I can’t tell you anything more about the history of this particular mine along the Yuba River than what was written on the sign on the door... However, this whole area was mined pretty heavily in the early days of California’s “Gold Rush” and the original workings at this site appeared fairly old. I CAN tell you that Mr. McBride and I were curious about the waste rock piles that didn’t seem connected to anything and so we headed up the side of the canyon in the dark to investigate (there’s never enough daylight when exploring). The higher up we went, we kept finding large bolts embedded in rock outcroppings. So, like a sick version of Hansel & Gretel, Chuck and I followed these bolts higher and higher up the canyon wall through thick brush, poison oak and over steep rock faces. Eventually, we lost this trail of bolts at a sheer cliff. Our assumption was that we were following the remains of a tramway up and it would make sense for the bolts to stop at the cliff face because they would be on top if these bolts were actually supporting a tramway. So, although we haven’t seen it, we strongly suspect that there is another adit somewhere up on the canyon wall. There are plenty of rumors around about additional mines all along that stretch of the Yuba River. However, the brush is so thick now that it would be almost impossible to find them (the absence of roads and trails along the sides of the canyon doesn’t help either).
So, we ran the clock out on the daylight at this last mine... However, if you’re curious as to where the road ended… Well, so were we. So, we came back on another day (with the dirt bikes this time) and went all of the way to the end. The “road” ends at a large boulder field created by a creek, but it was possible to tell where the road continued in the past through the thick woods (and thick poison oak). So, we continued on foot until we came to a large waste rock pile. At the base were the remains of a stamp mill and after scrambling up to the top through the thick brush, I came across the remains of a shaft that was flooded up to ground level. The water was almost completely black and so it was difficult to really gather anything about the state of the shaft. Several people have told us that there is a stone “Hobbit House” nearby, but we looked around a little while and didn’t find it. It was getting dark though and so we didn’t look for too long. The bikes don’t have headlights, but we normally use our miner’s headlamps to ride at night. So, no big deal that it was getting dark, right? Well, this time it was. When we got back to the bikes, none of our electronic devices would work. NONE of them. Lights wouldn’t work, phones wouldn’t turn on, cameras wouldn’t work – even the gas meters were acting weird. Fortunately, the bikes are kickstarted and so we were able to get them running. I got the hell out of there to catch the few shreds of light remaining in the day, but it got completely dark on the ride back. That’s a hard road in the daylight. So, at night it was downright sporty! When we got back to the truck all of our electronics worked perfectly.
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Growing up in California’s “Gold Rush Country” made it easy to take all of the history around us for granted. However, abandoned mine sites have a lot working against them – nature, vandals, scrappers and various government agencies… The old prospectors and miners that used to roam our lonely mountains and toil away deep underground are disappearing quickly as well.
These losses finally caught our attention and we felt compelled to make an effort to document as many of the ghost towns and abandoned mines that we could before that niche of our history is gone forever. But, guess what? We have fun doing it! This is exploring history firsthand – bushwhacking down steep canyons and over rough mountains, figuring out the techniques the miners used and the equipment they worked with, seeing the innovations they came up with, discovering lost mines that no one has been in for a hundred years, wandering through ghost towns where the only sound is the wind... These journeys allow a feeling of connection to a time when the world was a very different place. And I’d love to think that in some small way we are paying tribute to those hardy miners that worked these mines before we were even born.
So, yes, in short, we are adit addicts… I hope you’ll join us on these adventures!