The Eagle Mining Company is an old fashioned gold mine that offers tours and guided adventures of a mining operation from the 1870’s. The mine is located in Julian, California, a small historic pioneer town 50 miles northeast of San Diego. The site includes 24-acres of prospect land and a gold panning facility, once bustling with the activity of the California Gold Rush of the late 1840’s and early 1850’s.
1000 feet of underground tunnels run with quartz veins. Inside the mine is an example of a star vein, which early miners traced to search for gold. The mine’s tunnels were built in the days before dynamite and drills, all manually carved from the rocky shale.
A small museum on site includes antique mining tools, along with original axes and picks. Original protective hats that were outfitted with lights made from a candle in a sardine can. A small display of key tags on the wall teaches guests about the mine’s early safety system. Miners would grab a key tag when entering the mine, thus it was known how many entered and returned by the number of tags hanging outside. Machinery on site includes antique engines and vintage cars and trucks. Visitors can see how the milling and extraction process works and try their hand at panning for gold, although all gold found must be returned. A museum gift shop sells rocks and memorabilia. A picnic area on site has space enough for groups of 20 or more.
History: AE Coleman, or Fred as has was know, was a former slave who first saw gold in Julian in 1869 as he was crossing a creek bed and saw a glint in a stream. He founded the Coleman Mining District and the mining city, Coleman City. The first mining claim was filed in 1870, named the Washington mine for its filing on George Washington’s date of birth, February 22nd. As others heard of the news and rushed to seek their fortunes in gold, Julian became a tent city. The town took on more permanent structures over time, having grown solely from the influence of the early claim stakers. It’s estimated that by 1879, Julian had yielded close to $5 million in gold ore.
Ed Sprague and his wife Ellen moved to Julian, California in 1967 and learned about a property with several abandoned mines. They purchased the site and restored the mines to their original 1870’s state in an effort to preserve the site’s history. While some wooden structural support has been added for safety, the mine stands just as it did in the late 1800’s, with most of the original equipment, including cart tracks, in place. The Old Hardrock Tunnels, as they were originally named, opened to the public in 1968. Today, the location is owned and managed by the Nelson Family, Ed Sprague’s grandchildren.
Ongoing Programs and Education: Tours of the mine last one to two hours. Knowledgeable guides include the history of the mine and Julian’s early residents. Once guests are deep inside the mine, the lights are turned off and the mine is lit with candles, simulating the experience of the early miners who made their livelihoods deep in the hills. Special tours may be arranged for groups of 20 or more, or for groups with a specific area of interest. Areas of focus might include history or geology. Visitors should note that the entrance and exit to the mine do take some climbing along very steep staircases. The temperature inside the mine remains close to 58 degrees regardless of the outdoor weather.
What’s Nearby: Visitors to Julian will enjoy not only the mines, but the quaint town built around them filled with antique shops and bakeries, high in the pine and oak forests of the Cuyamaca Mountain range. The City of Julian is an official California Historical Landmark located in San Diego County in the southern part of the state. The small historic town is known for its famous Julian apple pie, and the Apple Days Festival that has taken place each September since 1949. While the late gold rush was occurring in the 1870’s, resident James Madison began planting apple trees in the mountains above town. The apples thrived in the mountain air and the industry continues today, as the agriculture is the town’s most prolific employer, alongside tourism.
2320 C St, Julian, CA 92036, Phone: 760-440-6352