Empire Mine State Historic Park

Useful Information

Location: Grass Valley California, the heart of the gold country.
Route 80 north, in Auburn turn off onto route 49 north, exit Empire Street.
Open: JAN to APR daily 10-17.
MAY to AUG daily 9-18.
SEP to DEC daily 10-17.
Fee: Park: Adults USD 3, Children (5-16) USD 1, Children (0-4) free.
Surface Tours: per Person USD 1.50.
Undergroudn Tours: not yet open.
Classification: MineGold Mine
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: L=590 km
Guided tours: not yet open
Address: Empire Mine State Historic Park, 10791 East Empire St., Grass Valley, CA 95945, Tel: +1-530-273-8522.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


1850 mine opened.
1869 William Bourn Sr. owned controlling interest.
1929 sold to Newmont Mining.
1959 mine closed.
1975 State purchased the surface property as the Empire Mine State Historic Park.
2013 scheduled opening of the underground tour.


This was the richest hard-rock mine in California producing 165,000kg of gold all together. The gold is part of a quartz vein in a massive of grey granite. Such veins are hydrothermal depositions formed by the heat of the granite intrusion.


Empire Mine is the oldest, largest, and richest gold mine in California. The Historic Park contains many of the original mine buildings, the owners' cottage and the restored gardens and grounds. The park has an area of 342 ha and almost 20 km of hiking trails.

The gold was discovered by George Roberts, but he soon sold his interest. Since 1869 William Bourn Sr. owned controlling interest and the family maintained control until it was sold to Newmont Mining in 1929. The mine was closed in 1959 and almost twenty years later in 1975 it was purchased by the State. The Empire Mine State Historic Park was opened, which soon became a popular tourist destination. The main attractions are historical tours of the Bourn Cottage, the mine yard, and the Park museum. The museum shows a scale model of the underground workings of the Empire/Star mine complex. A gold room displays ore samples from local mines. There is also the Assay Office, and an extensive mineral collection. Visitors can see the video entitled Tears from the Sun which explains various gold mining techniques.

But all sights were above ground until now, although there were almost 600 km of abandoned and partly flooded mine shafts. So a few years ago the creation of an underground tour was started, called the Underground Tour Project. The California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE) granted the Empire Mine State Historic Park and the Department of Parks & Recreation more than 1.2 million dollars for its completion. The construction of a Maintenance Building and the Orientation Center are almost completed, work has begun on the displays.

An adit was built horizontally through the quartz-laced grey granite, ending at the main shaft. At the moment phone, water and electricity are installed in the adit. The visitors will ride a mine train through this 250 m long tunnel. Dioramas depicting the advancement of hardrock mining techniques over the years will be constructed along the tracks, and the train will stop now and then. At the main shaft a so called stope will be visited, a huge cavern created by the upward mining of the quartz vein.