ExploreDesert - Into the Mojave - Baker Area

1MK

ExploreDesert
Enjoying this very much, and looking forward to more. Love that general area.
R
Thank you. Yeah, the entire area of the Mojave Desert in this region is fantastic. From further south and all the way up into Death Valley. I've only just touched on it, so much more to explore.

Thanks for the great pics and commentary.. looking forward to the rest.
Thank you.

Thank you for sharing! We have missed DV trips for the last 2 years, your pics and stories are appreciated.
Yeah I had a quite long absence from my trips and it feels great to be out again. Made me appreciate it and showed how much I missed it.

Excellent
(y)

Great report. Your knowledge of the area is impressive.
Not so much my knowledge, but research of it. I supplied links to the source of every quote. A lot of people put a lot of hard work into sharing what's out there and am very thankful for that.

Thanks for sharing this excellent report and really great photgraphs. What are you shooting on?
Main camera is a Canon EOS M5 with a variety of lenses, Mavic Pro and a few GoPro 9 pics as well. I edit everything in Lightroom to give it the pop I personally like.

Excellent content and photos.
Thanks.
 

1MK

ExploreDesert
Little teaser of the next section...

In hindsight, I'm glad that this portion of the trip worked out the way it did. Christmas Day wasn't spent alone, a little extra time with the parents and the weather managed to get a bit better as time went on. Also, was able to reprocess the trip in my mind and assess doing it solo. After thinking it through, I was overthinking it. There was nothing to be scared of. No crazy or dangerous roads, not nearly as remote as I've been in the past. So that was a breath of fresh air and a solid and much needed reset. Never hurts to check yourself every now and then.

With reevaluation out of the way, the Monday following Christmas I took my former room mates (parents) on a day trip along the mountains that their house backs up to. They really enjoyed the portion of the Mojave Road and were excited about what I had in store for them.

We left the house and headed north from Fort Mohave, then worked back into the Black Mountains which overlooks the Valley and Lake Mohave. Nestled up in a canyon is a unique mine, the Tyro. What makes it interesting is that overtime they worked from the surface following a vein, then had portals and shafts that shoot off from there into the mountain. I've never seen anything like it and it was a blast to explore.



Looking down towards Lake Mohave









The Tyro mine is 6 miles by road from the Katherine mill. The drop in altitude from mine to mill is 2,000 feet . During 1915 and 1916 a 500-foot shaft was sunk and some drifting done on the 200 - foot level . A small tonnage of ore was taken out at this time from pockets at the surface , but the operators missed an ore body that outcropped just below where the shaft was started .

In 1933 , C. F , Weeks and W. E. Whalley obtained a lease and option on the property and formed the Whitespar Mines Cos work at the mine began in September 1933.

In March 1934 , 40 tons of ore was being mined daily from an open cut on the vein . A part of the dump from the old shaft had to be moved to get at the ore . The mill took the ore in lots of 80 tons. The ore was drilled with a jackhammer and hoisted in a 10 - cubic foot bucket by a small gasoline hoist . The bucket was dumped into a car , which was pushed by hand to a 60 - ton bin . The mining was done on contract at $2.50 per ton .

The crew consisted of 10 men 2 miners, 4 muckers, 3 hoistmen , and the contractor . Wages were $4.50 for miners and $4.25 for muckers. The output was 6.6 tons per man shift for the men in the stope and 4 tons per man - shift for the entire force. The ore shipped in 1935 averaged 0.42 ounce per ton in gold. Surface sampling along the outcrop for about 900 feet indicated a value of $ 5 to $6 per ton.

In May 1935 electric power had been brought to the mine . The equipment consisted of a 500 - cubic foot electrically -driven compressor , two 100 - cubic foot portable gasoline compressors ( standby ) , mine blacksmith shop, and a 100-ton ore bin.
The compressor was rented at $2.50 per day and the hoist at $20 per month. The compressor used 15 gallons and the hoist 5 gallons of gasoline per day.

In May 1935 , 100 tons per day were being taken out of the mine through the adit . The ore was mined in 6-foot benches . The blasted ore was drawn through three chutes , without shoveling , into cars that were pulled by a mile to the ore bin in trains of four cars each .

