu b a Tr a i TAHOE NF 2600 00 28 00 ut h 20 Auburn SRA 3000 32 30 22 So Waterfall Empire Mine SHP 20 Grass Marysville Valley a Yub 2600 BLM Campsites Viewpoint Malakoff Diggins SHP 2800 24 Telephone Downieville 34 3000 Swimming l Trai 00 3200 3600 Restrooms PlumasEureka SP 2800 0 Yuba City 3000 70 r Rive r 34 S TAT E PA R K PLUMAS eathe F NF a ssouri B Mi t h C an yo n Sacramento Ri ver N or SOUTH YUBA RIVER Humbug Creek Picnic Area 0 49 0 34 99 Sacramento River SRA Sutter Buttes SP 3400 r 30 Km 360 nt R 3000 TA H O E FOREST ut 20 Lake Oroville BidwellSRA 00 Sacramento 36 River SP N AT I O N A L 0 10 0 Chico 0 34 00 3200 vi n 00 Ra 20 Mi 28 Pa n 10 36 Humbug Falls to Overlook Point 240 Sno Parking Cr b ug 0 e d oa w Te 00 ee Tra3i0 l 00 0 Humbug C reek 320 Park Headquarters oa d 3600 32 H um 32 00 Campsites Dogs On Leash l ie f H O n i l l Ro ly ad or 0 Campground 3400 V C an 400 Cabins i ld Trail m fi e rH Accessible Feature 3800 oa Intermittent Stream North Bloomfield Historic Town n Ra rten 3000 00 Trail: Hike & Bike Up P 42 Trail: Hike 3600 China Garden 3200 l d -G ranit Unpaved Road e nc 00 ill e R ev 32 NO PUBLIC ACCESS Paved Road Trai l 00 Trail Bureau of Land Management Property P Major Road a ra 34 Church P le High-C P P No r t h B lo o d Ro a ne Diggins Overlook 00 Hiller Tunnel Blair Lake 34 The Diggins Diggins Lake 00 00 Trail kb o use 00 o rh 00 Legend H um 00 Loop T ra i l ns Diggi N AT I O N A L F O R E S T pe 32 l TA H O E 0 Trail 4400 i Tra 360 Blair 00 bu 40 00 34 s ou r Chute Hill S TAT E H I S T O R I C M is 00 um 36 DIGGINS ht e 36 4000 Ro 380 Slau g Ba c B 4000 West Point Overlook 38 rt h 3800 il 00 40 N No v i ll e Tr a 00 Lake City Road 4200 i te 00 Rim to Tyler Foote Crossing Road 4400 ield-Granitev i lle Road mf eld-G ra n 40 0 40 36 S ta te H i s t or i c Par k R o ad North Bloomfi Blair PA R K 36 Malakoff Diggins Tent Road 4200 MALAKOFF 38 c S n ow d 4000 k Cree Spring TA H O E N AT I O N A L FOREST 3 a Ro e D er b e 30 29 0 1 11 10 14 15 13 Chute 17 Hill 18 16 19 20 21 25 26 22 23 24 27 28 6 3 7 Diggins Overlook 380 5 l oo L CAMPGROUND AREA Tr a 00 C H U T E H IadL C r u z on G r a d e R o Rim 4400 P 42 Chute Hill Group Campground 1500 Feet 400 500 Meters n 1000 ny o 500 100 200 300 0 Ca 0

also available

National Parks