Solitude Seekers’ Virtual Ghost Town
Nevada County, CA – Some of California State Parks don’t always attract the attention they deserve.
Thankfully, in the case of Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park we were afforded a great opportunity to have this gem of history mostly to ourselves. With the exception of resident bears, a state worker or two and a few other solitude seekers, peace and quiet is all but guaranteed for a good portion of the year.
Located in the town of North Bloomfield, California (population 8-12), Malakoff Diggins is the site of California’s largest “hydraulic” mine which created substantial environmental damage from Sacramento to the San Francisco Bay and resulted in the first Federal Environmental Protection Law in 1884, according to the Malakoff Diggins website.
Stop off in Nevada City
After grabbing lunch at Pete’s Pizza in historic Nevada City, we set out along North Bloomfield Road. Traveling this route is not recommended as it soon turns into miles of a winding and dusty gravel road. We continued undeterred. Cell phone service was unavailable throughout the trip and not a single car passed our way. (Check Google for the less adventurous route)
Step back in time
Upon reaching the “outskirts”, visitors are greeted by the old church, school and cemetery. Shuttered some 73 years ago,around the time of World War II, some restoration efforts are underway. Although the school is boarded up, you may still peer inside the church windows and imagine life in the mid to late 1800’s. The buildings are beautifully set among towering pines and just across the road you can sample the impact of hydraulic mining with a view of the valley.
A short distance up the road as you enter the town, parking is just ahead on the left in front of the Skidmore House and there is an $8 Day Use Fee. You can pay at the museum.
Leisurely wandering the small community, you can check out the old fire station, mercantile, barber shop, saloon, hotel, blacksmith and more. The preservation and restoration made it easy to imagine a thriving mountain community which numbered well over 1,000 during its prime.
Don’t forget to spend some time in the museum which offers a detailed and fascinating look back in time. The staff are friendly and appeared happy to answer our barrage of questions.
For those seeking a little more adventure, the area offers miles of hiking travels, Blair Lake, Humbug Creek and plenty of terrific picnic spots and scenic locations. Remember, you are in the wilderness and bears can be found wandering the town, so stay alert and prepare accordingly.
Malakoff Diggins offers an excellent day trip from South Placer County at about 60 miles or so northeast. The town is compact and sits on a flat road, so walking is easy for just about everyone. There is enough to see and do along the way that makes it a fun trip for both the young and old alike. A great taste of California history and outdoors along a scenic route make it a winning combination in local travel.