Empire Mine State Park, Nevada County

This post was written by jd on July 19, 2009
Posted Under: Nevada County Information,Nevada County Parks,State Parks
Bourn Cottage

Bourn Cottage

I believe that one of the nuggets of Nevada County is the Empire Mine State Park. Located in Grass Valley, nestled among tall pines, oaks and cedars, it has been brought back to its original grandeur of the mining days of old.

This is really one of the state parks that is a must visit. To mention some of the activities there are 12 miles of beautiful trails for hiking, mountain bike riding and horse back riding. I have ridden my mountain bike on many of the trails and the trails range from flat to very, very steep. Visting the park is like going back in time to the 49’s era, seeing how the miners worked and how the rich mine owners lived.

Hardrock Trail - Photo by Jeff Herman

Hardrock Trail - Photo by Jeff Herman

Tours are available inside the Bourn Cottage, as Volunteers in period dress recreate characters from Empire’s colorful past. This two story country home of William Bourn, Jr., styled after the noble estates of nineteenth century England, was built in the late 1890’s. The architecture is distinguished by a remarkable redwood interior, leaded glass windows and massive granite walls. Cottage Living History tours are available every weekend May through mid-October.

A brief history of the mine:

“For more than a century, from 1850 to 1956, the grumblings and rumblings of the stamp mill could be heard for miles around Grass Valley. Twenty-four hours a day, huge banks of machines sent iron rods crashing into chunks of ore blasted from deep inside the Earth. The noise was a constant. Living near the Empire Mine was like living near an interstate highway: You got used to it, or you went nuts.

“People only noticed when it stopped,” says Donna Jones, interpretive ranger at Empire Mine State Historic Park. “And one of the few times it stopped was when Maude Bourn married. They turned it off for three days.”

Maude Bourn was the daughter of William Bowers Bourn Jr., who took over the mine from his father in 1887 and went on to become a big name in California, leaving, among his many legacies, the 43-room Filoli mansion in Woodside and the Greystone Winery (now headquarters for the Culinary Institute of America) in St. Helena.

Empire Mine was one of the first — and eventually the largest and most productive — hard-rock mining operations in California, having its start with the discovery, in 1850, of flecks of gold in an outcropping of quartz where the park’s main parking lot is now. Some 5.8 million ounces were eventually extracted from the vein.

The usual method of entering the mine was aboard a cable-operated “man skip,” which resembled a giant toboggan on tracks. Twenty men at a time would pile on for the rip-roaring, 600-feet-per-minute ride into the bowels of the Earth.

“They always put the new men in front so that, if they lost their breakfast, it wouldn’t affect anyone else,” Jones says dryly.”

Source Sacramento Bee

For more information of the activities, fees and tour dates visit Empire State Park

If you have visited the park, please leave your comments of your impression of the park.

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