Malakoff Diggins was the trigger for the nation’s first major environmental lawsuit that ended hydraulic mining in the Sierra Nevada and pitted strong economic interest against each other. The Diggins are located about 12 miles outside of Nevada City in an isolated area that requires travelers to navigate narrow country roads to reach the park. The site has the old buildings of the town of Humbug (aka New Bloomfield). Some of the buildings have been preserved and others outside the main town area are becoming dilapidated. There is a little museum that has some items I have never seen displayed before in other area museums, a few Chinese laborer items and a mortician’s table. My favorite building was the General Store that has shelves stocked with items. The buildings in town are not open year round so you might want to call ahead to see when they will have docents staffing them (likely warm months of the year). The main part of the park is the “pit” where the hydraulic mining was done. You will have to travel about ½ mile outside of the town to reach parking for the trailheads for the Diggings loop trail that circles the pit. The loop trail starts on the south side of the pit in tailings piles and then descends into the bottom of the pit, crosses to the far side to where you are walking below the exposed bluffs down to the lake and back around. The bottom of the pit is very damp in the spring and you will find little streams running along the entire length of the trail. The trail is marked with posts so you can see which direction you need to head but there were places where it was hard to pick the right path or where there was enough water that you had to go off the trail. I doubt the water issue is a problem in midsummer or fall. I found the bottom of the pit to be quite beautiful in the late afternoon light. The bluffs are striking in color with shades of gold and umber. You get the feeling like you are in a little Grand Canyon. I also found the rocks to be very interesting. The vast majority were quartz that had been worn by the ancient rivers into stones that will fit in your hand but I also found volcanic rocks that were porous and reddish in color not black like you see in Hawaii. There were dark black stones, grey stones with dots, stones that were bluish. I honestly wish I had a geology guide with me to have read about the different types of rock and where they come from . Malakoff is a very interesting place. They have many other trails that you can hike or mountain bike that are not in the pit. I live in the Sacramento area and Malakoff would not be where I would take first time visitors to the Gold Country. If you do decide that this is where you want to be, take a picnic with you. There are no restaurants or markets nearby but they do have some nice areas with picnic tables.
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