Fresno Flats series to explore Great Sierra Mines

Rusted mining machinery at the Lundy Mine.
Rusted mining machinery at the Lundy Mine. /Special to the Sierra Star

Yes, gold has been found in “them thar hills” but silver was also mined in the Great Sierra Mines along the eastern border of Yosemite National Park. Tony Krizan, Sierra Star columnist and hiking and exploring enthusiast, will present a slide show and lecture on many of these mines in the Fresno Flats Free Friday Night Lecture series at 6:30 p.m. on April 5.

Krizan who is often joined by two hiking buddies, Fred Cochran and Clem Bingham, will reveal the locations of several mines, including Dana City and Bennettsville (spelled Bennettville in some sources), both located west of Tioga Road. They will also explore the Lundy Mines, which they accessed prior to hiking over the 11,300-foot Dore Pass. These later mines are “the location of the highest producing gold and silver mines in California,” Krizan said.

The height of mining activities in the area was reached in the last half of the 1800s and early 1900s and construction of what is now known as the Tioga Road was undertaken to allow supplies and equipment to be brought to the area more easily. The area had over 350 active mining claims at one time.

Many will recognize Krizan’s name associated with his searches for forgotten downed planes he has located in the Sierras or the “lost” roads he has followed inside and out of Yosemite National Park. He has published three books covering his hiking and exploration adventures. Following the lecture, he will personally sign any books purchased.

“I was a Cub Scout when I first started hiking and then I really got serious around 1977,” Krizan said. He moved to the Oakhurst area in 1989 after a career that included employment with Lockheed Aircraft and GM. While working for GM, he was sent to engineering school.

“I engineered the (heavy duty) trucks and chassis along with engine sizes so these trucks could move material at safe highway legal speeds,” Krizan said. “After speccing out the vehicle, I had to meet with the company's purchasing agent to sell my vehicle to the company.”

It was when he got into sales that he had more flexibility in his schedule. “As long as I was one of their top salesmen, they never said a word to me (about my schedule),” he said.

Later, he got his real estate license and sold real estate in the mountain area until his retirement.

“I like the mystery of hiking,” Krizan said. He prefers not always staying on trails. “I like the challenges when I don’t always stay on trails. Trails are boring.” When he is traveling cross country, he conjures up images and memories of stories he used to read as a child growing up. When he goes off trail, he feels he is having the same experiences the explorers and Indians had that he read about. “I call the wilderness my second lady.”

On the night of the lecture, the doors will open at 5:30 p.m. The museum on the grounds will be open to the public at that time also. Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park recreates 19th century life in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

The Fresno Flats Historic Village and Park is located at 49777 School Road in Oakhurst. The lectures are free, but donations to the Sierra Historical Sites Association (SHSA) will be accepted. SHSA is a 501(c)(3) organization.