In the past fifty years especially, the Napa Valley has become world-famous for its fabulous wine. But 150 years ago, wheat not wine was Napa’s premiere cash crop. Wheat was ground into flour at a busy water-powered mill to feed gold miners and others rushing into the new state of California. Most of us who visit the valley these days probably have no knowledge of this important chapter in Napa’s history and will be surprised to find out we can visit the old mill’s big wheel there which keeps on turning, keeps grinding wheat the old-fashioned way and keeps Napa’s agricultural history alive in the 21st century. We’ll see this magnificent mill and its 36-foot wheel in operation, find out how it works and be impressed by the beauty, ingenuity and quality of its 19th century technology and the fine flour it still produces. All of this is on glorious display at Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, now managed by Napa County Regional Park and Open Space District in partnership with the state. While we’re in the neighborhood, we’ll also stop by Bothe-Napa Valley State Park next door to see where we can all spend the night at probably the cheapest prices in the valley.
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