The stope crew consisted of one jackhammer man and one helper on each of two shifts . Two small shrinkage stopes had been run at the ends of the open stope where the ore would not run without shoveling . No timber had been used for supporting the walls in the open stope up to January 1936. All loose rock had been cleared away at the surface and a wire guard placed around the excavation .

The mining cost, at 100 tons per day in 1935 , was $1.20 per ton. On a 50 ton basis the cost was $1.75 . One - half mile of road up a sandy gulch was built for $ 150. A power shovel was used for grading . Little blasting was required . A single track road in disintegrated granite in which no blasting was necessary was built by hand. One man at $4 averaged 16 feet of road construction per day making the cost per linear foot $0.25 . - Source Credit Gold Mining and Milling in the Black Mountains






















Such a amazing mine to explore. It's all still in really good shape other than the wooden structures that are exposed to the elements. A few of them won't be around too much longer as where they're anchored and secured to the rock and each other is showing signs of the time and weather.
 

1MK

ExploreDesert
From the Tyro mine we crossed highway 68 and headed south, skirting along the western slopes of the Black Mountains. There's a ton of old history scattered throughout this range varying from early day expeditions and scouting, battles with Indians to the earliest mining activity in Mohave County, dating back to 1863.

Two of the more notable present day attractions are old Route 66 and the historic old mining town of Oatman.

The adventure for today wouldn't have time to check out everything unfortunately, but it's something I'll chip away at each time I'm out there for a visit. For a lot of the trip we tinkered around the Arizona Peace Trail for simplicity and timing.





Two very solid individuals. I'm fortunate.



The Bra and Panty tree. One of those oddities, albeit a little trashy IMO.


Saw a few groups of these guys. Always a treat. Fascinating how these big animals thrive out here.

More wild burros call Arizona home than anywhere else in the West. Close to 7,000 burros are estimated to roam the western part of the state, where these hardy animals are highly adapted to the harsh desert environment.

One of the largest and most genetically healthy burro populations in the country lives in the Black Mountain Herd Management Area (HMA), a 1.1 million-acre public lands area. The burros are thought to be North African Ancestry and are descendants of burros that were brought by miners and prospectors from the early 1860s.

The burros share the mountains with the largest herd of desert bighorn sheep on public lands in the nation. - Source Credit americanwildhorsecampaign.org





Worked our way further and further to the south, closing in on Oatman.









Ended up at Fort Red's. A really neat and super clean desert bar. We stopped and enjoyed a cold beer, lunch and talked with the locals for a bit.









I really wanted to stop and explore Oatman and a portion of Route 66 in detail. I've learned so much about it and it's vibrant history I was itching to go back once again, returning with new found knowledge and history. Thinking it was a Monday and everyone would have went home it'd be dead, but it was by far the busiest I've seen it. So busy in fact, we drove right through. Bummed! That was going to be a key segment to this part of the trip.

Oh well, I'll get something planned that'll incorporate Oatman into some of the other rad historic finds I've made.









From Oatman we took dirt trails back to my parents house.



My spirit animal


All in all, it was a great trip and any time I get to spend with them is precious and always a joy. A couple more days at their house and it was time to dive back into the trip.

To be continued!
 

1MK

ExploreDesert
Excited and eager to start the next leg of this trip, I was up early and said my goodbye's Wednesday morning. I'd basically be backtracking to where I was. From Bullhead City - 163 west, 95 north to Searchlight, 164 west, I-15 south and finally exit Cima Rd and head north. Whew.

Let's get this party started.


Clark Mountain - Ivanpah Solar Plant


Kingston Range




Cima Road turns into Excelsior Mine Road. A little past the turn off for Kingston Wash, you come into Horse Springs Camp which has a few established camp sites and a primitive restroom.

View from the campground


Continuing on there is Horse Thief Springs. A couple old structures remain that I would have liked to check out in more depth but the close proximity of the locals derailed that plan. The house appears to be something built in the 1920s as you can see more modern materials adorning the roof.

