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Stories from the valley

Gold Bug Mine and Park, Placerville

Contributed by Carl Gwyn

Tucked away on Bedford Street in Placerville, you’ll discover the historic Gold Bug Mine and Park. The park is located on Big Canyon Creek, where early prospectors panned for gold after James Marshall scooped up shiny nuggets in Coloma that changed history forever back in January 1848.

When the easy gold found on the surface became scarce, miners turned to hard rock mining. An outcropping of quartz was noticed in the canyon, and miners started digging into the side of the hill to follow the gold-bearing quartz. The first drift (horizontal hole dug in the mountain) was begun in 1888 and played out quickly. A larger vein was noted across the canyon, and a new drift was explored, which became the current Gold Bug Mine. For a complete history, please click here.

A visit to the park provides a look into the hard-rock mining life of the late 1800’s. The Gold Bug Mine offers self-guided and docent-guided tours throughout the year; daily from April through October and weekends from November through March. You’ll see all the things one imagines in an operating gold mine: ore carts, braced walls and ceilings, drills, and evidence of dynamiting.

The Hendy Stamp Mill, meticulously restored to its former glory, contains a working model of a stamp. The well-trained docents provide a complete description of the process of removing the precious metal from the ore. The clanging of a hammer on an anvil will lead you to a functioning blacksmith shop at the back of the mill.

The park offers a nice gift shop, shaded picnic areas, hiking trails, and even a second mine. The Priest Mine was dug completely by hand with picks and is open only for guided tours by special arrangement.

So, if you need a cool spot for a summer getaway, Gold Bug Park is it. The temperature inside the mine is guaranteed to be quite pleasant. Check out the park’s website here.

To round out your day in this historic town, you could head to the Cozmic Cafe, located in the historic Placerville Soda Works. The lower story was built in 1859 over an idle mine to use the tunnel for storage of ice for the summer months.  The second story was added in 1897 when the building became the soda works. The cafe offers a variety of foods as well as coffee and tea.