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Virginia City is the heart of the famous Comstock Lode mining operations that began in the 1850's. Because of ancient volcanic upheavals and tectonic plate pressure, the earth's crust in the Sierra Nevada Mountain region was broken and torn like a jigsaw puzzle. When gold and silver mining first began in Virginia City, the miners thought they discovered a few pocket lodes and rich ore veins that only traveled a short distance.
One day the mine owners met and they pooled all their information. The tunnels were all mapped and the ore veins were charted. The result was an overview of the complex underground ore deposits in the entire region. It only took minutes to see that the rich ore deposits were fragmented by upheavals in the Earth's Crust and it was evident that plenty more ore could be found by judging where the missing jigsaw pieces were. This meeting was when the full potential of the Comstock Lode was realized and the implications were tremendous.
The Chollar Mine was established in 1859. This mine is one of the oldesest full scale silver and gold mining operations in Virginia City. Many mining industry firsts occurred at the Chollar Mine. The Chollar Mine is where electricity was first employed in the mining industry. This mine also set many new groundbreaking safety standards for that other mining operations followed.
While visiting Virginia City, I took a tour of the Chollar Mine. The price of admission is a bargain by modern standards. The tour goes 400 feet underground into Chollar Mine, right into a large stoke chamber where a rich vein of the Comstock silver ore can be seen.
For those who are hesitant about venturing into an old silver and gold mine that was dug over 150 years ago, there is no need to worry. The age old timbers have been replaced over the years. The first 400 feet into the mine is thoroughly shored up. Fresh air is pumped in, just like in the old days and the level of dust is minimal. Most of the old mine shafts are blocked so nobody gets lost. Daylight can be dimly seen coming from the adit if the lights go out, so there is no need to be preoccupied with panicky thoughts while deep underground.
The first 100 feet or so are a little damp and the mine shaft is wet, but after this point the deep mine is completely dry. Obviously wearing the finest city slicker clothes and shoes is not advisable when venturing into this old mine. Wear comfortable duds and be sure to not wear a hat.
Old mine shafts from the 1800's tended to be narrow with a low ceiling. A person that is less than 5 foot tall can walk upright down the Chollar Mine Shaft. Those who are closer to being 10 foot tall NBA basketball players will have to stoop over while traversing the distance of the mine shaft to the stoke chamber, where the ceiling is much higher.
I happen to be 6' tall and I only bumped my head once on a cross beam while I was not thinking about what I was doing. That thunk on the noggin sure did send a clear message about how important it is to keep your wits about you when underground in an old silver and gold mine.
Mentioning two major disclaimers is the best thing to do for readers of this article, so the vacation in Virginia City remains a fun one. Waiting behind for the rest of the group to finish the mine tour is a far better choice than to pretend that things will be okay if either of these two specific maladies are ignored.
Those who suffer from chronic claustrophobia should not venture into an old silver mine of any kind, because the passageways are tight and narrow. The same can be said about folks that have extreme sensitivity to mold and mildew. Old underground mines do have some fuzzy growth on the walls. Those who have no health issues will have nothing but a great time inside the old Chollar Mine.
The Chollar Mine tour truly is an educational experience for both children and adults. Even experienced miners can learn something about mining history at this place. The tour guide is a descendant of Virginia City mining families from the old Comstock days. The guide thoroughly knows the Chollar Mine subject matter. He presents a lot of good first hand knowledge about the Chollar Mine and Virginia City that is not mentioned in encyclopedic history books. All said and done, it is best to not get into writing details about the Chollar Mine history and stuff in today's article, because the tour guide will provide all that information and more.
Virginia City literally has a lot of ghosts of the past and this city is a paranormal tourism destination. Even the locals will freely admit to seeing apparitions occasionally.
While I was chatting with the tour guide deep inside the Chollar Mine, he mentioned seeing a miner from the 1800's walking down the shaft one day. This happened when nobody else was in the mine and no tourists were on the property. Sure enough, the tour guide saw what turned out to be a real live ghost deep in this old mine.
So, when the lights go out ... and since the wiring is so old, they surely will ... just try not to jump out of your skin if a chill is felt on the back of the neck in the pitch black darkness! There is nothing like a good little scare deep inside an old silver mine to shake the cobwebs clean out of the old kidneys!
The Chollar Mine Tour is a fun venture that will provide a lifetime of memories. Be sure to bring a camera along, because picture taking is allowed.
A lot of history was made at this old mine. The Chollar Mine is a historical Virginia City destination that must be experienced to be believed!