Horse Thief Springs is named for the legendary Chief Colorow Ignacio Ouray Walkara (a.k.a. Wakara or Walker) of the Timpanogo Band of Ute. Walkara was a skilled hunter and horseman from an early age, taught by his father, who was a Ute leader. He also learned to speak several languages, making him a skilled negotiator as well.

In the 1820s, Walkara began accumulating wealth from trading horses and other commodities. He gathered a band of warriors from the Great Basin tribes to raid ranches and stop travelers along the Old Spanish Trail. He became a legendary horse thief, known to many by his yellow face paint.

In the 1840s, he and his band captured hundreds of horses and mules in the Cajon Pass area of southern California. He is said to have traded horses to mountain men such as James Beckwourth and Thomas "Pegleg" Smith for whiskey and other goods. Though Benjamin Davis Wilson, justice of the peace for Riverside County, was sent to track him down, Walkara was never caught. Walkara later developed a trading relationship with Brigham Young in central Utah and negotiated peace after tensions erupted in 1853. - Source Credit BLM







There's still some active mining taking place on Excelsior Mine Road. There are a few detours that you have to take but they are marked by signs and present no problems. At the summit of pass there were small patches of snow, as well at snow packed up on the peaks.









Small cabin at Crystal Spring


Dropping into California Valley you can see the Nopah Range and into Tecopa. The white patch of ground that the road appears to be leading to is the next stop at the Tule Spring. There's a few structures standing here but couldn't get a single shred of information on what happened here.



Mesquite Valley Rd - Springs Mountains in the distance









Next stop was supposed to be checking out all the Tecopa Mines but research just prior to my trip revealed they have just been purchased and are now all private property. While nothing was fenced off or any signs posted, I respected the fact and moved on.

I'm fortunate in the fact that I have got to explore here a few times, spending a good amount of time in the War Eagle and Noon Day mines. Both being the largest workings I have ever set foot in and that's only covering the main haulage tunnels. By the sounds of it, the new owner seems open to hosting events/access to outsiders and hopefully it'll go the ways of something like Cerro Gordo.

At approximately the same time that Pablo Flores discovered Cerro Gordo, silver -lead ores were discovered at Tecopa, named for a local Paiute who befriended early settlers and located south - southeast of Death Valley at the southern edge of the Nopah Range some 10 miles east of the park boundary. " Known as the Gunsight Mine, it is related to Turner's discovery in name only, because his discovery is presumed to be much farther north northwest in the Argus Range.

Little is known about the early history of this mine except that it operated from 1865 to 1882 and that a ten -stamp mill and three furnaces were constructed in 1880. Prior to that time, ore from Tecopa had been smelted and processed at Resting Springs and Ivanpah. By 1881 some 40 men were involved in the mining operations. A 1,000- foot tunnel was dug to open a vein composed of galena at the surface that changed in depth to a carbonate ranging in value from $ 60 to $ 400 a ton, with an $80 average.

Due in part to the interest generated by the Greenwater mining rush to the northwest of the Gunsight Mine during the early 1900s, the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad pushed its railroad construction northward through the Amargosa Valley in an attempt to obtain the developing copper camp's business. Completed to Tecopa at the time of Greenwater's collapse, the railroad provided the Noonday and Gunsight mines, both owned by the Tecopa Consolidated Mining Company, with an outlet for their silver ores. The company quickly shipped a 30 - car train of ore worth $ 40 per ton . By 1910 an 11 -mile standard Noonday mines to Tecopa station , where high - grade values were shipped over the Tonopah and Tidewater to smelters at Murray, Utah.

Between 1912 and 1928, the Tecopa Consolidated Mining Company produced $ 3,000,000 in silver and lead, becoming California's leading silver - lead producer between 1917 and 1920. By the time declining lead prices and ore values forced the Tecopa to shut down in 1928, 148,000 tons of ore averaging nearly $24 a ton were produced, two-thirds of which was lead while the rest was silver with a trace of gold. By that date the Tecopa mines' production had reached nearly $ 4,000,000, making them the biggest metal producers in the Death Valley and Amargosa country.

