Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park, St. Helena

4.6
#5 of 12 in Nature in Napa Valley
Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park is a California state park located in Napa County between St. Helena and Calistoga. The park is the site of a water-powered grist mill that was built in 1846 is one of only two water-driven mills remaining west of the Mississippi River.HistoryThe mill was established in 1846 by Dr. Edward Turner Bale on property in Rancho Carne Humana land grant. Bale lived near the site until his death in 1849.The gristmill and granary were built with local materials, Douglas firs and coast redwoods. Some timbers were cut to length with the bark left on, while others were roughed out with hand tools. The timbers were notched and held in place with wooden pegs as well as nails and screws. The foundation of the structure is native stone. The mill was powered by a waterwheel, with water diverted from Mill Creek nearby. A ditch carried the water from a millpond to a wooden flume, which brought the water to the top of the waterwheel. The first wheel did not provide enough power during dry summers and was replaced by a larger one, similar to the one at the mill today.The mill was once the center of social activity as Napa Valley settlers gathered to have their corn and wheat ground into meal or flour. Farmers brought grain to the mill where it was placed into the boot of an elevator to be mechanically transported upstairs where it was cleaned by various types of equipment. The slow turning of the old grind stones and the dampness of the mill's site gave the meal a special quality for making cornbread, yellowbread, shortening bread and spoonbread. As old timers put it, "When meal comes to you that way, like the heated underside of a settin' hen, it bakes bread that makes city bread taste like cardboard."
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Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park Reviews
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72 reviews
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TripAdvisor
  • My wife and I go there almost every year. It's an enchanting historical structure in a beautiful wooded setting, along a stream. The tour is fun, and the gift shop has lots of interesting items, inclu...  more »
  • You can show up at any time during this unstructured tour. The speaker/guide we had was animated and informative. His knowledge of California history is amazing. I could have stayed there and listened...  more »
  • It is rare to have such an informative tour guide. I learned more from this one presentation than in several history classes. Great overview of mill history and its role in the nation, France, Rome to...  more »
Google
  • I love this place. Best place for a picnic with a bottle of wine you just bought. The self tour of the mill is nice as well. It cannget hot in summer>
  • Wonderful, wonderful. Step back in time. Smell the old smells, and explore this fine old working grist Mill. Beautiful historic and fun place to see.
  • This was a fantastic little day trip located above Napa it is one of the oldest Mills in California if you have enough people with you they will actually fire up the Mill and give you samples we bought some polenta on the way out which I prepared at home and it was absolutely fantastic
  • This is an under-publicized gem with a still-working mill, great staff, and some hiking trails out back. This is one of the few restored mills in the western half of the country and you can even take home a souvenir of a ground grain product of your choice. We visited on a rainy Sunday in January so there were few visitors and we received a private tour and had a great chat with a very knowledgeable and enthusiastic docent. If you're into pre-statehood Californian history, definitely visit.
  • Fantastic opportunity to experience a piece of California history and pick up some less-common flours. The tour was great with a personable and knowledgeable guide. A great day-trip or stop over for anyone near St. Helena.
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