Empire Mine State Park, California

  The Bourn Cottage, built in 1897 by William Bourn Jr. constructed from mine tailings with a trim lining of bricks.

  The Empire Mine is one of the largest mines in California, with over 367 miles of underground workings and a vertical depth of over 5000 feet. The mine dates it's beginnings to 1851 and ran till 1956 when the fixed price of gold of $35.00 made it unprofitable to run. During the depression when businesses were failing throughout the country, the Empire Mine expanded operations and became the largest gold producing mine in the state. By the time the mine closed in 1956, it had produced over 5.8 million ounces of gold!

  In 1850 a gold bearing ledge was discovered and it was named "Ophir Hill". In 1852 the mine was bought by the Empire Company which had mines in the area. Over the years the mine changed hands many times, and in 1864 it was purchased again and over $200,000 in machinery was installed, claims in the area were bought up and consolidated to form the Empire Mine.

  In 1869 a San Francisco capitalist by the name of William B. Bourn bought up the stock and acquired control of the mine. He pumped in a lot of money and men into the venture. In 1870 a fire destroyed most of the surface equipment but by early 1871 he had a new 20-stamp mill up and running.

  Bourn died in 1874 and it was though that the mine was played out, but his son William Bourn Jr. formed the Original Empire Mine and Milling Company and continued exploration and after 4 years large bodies of ore were found. The mine was merged with the North Star group of mines and renamed the Empire-Star Mines Company LTD. which became the largest of the gold mines on the west coast.

  During the mines heyday over 400 miners were employed at the Empire Mine. The miners were lowered down the incline shaft in skip loader ore cars 20 at a time and dropped down into the mine at a speed of over 800 feet per minute to a collective depth of over 11,000 feet. (Damn that blows away anything at Magic Mountain!) Deep in the mines over 44 mules lived their lives pulling ore cars, never to see the light of day.

  In April of 1975 the State of California bought the land (over 770 acres) and formed the Empire Mine State Park. This park rates up there with Bodie State Park as a must see, there are many miles of hiking and mountain biking trails to explore. If you have the time, the photo opportunities are endless.

Oh yea, if your interested... my friend Guy got to explore the underground workings of the Empire Mine. Not that I'm jealous or anything like that but if your interested, see Starbuck.org for his pics of the mine.

Let's explore the Empire Mine

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