I recently had the opportunity to check out the Sterling Hill Mining Museum located in Sussex County. It is definitely worth the trip to see all they have to offer. It has things that will appeal to all age groups from young preschoolers to school age up to grandparents. They offer a very informative 2 hour tour around the grounds. Check the website for tour times as they vary depending on the season. You need to arrive half an hour prior to your tour departure time to get tickets. Tickets are reasonable at $11 for adults, $8 for kids 4 – 12, and 3 and under is free.
Your first stop is the Zobel Exhibit Hall. It has over 12,000 items on display from a large skeletal dinosaur head and fossil rocks to a beautiful mineral collection including minerals from China, Russia, and Africa. Kids can work on a scavenger hunt to find 5 items located in the exhibit. They can also test their skills to see if they can identify real gold versus fool’s gold. I also learned Thomas Edison invented many of the tools miners used. You can see several of them on display from early light bulbs, batteries, and miners' electric cap lamps.
Next stop is the Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence. There are four rooms full of brightly glowing different fluorescent mineral specimens. They also have an exhibit of everyday items such as drinking glasses, golf balls, plastic toys, and postage stamps reveals that fluorescence is a property shared by a wide range of common materials.
Then you descend on a 1,300-ft underground stroll within the mine passages. There are numerous pieces of equipment used while the mine was in operation, plus exhibits on the underground mining process. Visitors will see the lamp room, the shaft station, mine galleries dating to the 1830's, and much more. The entire mine tour route is well lit, and no climbing is involved — visitors walk on hard-packed gravel the whole way. All parts of the route are wheelchair-accessible.
They offer a variety of activities to do in addition to the tour. For the younger crowd, you can sluice mine. They sell bags with dirt and rocks or fossils in the gift shop for $8-10. You take them outside and pour them into a sifting container. Submerge that in the water and the treasures will be revealed. Or for kids 7 and up who are really interested in rocks, they can visit the Mine Run dump. It is $5 to search and explore the tons of high-grade zinc ore from the depths of the Sterling Hill mine. Much of the ore is full of highly fluorescent minerals, making this area a favorite of collectors. They recommend you bring a hammer and collecting bag. You pay $1.50 per pound for any rocks you want to take home with you. Be sure to wear closed toe shoes to participate.
There are two different discovery areas you can try as well for a small additional fee. The Rock Discovery Center is recommended for kids in grades 2 – 6. They learn about rocks: how to recognize it, where it is obtained, and how it is used in society today. Best part is they get to take home 6 rock samples to start their collection. Or the Fossil Discover Center does the same thing except with fossils. They can find up to ten different types such as shark teeth, petrified wood, and lamp shells and get to take 6 specimens home.
The Sterling Hill Mining Museum
30 Plant Street
Ogdensburg, NJ 07439