It was the lure of gold which brought the first white settlers to the Kern River Valley in about 1853. The mining towns that sprang up all through the Kern Valley were as rip-roarin' as any in the Mother Lode country, and from those exciting years we have many artifacts for you to see, including tools the miners used and some real local gold!
The Arastra which was simply a big rock dragged across bigger rocks which crushed the ore between them.
The Chilean Wheel which is a large granite wheel weighing several hundred pounds which was rolled across the ore, crushing it to dust.
The Stamp Mill method of extracting gold was very commonly used in the Kern River Valley and they varied from 1 to 80 stamps. Gold bearing ore was fed into a hopper as the stamp moved up and down, crushing the ore. We also have a full sized Stamp Mill in our backyard.
The Ball Mill is an extraction method still being in use commercially. Large steel barrels are filled with various sized steel balls, the barrel is rotated and the heavier than ore steel balls crush the ore to dust.
The Dry Wash Machine was a way of separating gold from sand in areas where there was no water. Sand was shoveled onto the screen and a handle was turned to operate a bellows which would blow the lighter sand away, this also created a shaking action moving the sand across the riffles in the tray. The intent was to leave the heavier gold in the angles formed by the riffles.
Another Model in our mining exhibit is of a 20-mule team similar to the wagons that carried ore to the mills. Visitors to the museum will learn about the mules and drivers that did this often dangerous work.