After World War II the mines, which had been inactive during the Depression, were purchased by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company. The mines were operated with a crew of some 45 men until March 1953, when operations closed .




Couple pictures from my last time there in 2014.





 

Ace Brown

Adventurer, Overland Certified OC0019
Enjoying and following your report. But especially this last one as I have stopped in Oatman and never tire of the burros in that area. Also planning to run the Peace Trail with a small group of 4x4s in April.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

1MK

ExploreDesert
Headed towards the small little “town” of Tecopa, then turned to the south on China Ranch Rd to check out the date farm and pick up a shake.

In the 1890’s a Chinese man named Ah Foo came to this canyon from the Borax Works in Death Valley. He developed a successful ranch, raising livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables to help feed the local silver miners and their draft animals. The “China Man’s Ranch” became a favorite resting spot, with it’s cool running stream and beautiful trees.

In 1900 Ah Foo disappears somewhat mysteriously though the name has stuck. After many changes of owners and financially unsuccessful ranching attempts over the next 90 years, the current owners began planting young date palms in 1990, and opened China Ranch to the public in 1996. – Source Credit China Ranch













Date Shake + Bananas = Perfection


Such a solid date shake. I didn’t want it to end. Super cool place to check out and wish I would have stopped to check out the small museum they had. From the parking lot there’s some hiking trails that head south along the Amargosa River.

Had to back track a bit towards the Tecopa Mines where I’d pick up at the Noon Day camp, making my way towards the Amargosa River.









Located due east of present day Tecopa on the San Bernardino/Inyo county line lie the remains of a mining community that went by several names – Brownsville, Mill City, Tecopa, Noonday City, Upper and Lower Noonday Camp. Established by the Finley Company in the 1940’s to support the nearby War Eagle, Noonday and Columbia lead mines.

The site was taken over by the Anaconda Copper Company, who constructed the lead ore concentration mill during 1947-1948. The mill’s large water tank marks the location. Near the now rapidly deteriorating mill and debris pool is the site of Lower Noonday also known as “Married Mans Camp”. 18 to 20 foundations can be found buried in the brush, along with a small graveyard, the slag from the 1870’s smelter and a few adobes. Across the Western Talc road and up the arroyo is a cliffside dugout dwelling. A water pipe ran from the well to Upper Noonday. Along Furnace Creek Road is Upper Noonday Camp, or “Single Mans Camp”.

Used by Anaconda’s employees from 1949 until 1957, and then Western Talc’s employees until 1972. It was abandoned, scavenged by the locals, and torn down in 1978 which makes this a relatively young ghost town. Foundations of the supervisors and guest houses, several slabs that supported the kitchen, boarding house, and bunkhouses are evident, along with a lot of debris. Prominent is the cinder block vault that held the script currency the miners could use at the company commissary.

Roads from this site go to the Noonday and War Eagle mines, worth the exploration. A bit farther back on the Western Talc road is the talc mine, a large white open pit. The remains of the mining operation can be found, collapsed timber structures, foundations, slabs, rock walls, and equipment mounting pads.

Lead mining ended in 1957 when the U.S. Govt reached it’s strategic stockpile goal, the Tecopa and Darwin lead mines – which worked three shifts during the war years – closed. Talc went out of favor due to it’s asbestos content. Visible from Highway 127 and the Old Spanish Trail are the landmark Tecopa bins, built in 1944. One was for lead, the other talc. The lead ore was trucked to the UP siding at Dunn and shipped to smelters in Utah. – Source Credit ghosttowns.com










The area beyond this sign was used historically as a settling basin for liquids used in silver and leak milling operations. The soil contains unsafe levels of several heavy metals and other substances that could pose a health hazard. Please stay out of this basin for your own safety and that of others.



Western Talc Mine


Past the Western Talc Mine you reach the trail head for the Amargosa River. For the most part it’s rocky, rough and finding the right line is key. When I went through, I’d highly recommend high clearance and 4wd as there’s some rocky spots that need to be navigated.

