New Jersey is an interesting State. It lies across the river from Manhattan and borders NY state. NJ, the Flower State, is known for the ‘Jersey Shore’ which is in the southern part of the state, suburbia and malls in the middle, and parks in the north.
Personally, I think Northern Jersey is one of the most beautiful areas of the State and I’m grateful that is where we visit my family.
However, northern Jersey wasn’t full of attractions so it was up to me to find out a fun, educational tour for my kids and me.
What to do with Kids In New Jersey (North) – Mine Tour
Years ago, when I visited Bolivia in South America, I took a tour of a mine in Potosi. It had a huge impact on me, as I had a inside look at one of the most dangerous jobs – into the world of miners.
During my search online, I stumbled upon the Sterling Hill Mine Tour. It was only about thirty minutes from my parents house and sounded interesting. Yet questionable, since I had no idea that Jersey even had mines.
When we arrived I discovered you can either come here to simply walk around the grounds and do several activities with the kids like mineral collecting, rock discovery, panning and other fun.
Plus, the actual mine tour.
Boy were we surprised about our visit
Surprise number 1 – the place was packed! Granted it was the day after the 4th of July. But I was so impressed the amount of people visiting that our tour literally had to be split up into three (fairly large) groups.
Surprise number 2 – If you’re going to drive out here, make sure you come for the tour. When I read about the mine on their site. Which is amazing and very comprehensive. I didn’t fully grasp the importance of the tour.
The tour is the museum! And you will literally miss 75% of this educational attraction by missing it.
Surprise number 3 – When I asked how long is the tour, I got totally worried when the lady told me it would last two hours. With a three year old, two hours can seem like an eternity when doing a tour.
He never once got restless and was listening as intently to what our guide talked about as some of the adults of our group.
Surprise number 4 – New Jersey can get super hot during July. When we were there the temperature got into the high 90’s outdoors. We were dying of heat. However, the tour inside the mine got down to a chilly 56 degrees.
Discover Facts about New Jersey Mines
What You’ll See and Learn on the Mine Tour
1. The Gallery – The tour begins in a large room with tons of rocks, minerals, miners locker rooms, fossils and tons of other things. The miner (tour guide) sets us on a treasure hunt for twenty minutes and at the end, when everyone is ‘supposed’ to be finished it’s reviewed and we also learn interesting info about the different rocks, mines and fossils that were found in the area.
Miner’s locker room
Evacuation box for miners
2. 1300 feet under – Next we head into the mine itself and go down about 1300 feet below ground.
3. The Fluorescent Mineral rock room – some rocks glow in the dark. Bet you didn’t know that. It was a good way for the miners to know which are the different types of minerals they are looking for.
Inside the room, everyone is given a free rock that glows when the lights go off. Along with our teeth, diamonds and lint!
4. Tunnels and the workers– with the miner’s carts and shafts all work stations as though it was happening right now.
Mining is one of the most dangerous, disrespected, and underrated jobs out there. When the mine was in full working order it mainly hired fresh immigrants that got off the boat at Ellis Island, with little English, few skills and desperation. They had jobs from blaster to rock pusher to all sorts of dangerous equipment handling.
I call this guy’s job the Mangler – cause he works a huge cord that if it gets loose can mangle him to shreds within seconds
This guy is actually called two fingers – even the dummy they use has 2 fingers because the person who used to have this job had to push rocks down chutes. And it was extremely common for his index finger and middle finger to get caught and ripped off.
5. Mining Shafts – this is where everything happened. Where all the rocks, minerals and precious metals and stones were sent up from a day of work. This was also where the miners who got hurt would be evacuated from and lots of other activities took place here.
6. The Entrance for the Miners – we entered another area of the mine. For us the tour actually started in underground tunnels. A huge corridor like area where it was said that miners got trapped (apparently a normal work hazard) and died. Around mid-tour we crossed over to the original mine and where the majority of the work when the mine was active took place. This was where they would enter to start their day six days a week.
7. Lunch and Shopping
After a great tour with too much information to absorb, my kids needed some munchies.
I loved the Miner’s Lunchbox food stand. It was sooo cheap, that I couldn’t believe it and bought tons of goodies for my kids (since we missed lunch).
And my oldest, who is obsessed with rocks and crystals and metals lately, spent over one hour after the tour in the rock and mining shop afterwards.
Information for the Sterling Hill Mine
The mine has so many activities, tours and educational programs that I would simply recommend taking the time to orient yourself with all that they have to offer.
Address and phone:
30 Plant Street, Ogdensburg, NJ 07439