Tucked away in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the heart of California's Gold Country, Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park is home to remnants of what was once the world's largest hydraulic mining pit. The gold mine operation was so substantial that the town of North Bloomfield sprung up to support the mine’s workers. Today the mining pit and historic town are open to visitors, affording a glimpse into California’s gold mining history.
The Diggins pit was mined through a process that involved pressurizing water through canons that literally blasted away hillsides. The process unearthed plenty of gold, but it also left a site ecological destruction. Eroded mountainsides washed down the Yuba River and deposited large volumes of silt downstream that resulted in extensive environmental and property damage. Due to the destruction, multiple lawsuits were filed and the state required the North Bloomfield Gravel Mining Company, which operated the mine, to stop dumping eroded tailings into the river. The 1884 injunction is notable for being the first environmental law passed in the nation. In less than 20 years of operation the hydraulic mining operation was shut down.
The exposed sedimentary walls of the mining pit form a colorful precipice that is said to resemble a miniature Bryce Canyon. The pit can be explored via a network of trails that run through the park. The Diggins Loop Trail circles the pit floor and the Rim Trail offers elevated views. The surrounding forests of pine, oak, and manzanita create a stunning contrast to the eroded walls. The historic mining town has a museum open in the summer, although self-guided exploration of the town can be done anytime of year. A 30-site campground and three rustic mining cabins are open for use in the spring and summer. Additional amenities include picnic areas, barbeque grills, and a community fire pit. Dogs on leash are permitted throughout the park.