Article Written by Ned McKeu of EastBayTimes.com
Fascinating history lies within the hollow hills of Antioch’s Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve.
From the 1850s to the early 1900s, the area that now includes the park was California’s most extensive coal-mining area. From the 1920s to the mid-1940s, silica taken from the hills was used in the production of glassware and in iron casting. You can learn more about both mining eras during the underground tours, which are available by reservation every Saturday and Sunday from March to November from 10 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Tours proceed through the sand tunnels of the former Hazel Atlas Mine. The next stop is a section of the simulated coal mine with mannequins and a sound track, which recreates (but without the danger) the dark and dangerous underground environment.
For safety reasons, all tour participants must be at least 7 years old and parental participation is required. Due to the COVID-19 protocol, masks are required and social distancing is encouraged. People should bring jackets, because my temperatures are in the mid-50s all year round. Hard hat is required and will be provided by the park.
The fee for the entire tour is $8 per person. There is also a parking fee of $5 per vehicle when attending kiosks at Black Diamond Mines. For more information and reservations about various mine tours, visit the East Bay Regional Park District website ebparks.org, or call 888-327-2757, Option 2. Plus, the underground Greathouse Visitor Center is open free to people of all ages on weekends. The center houses exhibits and artifacts from the park’s mining era.
There is much to see and do in Black Diamond Mines above ground as well. For example, it is a major springtime wildflower site. You can look for wildflowers on your own by walking the park’s Chaparral Loop, Manhattan Canyon, or Ridge Trails. There can still be space on one of two guided wildflower hikes for ages 10 and up (parental involvement is required).
The first wildflower hike is 5.5 miles at Black Diamond Mines on March 13 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The second is a 4-mile hike on March 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., this time in the Diablo foothills at Walnut Creek, another nice wildflower park. Participants should be prepared to cover some steep and uneven terrain, dress for the weather, and bring food and water. Both guided hikes are free but require registration. See the Park District website above for more information.
There’s more to come—celebrate St. Patrick’s Day and discover the Irish connection to the Black Diamond Mines during a hike from 2 to 3 p.m. on March 17th. The hike is free, but again, registration is required.
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