The Borax Museum is a relatively small collection of mining artifacts, borax products, and local history housed in one of the oldest structures in Death Valley National Park. Along with displays of picks, pans, soap flakes, and arrow heads is an outdoor collection of mining and other industrial equipment used across Death Valley at the turn of the century.
Nestled on the steep Chloride Cliffs of the Funeral Mountains is one of the most successful mines in present day Death Valley National Park. The Keane Wonder Mine operated in the early 1900s, during the Death Valley mining boom. Nearly $1 million in gold were yielded between its discovery and closing in 1912. Yet the mine remains a popular attraction in the National Park.
Tucked away in the Eastern Sierras of California, Bodie is a gold-mining ghost town preserved in a state of arrested decay. Yet, in its hey day, Bodie hosted one of the richest gold strikes in California with a peak population of nearly 10,000 people. Gold and silver extracted from the Bodie Hills totaled in the millions.
Silver was discovered in Cerro Gordo (“Fat Hill”) in 1865 by Pablo Flores – the first major silver strike in Owens Valley and a defining feature of the Lone Pine Mining District. Today, it is a privately held mining ghost town outside of Lone Pine, California. It is infused with history and accessible by a rough dirt road.
Today, Ballarat is a ghost town known better for its cameo in Easy Rider or visits from the Manson Family than its early mining history. Yet, from 1897 to 1917, Ballarat was the trade hub for the rich gold and silver diggings on the western slope of the Panamint Range.
While Death Valley has had its share of gold and silver mines, the “White Gold of the Desert” has proven to be the deserts most profitable mineral. Borax mines and related facilities are dotted across the valley yet the Harmony Borax Works and interpretive trail is the primary attraction for visitors.
Historic downtown Weaverville is host to massive mining equipment, delicate gold nugget necklaces, and the only working steam powered stamp mill on the west coast—all preserved by the Trinity County Jake Jackson Museum. The museum is dedicated to the preservation of and education on the history of Trinity County. Of course, no history of the region would be complete without a deep dive into its early mining origins. The museum collection includes mining equipment, assaying scales, gold nuggets, and other artifacts from the historic county.
The Gold Nugget Museum in downtown Paradise, California preserves and protects the rich mining history of the Ridge. The museum is named after a 54-pound gold nugget discovered in 1859. The “Dogtown Nugget” or “Magalia Nugget” was found a few miles outside of Paradise, in historic Dogtown. The nugget drew a stampede of miners who first settled the region and whose triumphs and challenges are commemorated in the Gold Nugget Museum.
Sitting in the Klamath foothills, 6-miles west of Redding, California. is a row of half-ruined buildings flanking highway 299. These are the remains of the gold rush boomtown of Shasta, the “Queen City of the Northern Mines.” While its rise to relevance and fall into obsolescence is swift, it is a striking and well preserved reminder of gold rush that put the state of California on the map.
On a pullout from Highway 299 in Trinity County is the largest hydraulic mine in California. Little remains of the operation aside from a monitor and four interpretive displays. Yet, the La Grange Mine looms large in gold mining history.