The teacher’s ELP program manual is available to download (113 pages, pdf file format, 1.7 MB).

Click here for the ELP Manual  

We are pleased to offer the Environmental Living Program (ELP) at Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park for students of gold rush history.   The program began in 1989 and continues today with school participation from all over the state.  The program continues to develop as new ideas are tried and perfected.

The Program (Targeted for 4th Graders) 

The Environmental Living Program camp site is located a short walking distance from the historic town of North Bloomfield, a 45 minute drive north-east of Nevada City, California.  This site has been designed to promote the feeling of living in a gold rush camp back in the 1870’s.  Students will prepare food and learn crafts from that era, and participate in a scavenger hunt through the ghost town of North Bloomfield.  This learning experience is enhanced by how imaginatively teachers and parents team with park staff to recreate the time period.

The program accommodates up to 40 students and 10 – 15 adult supervisors.  Five tent-cabins comfortably sleep 7 students and one adult in each tent.  If needed, additional tents may be erected behind the student tents.  Groups may choose between a one and two night experience.  We encourage groups traveling three hours or more to consider a two-night stay.

There is an on-site storage shed with camping and cooking supplies and cooking utensils available for use during your stay.  Each school will be supplied with enough crafting material for each student as well as firewood to heat the candle pot and fire pit for cooking.  Review this list in the ELP Manual.

Prior to the overnight visit, the student should be well versed in the gold rush story.  This should include historical research as well as developing a fictional gold rush character for themselves.  Student activity groups should be developed with each team coming up with a skit or a story about their way west.  These skits may be shared around the campfire along with period songs and music.

Because this is an outdoor experience, our program runs mid-April into the first or second week in June.  Plan for the possibility of wet and cold conditions during any month!


The students dress in miner’s costumes, live in canvas tents and learn to do activities such as…

  • Candle Dipping
  • Gold Panning
  • Crocheting
  • Lucet Cord Making
  • Tin-Smithing/Lantern Making
  • Wood-Working
  • Rope Making
  • Slate Writing
  • Dutch Oven Cooking
  • Other period activities might include hauling water/firewood, cleaning the camp, and hiking to the old cemetery and hydraulic diggings site.

Rick Toles, talented musician and storyteller AKA – Alkali, Last of the 49ers, offers a gold rush era personality.  Rick performs music featuring instruments of the period.  He will also lead the students in a simple square dance.  His phone number is (530) 477-5560.  Call early – his schedule fills quickly!

Ric Moorhouse is a local blacksmith also available for private hire.  He offers gentle, individual guidance to each student in the actual making of a period hook, using the traditional methods.  His phone number is (530) 478-7597.


Spring 2020 season training will be held on Saturday, April 4, 2020 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
(Snow date will be Saturday April 11, 2020)
We encourage teachers to have several parents or helpers attend this mandatory training so they are familiar with instructing the crafts, should someone not be able to attend at the last minute.
Bring a sack lunch and drink. Wear layered clothes and sturdy footwear. Date selection for Spring 2021 will take place onsite, at the conclusion of the training. Bring your top three choices for 2021 ELP dates to the Spring 2020 training.


Interested teachers must attend the four-hour training to be scheduled for the next year’s spring schedule.  Fall dates are also available.  To register for the free training, please call the park at (530) 265-8125.

There is a park program fee of $20.00 per student, per night for use of the ELP facilities.  Most teachers plan to budget between $30.00 – $40.00 per student which includes food, transportation, and all additional craft supplies.  An advance deposit is required to hold future program dates.  The deposit will be applied to the total fee.  The balance of the program fee will be due and payable at the time of arrival. There is also a separate $50.00 cleaning deposit required which, upon a successful inventory check, will be returned upon check-out with park staff.

Alternative Living History Program

The ELP program is very popular, and it can be difficult to get on the schedule.  A private, non-profit organization called  FIELDGUIDES INC offers guided overnight programs at Malakoff Diggins in the Chute Hill Campground. Experienced and personable guides take students into the old hydraulic mine site, go gold panning along Humbug Creek, and lead a tour of the ghost town of North Bloomfield. The programs are run in a family-style camping format with nightly square dancing and campfires. Students, chaperones, and the fieldguides work together in cooking, cleaning, and fun group building games. For information about this program contact Galen Camp at (650) 969-6325 or email at