Robert Lee Hatcher staked the first lode gold claim in Willow Creek Valley in 1906, and a gold mining boom followed. Shut down as non-essential to the war effort in 1943, Independence Mine proved unprofitable after the war and closed for good in 1951. In a few short years, the mining operation headquartered here produced nearly $6 million worth of gold at World War II era prices, a small fraction of gold's value today.
When Independence Mine State Historical Park came into being in 1980, the manager's house became a visitor center, the assay office a museum. Some buildings were stabilized; others collapsed beneath winter snows or were removed. Preservation work on a dozen historic structures continues.
Best place to begin a walking tour is at the visitor center, which offers free brochures with maps and explanations, or just follow interpretive signs along the way. Guided tours may be available. Recreational gold panning is permitted and gold pans may be borrowed at the visitor center.