Best Notes from the 19th-Century Underground

Black Diamond Mines

From the hot Contra Costa hills, burnished to a gold by the unrelenting
summer sun, stepping into an old mine chamber gives you a chilling
contrast. The Black Diamond Mines are the site of the largest coal
mining area in California during the 19th century and sand mining in
the 1920s. Weekend mine tours, available by reservation, give a taste
of the subterranean life. For a taste of the hardness of the life, hike
up one of the undulating Contra Costa hillsides to the long-deserted
Rose Hill Cemetery and walk among the graves of 150 of the townspeople
who perished from mining accidents, epidemics, childbirth, childhood
diseases, and (very rarely) old age. Greathouse Visitor Center,
temporarily closed right now for structural reinforcements and widening
of the entrance, is unique in that it’s located underground inside the
old sand mine. 

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