California Gold Mines

Historic California Gold Mines Combine Education and Adventure 


California gold mines – tunnel carts

When the ’49ers swarmed the Sierra Nevada foothills, they exploited the surface gold and placer deposits — basically whatever gold could be obtained aboveground using small-scale equipment such as pans and sluice boxes.

As surface gold became increasingly scarce, the only way to find gold was to dig deep down into hard rock (following veins of quartz), which required enormous capital, heavy equipment, and extensive labor. The large companies that conducted these operations during the late 1800s and early 1900s did indeed produce millions of ounces of gold.

Today, many of these old California gold mines have been turned into tourist attractions. They offer visitors a realistic view of the dangerous, dirty work of mining, as well as a look at some of the more impressive specimens ever to be uncovered.

Some California gold mines even invite you to put on a hard hat and venture deep into the bowels of the earth!

But not all California gold mines are tourist attractions. Plenty of precious metal remains buried in the earth, and with the price of gold skyrocketing these days, there’s renewed interest in pulling it out. At least one historic mine recently has closed its doors to the public in order to resume digging. (See more on that at the end of this page.)

This is the exception, however, not the rule. Tough environmental regulations make it unlikely that many other mines will follow suit. So — lucky for us! — tourist attractions they will remain.

How can you “strike it rich” at California gold mines? Check out our list of must-see large-scale digging operations, and make plans to visit one (or all) next time you’re in the Mother Lode.

We think you’ll agree that “geotourism” has never been so much fun!

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