The Amargosa River has often been called the crown jewel of the Mojave Desert. Its origins begin in the southern Great Basin desert in Nevada. The river meanders 200 miles, largely underground but surfacing to form life-giving oases near the communities of Shoshone, Tecopa, and through the Amargosa Canyon. It finally winds its way to ancient Lake Manly on the floor of Death Valley at 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere.

Because of geographic isolation caused by climate change, the river’s oases are the final aquatic refuges for many rare and endangered species that have survived here and speciated over the past 10,000 years. Species include the Amargosa vole, Amargosa Toad, the Amargosa pupfish, speckled dace, Amargosa niterwort, and 250 bird species, including the least Bell’s vireo and southwestern willow flycatcher. Overall there are approximately fifty unique species found only along the Amargosa. – Source Credit calwild.org
 

1MK

ExploreDesert












Once you drop into the canyon you get your first glimpse of the Amargosa. There was a considerable amount of water flowing above the surface, always a neat sighting when you’re in the desert. As the trail heads south towards Dumont Dunes, sightings of the river are numerous as well as crossings.









It’s also at this point that you get to see the first signs of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad roadbed.

The Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad was constructed through the Amargosa Desert from 1905 to 1907. The railroad was built mainly to haul borax from Francis Marion Smith’s Pacific Coast Borax Company mines located just east of Death Valley, but it also hauled lead, clay, feldspar, passengers and general goods across the desert. Francis Marion Smith was one of California’s most successful entrepreneurs and mining tycoons. In 1890, he incorporated the Pacific Coast Borax Company and operated the largest borax mine in the world at Borate, located 11 north of Daggett, California, with the Borate and Daggett Railroad running a more than adequate service between the two stops.

Smith was also responsible for building several interurban and rapid transport systems around Oakland, California and San Francisco, California.
Much of the roadbed was built up with tailings from the borax mill in Death Valley, which gave the grade a white appearance as it snaked its way up the Amargosa River. Trestles as long as 500 feed and deep cuts were necessary to enter the canyon. Tent camps were erected in the wide wash to house and feed the railroad construction gang. Heat drove many of the workers away, some would spray others with water as they worked in the stifling head. They would then switch to take a turn at the pick and shovel. Lack of materials, a dwindling workforce, and temperatures reportedly reaching as high as 140 degrees forced the abandonment of further construction during the summer of 1906. Construction of the railroad had been estimated at $3 million. However, the Amargosa River section pushed the project way over budget. Later calculations show that the construction of the railroad up the Amargosa River cost more than $40,000 per mile.

The first train service between Ludlow and Sperry ran in February 1907. The railroad was originally intended to run from Tonopah, Nevada to San Diego, California (the “tidewater”), but never made it to either on its own rails. It was famous for being the last of the three railroads built to cross the Death Valley region, and outlasting them by over 30 years providing dedicated and reliable service to the desert residents. The T&T also formed part of a potential north-south transcontinental railroad route, connected together by four different US railway companies, later used as the basis to potentially form a Mid-Pacific Railroad.

The railroad operated from 1907 until 1940, when it suspended operations due to a lack of profitable traffic. The rails were taken up in 1943 for use in World War II and the company itself was officially abandoned by 1946. – Source Credit Back Country Adventures – Southern California



First signs of the old railbed








Native inhabitants of this region used foot trails to travel between water sources like the Amargosa River. In the late 1700s, Spanish traders traveled these same routes between New Mexico and Los Angeles. These historic routes are collectively called the Old Spanish Trail. Antonio Armijo and Kit Carson likely passed through this very wash in 1830 and 1848, respectively. After this route was established, many explorers, settlers, and soldiers used it on westward journeys. In the early 1900s, the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad was laid along this very same corridor. It was used to haul ore out of these hills. You can still see portions of the railroad grade along Sperry Wash.





Dumont Dunes
 

1MK

ExploreDesert
From here I got back on the 127 and headed north a bit before I exited to the west. This would take me into the very southern portion of Death Valley. The plan from here was to check out the Ibex Spring, then the Moorehouse Mine that’s situated behind it.

