Truckee archeologists monitor gold mine project
A reopened tunnel into a rich and historic gold mine at Plumas Eureka State Park is being retimbered to host guided underground tours starting next year.
The first 100 feet of the 6,000-foot long Eureka Tunnel is being restored and will provide park visitors a sesquicentennial glimpse of gold mining history.
Starting in 1851, pioneers mined $18 million deep within Eureka Peak in a series of four tunnels that make up the Eureka Mine Complex.
Local archaeologist Susan Lindstrom was hired to monitor the project and make sure that during excavation, artifacts would be set aside and protected.
Plumas Eureka State Park has sites including a restored miner’s family home, an assay office, a Mohawk stamp mill and most recently a park museum.
“People have always been asking, ‘where’s the mine,'” Lindstrom explained. “Now they can go in the tunnel. It will give someone a feeling of what it’s like to be in a mine. It’s a cutting edge project.”
The two-phase project to open the 149-year-old tunnel, is a joint effort by the Plumas Eureka State Park Association and local volunteers, spending grant funds from the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
The tunnel has been collapsed and closed for the past 50 years.
Phase one included replacing old timber sets with 12- by 12-foot timber sets into the collapsed portal, and rerouting a drainage system after excavation was completed.
The excavation took approximately 2 weeks, Lindstrom said.
Medal detectionist Buck Amodei of Sierraville helped find metal artifacts within the timbers, which mostly included nails, nuts and bolts. Other artifacts found during the excavation were ties and spikes from old Ore Cars and fragments of equipment.
The artifacts will be turned over to State Parks, and some will most likely be displayed at the site, Lindstrom said.
“Normally, when a minor would reopen an old tunnel, it was rough excavating,” she said. “We wanted to be sure we didn’t sacrifice any of the Plumas history.”
Local archeologist John Betts also worked on the project by sketching collapsed timbers before they were excavated. Lindstrom documented the site record.
The tunnel will most likely be open for tours next summer, after safety regulations are completed.
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