Kentucky Mine Historic Park & Museum: Tour a Gold Rush Era Stamp Mill

In the small town of Sierra City, with a grocery store and two restaurants, there is one of my favorite spots in all of Northern California, the Kentucky Mine. This old gold mine and mill is one of the best preserved mills from the gold rush era and is a great way to both interact and see the history of that area. This is a spot you must check out if you are near Tahoe.

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  • 7 dollars for a tour
  • 1 dollar for the museum only
  • Hours: 10AM – 4PM
  • Open only summer

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First off, if you don’t do the tour there is not a lot of reasons to come here. The museum itself has some old relics but is very small and probably wouldn’t be worth the drive on its own. The tour however, are chalked full of information and amazing historical sites, they takes about an hour and a half and here is what you do on it.

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The tour begins with history of gold mining in the area and then moves up to the building that houses the mine.

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In here you will learn about the way they mined for the gold, from the tools to the success rate (low).

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After this you will have an opportunity to go in the mine itself. It had a cave-in 3 years ago though and you can only go in about 15 feet so it is somewhat anticlimactic.

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One of the most interesting things about this part of the tour is the old water machine that powered the work they did in the mine. Here is a video of it in action.

After that the tour heads into the stamp mill and that is when it becomes super interesting.

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First you have to cross the bridge that was what originally drew me to visit the mill. It is a wooden trestle that the ore used to be pushed across before it was crushed in the mill. It just has a style that is not present in modern architecture and I loved photographing it.

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The mill itself is a 70 foot and it houses a four step extraction process for the gold. The tour guide takes you through and explains the process from beginning to end, here are the floors.

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Top Floor

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This floor is where the carts of ore were dumped and if it was small enough it went down to the next step and if not it got stuck on the great and had to be broken down.

Forth Floor

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This floor houses the machine that started the crushing process. It had a massive belt to power it and a lot of rudimentary tools to help the process.

3rd Floor

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This floor is where the smaller pieces of ore fell down into and were put through another breaking down process.

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This is also where we met the bats for the first time.  These bats come here around July to give birth to their babies and were all over the mill, it was crazy. We even got to see a few up close.

2nd Floor

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This floor had a chopper type machine that continued to refine the rocks down to a small enough piece to be crushed.

1st Foor

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This floor is where the water machine that powered the whole mill was and also where the stamps were. These stamps literally drop and crush the rocks into dust which let’s them remove the gold from the ore.

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Anything that doesn’t get crushed here drops down to the shaker which is the last step of the process.

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As you can see this entire process was elaborate and pretty amazing for a turn of the century mill. This mill is one of the only in the world that has not been refreshed and still has all of the original pieces in it. The tour is a must do on a visit here as these pictures do not do justice to seeing the amazing stamp mill in person.

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After completing the tour you will have the opportunity to visit the museum if you did not see it beforehand. I really did love the history and the workmanship of the Kentucky Mill and I cannot recommend it more if you are into history like I am. Make sure to leave a comment with your thoughts.

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