Throughout the active operations of the Moorehouse, the Monarch and the Pleasanton from the 1930s to the 1950s, and the intermittent mining of the 1960s, Ibex Springs was exploited as a water source for mining and living needs, and a fairly substantial camp appeared. Since the talc mines have remained in private hands until recent years, the remains of this camp have escaped large-scale destruction, and dominate the present scene.

The talc mining camp at its height consisted of a dozen wooden buildings, including a bathhouse with plumbing, several sheds and storehouses, and several living quarters. Most of the buildings were constructed of boards and plasterboard, and had electric lights and propane appliances. The spring was improved by the talc miners by means of a concrete spring house and collecting tank, from which water was pumped or flowed to the shacks. – Source Credit nps.gov



Ibex Springs









Looking towards the Pleasanton & Monarch Mines


The road leading back towards the Moorehouse Mine was washed out and it would have been a longer hike then I wanted to do at that point in the day. It was getting late and I still needed to log some miles and get to camp. Looking back I’m bummed I didn’t suck it up and do it though… I’ll be back.

From Ibex Spring, drove back to Saratoga Spring Rd and continued south.















The camp spot I had mapped out turned out to be absolutely perfect. The view was vast and ever changing with the clouds rolling through. There was also a well used and established fire ring ready to go. Cooked some food, drank some cold snacks and hit the bed a bit after dark thirty.




Avawatz Mountains


The Rainbow Talc Mine lays within the Ibex Dunes. Interesting read about it and all the legalities surrounding mining within National Parks. LA Times – Dust-Up Over Talc







To be continued!
 

1MK

ExploreDesert
Super report. Photos and text capture the feeling of that area well.
Thanks for reading along.

Awesome trip report, thanks for sharing. Would love to get out there one day as well.
No problem, thanks for reading. Do it, great area to explore. The dramatic mountains make it very scenic.

I really enjoyed the trip report, thanks for documenting it.
Thanks!

Enjoying and following your report. But especially this last one as I have stopped in Oatman and never tire of the burros in that area. Also planning to run the Peace Trail with a small group of 4x4s in April.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Yeah, Oatman is an amazing place with a super charming feel. The burro's are definitely one of the attractions for sure.
 

1MK

ExploreDesert
Early to bed early to rise. The desert never disappoints when it comes to sunrises and sunsets. This morning was epic with the clouds and sun shining through. After the morning rituals, hit the trail and got the day started.







Continued down Saratoga Springs Rd then headed up Sheep Creek Springs Rd. The mighty Amargosa was flowing. Pretty cool seeing flowing above ground water in two different areas of the desert.







Another Talc mine on the southern flank of the Ibex dunes.​


The road up to Sheep Creek Springs was uneventful, a mixture of smooth and rocky sections. There's a bit of history surrounding Sheep Creek Springs, but none of the Sheep Creek Mine that I was interested in. At the spring itself, there was a few small prospects, structures and for years there was a well maintained cabin that was once used as research field station that was eventually torn down by the BLM. Bummer!





The road leading up to this portion of the mine is on it's last leg. Some more rains and erosion and it'll be a hike up ordeal. Ended up walking numerous sections, especially the last stretch and pre planning my tire placement before I got myself into a bad place. The view up top and the massive ore bin with intact tracks was worth it.









Around the side of the mountain is another mine so I made my way there. Road conditions no better and the last portion was washed out. Not very often do you see tracks still in place so this was a rad find for sure.















Drove back down to Saratoga Spring Rd and hit Hwy 127 for a short distance to the southern end of the little Dumont Dunes. Saratoga Springs Rd has a some significance to it as being a old route of one of the Death Valley 49'ers parties.



Some 100 wagons found themselves in Salt Lake City too late to cross the Sierra Nevada. They banded together under the name of Sand Walking Co. and started for the gold fields in California over the Old Spanish Trail. After being in Death Valley with the ill-fated 1849 caravan, Harry Wade found this exit route for his ox-drawn wagon, thereby saving his life and those of his wife and children. At this point the Wade party came upon the known Spanish Trail to Cajon Pass.
 
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