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Hunting for a fortune at Gold Bug Mine | Bartell's Backroads

“Placerville is the only municipality in the United States that owns its own gold mine.” Once home to countless mine shafts, only one still is open for visitors.

PLACERVILLE, Calif. — In the late 1800s, Placerville--or “Hangtown” as it was called--was littered with gold mine shafts. Today, tour guide Rich Dvoracek says there’s only one mine safe enough for tourists, and it's located inside Gold Bug Park

“Placerville is the only municipality in the United States that owns its own gold mine,” Dvoracek says.

If you think the city is rolling in gold dust, think again. Dvoracek says the mine is not profitable in the way you think. 

“Not profitable from the gold sense but profitable from the tourist sense,” Dvoracek says. 

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For a minimal entry fee, tourists can escape the summer heat or winter cold and enter mine where it’s a comfortable 52 degrees. The Gold Bug Mine was dug in 1888 by William Craddock and John Dench. 

“The mine goes 362 feet into the mountain and 110 feet down,” Dvoracek says. That may seem like a deep gold mine, but you can’t judge a mine by its depth. 

“The fact that it took 16 years to go 200-plus feet tells me they weren’t finding much gold,” Dvoracek says. "They would have dug faster if they were.”

After Craddock and Dench gave up on the mine, other miners tried their luck but also came up empty-handed. Today, the Gold Bug Mine offers visitors a look at how gold was processed. A replica stamp mill shows how gold was smashed out of rock ore.

Over at the blacksmith shop, you can learn how miners repaired their equipment and you may even walk away with a souvenir miner's hook. After that, head down the hill from the mine and try your luck at the gold panning display.

Gold Bug Mine is open seven days-a-week, April through October, weather permitting. More info can be found on their website.

HIT THE BACKROADS: California's state parks make for great road trips all year long. Don't miss John's list of the top five that you need to visit!

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