Malakoff Diggins History Lesson

Having always been intrigued by this State Historic Park, our drive home from Nevada City allowed us a very interesting detour.

Malakoff Diggins was the world's largest hydraulic gold mine. Its devastation to the pristine landscape led to the first environmental law enacted in the nation and we were here to learn all about these California gold seekers who water-blasted entire mountains searching for the prized metal.

With waves of miners flocking to the area, the town became known as North Bloomfield, California in 1857 when the post office was established. This new town became the center of the 80 square mile township. By 1860, A.L. Smith was operating a daily pony express, and the U.S. census showed 784 inhabitants.

There was elegance and refinery in this little mining community. North Bloomfield experienced its heyday from the late 1860s to 1884, with nearly 1,500 inhabitants and more than 200 buildings serving as a supply base for the township. These buildings included five hotels, eight saloons, two livery stables, two dry goods stores, two breweries, three boot makers, three fraternal organizations, a school, a barbershop, a drug store, a butcher, a baker, a dairy, and two churches.

Downstream, concerns arose about the tailings from the hydraulic mines as soon as they were operational. The more that water blasted the hillsides, the greater the debris problem. Riverside farms were flooded and destroyed. Silt was estimated to fill San Francisco Bay at the rate of a foot each year, while the Yuba, Feather—and thirty miles downstream— the Sacramento river channels had to close to steamboat traffic. Because many valley towns depended on the miners for income, valley residents simply built tall levees for flood control which in time led to devastating floods, hence the need for the environmental law stopping this type of mining.

This California State Park preserves the interesting history of a bygone era. We thoroughly enjoyed meandering and learning how life once was here. This was a very cool way to end our very fun weekend.

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