Tombstones and Tarantulas

Visit Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve in the East Bay


Forget black cats; a randy tarantula crossing your path can really get your heart racing. So can spirits in a cemetery! Visit Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve and learn about these misunderstood spiders, plus pay a visit to the Rose Hill Cemetery, where ghosts are said to exist.

The 6,286-acre East Bay park was once covered by five coal-mining towns that thrived for a half century beginning in the 1860s. According to some accounts, lying among the departed in the park's Rose Hill  Cemetery is Sarah Norton, a beloved midwife who died when she was thrown from a buggy on her way to nearby Clayton. Legend has it that Norton’s spirit still appears as the “white witch,” staking claims on both boneyard sepulchers and park visitors alike. In addition to Sarah’s apparition, anthropologically inclined visitors can spot headstones dating back to the 1800s (see if you can find Elvira's!). Vandals destroyed parts of the cemetery, and fortunately the East Bay Regional Park District took over in the early 1970s, helping to restore much of the cemetery and its tombstones. Still, according to lore, ghosts remain here, keeping visitors in check. Watch your step, show respect … the spirits are keeping tabs.

Also, keep your eyes peeled for large, fuzzy spiders while at this park. Though tarantulas are normally nocturnal, this is the time of year when males spend their days in search for female companions. Fear not, these horny arachnids are generally harmless (see Bonuses below).

BONUS CEMETERY STROLL: Saturday, October 28 from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. go on a guided walk to the Rose Hill Cemetery and hear stories of miners who once lived here, as well as tales of tragic fates. No registration needed. 

BONUS TARANTULA TALK: Sunday, October 29 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. learn about tarantulas. No registration needed, just drop by the table at the upper parking lot to discover more about these misunderstood spiders. 

Pick up a brochure about Rose Hill Cemetery from the visitor center. The cemetery is a .5-mile walk (one-way) on the Nortonville Trail from the upper parking lot in Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve. Dog-friendly ($2 fee).

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