Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is the site of what was once the world’s largest hydraulic gold mine. Malakoff Diggins is located 26 miles northeast of Nevada City. When it was first discovered, the settler thought that there was no gold to be found at the park and called it “Humbug.” In reality, there was much gold in the mountains and once it was discovered, the settlers wanted to change the town’s name to Bloomfield. Since a town called Bloomfield already existed in southern California, the settlers changed the town’s name to North Bloomfield.
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park was created between the 1850s and 1880s as a result of this new technology. This mining method involved shooting water with giant nozzles into the hillsides in order to find gold. In 1886, the practice was outlawed due to the erosion and environmental damage it caused to rivers and waterways downstream. Gravel, mud, and debris fell into the Yuba River which carried it all the way to the Central Valley. Rivers were clogged and caused massive flooding. Silt even made its way up to San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento River was rendered nearly unnavigable. These issues led to many lawsuits between gold mining companies and farmers and led to the first environmental law issued by the federal government.
Today, visitors can see the remnants of this technique through the huge cliffs that were carved by the water. A tunnel that is nearly 8,000 feet deep, which served as a drain, can also be viewed by visitors. The Malakoff mine pit is enormous at over a mile long, a half mile wide, and almost 600 feet deep.
Along with the cliffs and mine pit, Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is comprised of a museum, a small mining town, campgrounds, and about 20 miles of trails and pathways to explore. The museum contains information about hydraulic mining and how miners lived and worked back then. The small mining town includes many restored buildings including a drug store, general store, and livery stable which can be toured on summer weekends with a park ranger. The park office also has a pamphlet and map so that you can tour the mining town on your own. Chute Hill Campgrounds is open seasonally and dependent upon the weather. Family and group camping, night hikes, and campfire programs are held at these campgrounds.
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park has many trails to explore. The Humbug Trail runs approximately 2.5 miles along Humbug Creek and leads to the Yuba River. Here you will be able to find some campsites. Rim Trail is a mostly level 3.5 mile trail that overlooks the mining pit. This path is perfect for an explorer who wants to see close-up views of the natural and man-made erosion that shaped the land. The colorful cliffs and pit are surrounded by grassy areas that are covered in wild flowers and brush, as well as slopes that are covered in thickets of ponderosa pine and sugar. Church Trail leads to a cemetary and just south from there will lead you through a forest to Diggins Loop Trail. Diggins Loop circles around Diggins Pond. Hiller Tunnel is a quarter mile long trail which is dark and dank, requiring a flashlight. This tunnel is part of the drainage tunnel.
Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is home to California Historical Landmark #852, commemorating the North Bloomfield Mining & Gravel Company. Further information can be found online at http://www.malakoffdiggins.com/ or by calling 530-265-2740. The grounds are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and the museum is open everyday from 10:00am til 4:00pm. During the rest of the year, the museum is open every weekend from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Guided tours are at 1:30pm on days when the museum is open. Malakoff Diggins is located on 23579 North Bloomfield Road, Nevada City, CA 95959.