Culture and heritage
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Gold was discovered in the Castlemaine area in 1851 and was first won from surface or shallow workings, mostly by panning or cradling. These alluvial methods were followed by the use of horse-powered puddling machines and larger scale quartz reef mining and crushing batteries.
Mining and exploration in the area continue today, although the numbers of mines and miners have greatly declined. Relics of former mining activities are scattered throughout the park and include old shafts, tunnels and open cut mines, water races, building ruins, machinery foundations and abandoned machinery.
The reserve at Vaughan Springs, created in 1878, was originally just 1.5 ha but has grown and developed into an area of some 100 ha along the Loddon River. These mineral springs were first found by the alluvial miners who discovered gold in the area in 1853.
In October 2002, Vaughan Mineral Springs Reserve, Castlemaine-Chewton Historic Area, Upper Loddon Flora Reserve and areas of state forest became the Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park, a new public land category for Australia.
The old Market Building in Castlemaine has displays and publications that tell the story of the area’s rich heritage. Guided tours are sometimes available.