With the benefit of what we now call Project 184, miners had enough water to do hydraulic mining in Placerville. Evidence of that is Big Cut Road and Eskaton on Blairs Lane, both in Placerville. But for really spectacular remains of hydraulic mining one has to go to Malakoff Diggins State Historical Park in Nevada County. It looks like a small version of Bryce Canyon in Utah.
As a result of recently rediscovered reserve funds in the state Parks Department budget, Malakoff will reopen Friday through Sunday. But you have to see it soon, because it will close down for the winter on the last Sunday of this month. It won’t open again until May 1, 2013. It’s kind of swampy, so if you go in the spring, bring bug repellant.
Malakoff Diggins is the world’s largest hydraulic mine and dates back to 1852. It has been closed since November 2011. The state is wrapping up an agreement with the Malakoff Diggins Park Association, the Olmstead Fund and the Yuba River Citizens League.
The weekend schedule includes tours, talks and gift shop sales, but no camping. Three miner’s cabins will be available for rent through Reserve America.
Hydraulic mining came to an end in 1884 when U.S. District Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer in San Francisco declared it a nuisance and issued an injunction against the North Bloomfield Mine and Gravel Co., which had created Malakoff Diggins. Hydraulic mining had raised the rivers by filling them with silt and flooded out farmers, covering their farms with silt. Congress later allowed hydraulic mining if they kept all their washout behind a dam. Heavy rains wiped out some of those brush dams and that alternative faded away. Marysville and Yuba City are still prone to flooding, being at the confluence of the Feather and Yuba rivers.
To find Malakoff Diggins take Highway 49 to Nevada City, then travel 11 miles north on Highway 49 toward Downieville. North Bloomfield Road is not recommended. Turn right on Tyler Foote Road, turn off from Highway 49 and follow the main paved road to the park. The main road changes names a few times (Cruzon Grade Road, Back Bone Road, Derbec Road, North Bloomfield Road). You will stay on paved roads all the way to the park. These are not high-speed roads. The park is 26 miles (50 minutes driving time) from Nevada City.
It’s history preserved that is worth a look.