Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery

Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery
Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery

Located just outside of Independence, Inyo County, California the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery has played an important role in the preservation of the Golden Trout.  Beyond the hatchery’s primary purpose, the site makes an excellent location to pull off the highway, relax in the shade and enjoy a picnic lunch.  This is how I was introduced to the hatchery 30 years ago, and it is still much anticipated stop each time I travel the 395 highway.

The fish hatchery began life in 1915, when the town of Independence raised money for and subsequently purchased a 40 acre parcel of ideal land in Oak Creek.  Using foresight not seen in our time, Fish and Game Commissioner M. J. Connell directed he direct the design team “to design a building that would match the mountains, would last forever, and would be a showplace for all time.”  Charles Dean of the State Department of Engineering and the design time team decided upon a “Tudor Revival” architectural style.

Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery Display Pond
Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery Display Pond

Utilizing a budget of $60,000 the hatchery project was started in March 1916 and complete one year later.  The building was built using 3200 tones of  local granite quarried nearby, boasts walls up to three feet thick and features a Spanish Tile roof.  When the facility was brought online in 1917, the hatchery could produce two million fry per year.  The fish hatchery operated until 2008, when on July 12th a flood and mudslide tore down the Oak Creek watershed which in 2007 was burnt in a wild fire.  The resulting mudslide buried the fish rearing ponds, destroyed four buildings and killed the entire population of Rainbow Trout.

The pond offers some beautiful flowers in the spring.

Currently a restoration project is in process, however the fate of the hatchery operation remains unknown.

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Scottys Castle

Scotty's Castle located in Grapevine Canyon in Death Valley.
Scottys Castle located in Grapevine Canyon in Death Valley.

Named after Walter Scott AKA “Death Valley Scotty”, Scottys Castle or the Death Valley Ranch is located on some 1500 acres in Grapevine Canyon in Death Valley.

Built by Scott’s benefactor Albert Johnson in 1922, the Death Valley ranch cost between 1.5 – 2.5 million to construct at that time.  The stock market crash of 1929 cost Johnson a considerable amount of money, and the ranch was never finished.

Scotty was a prospector, stunt rider and con man who used to con investors in to backing his “mining” adventures.  It was reported that when the investor’s delegation wanted the view their new mine, Scotty would march them around the hot valley until they forgave or forgot about their investment.

Death Valley Scotty and the Johnsons
Death Valley Scotty and the Johnsons

On March 11, 1906 Scotty stared as himself in a play which opened in Seattle to a full house.   We was arrested after his only performance and the change for his crimes, the publicity exposed him to new investors.  In spite of this Albert Johnson maintain interested in his “mine”. Another investigator was sent, who reported back that the mine did not exist. Johnson refused to believe this, and the following year he visited the mine himself, but left without seeing the mine.  He was later sued by his investors in 1915 and ended up in jail.

A welcoming view when travelling the hot distances of Death Valley.
A welcoming view when travelling the hot distances of Death Valley.

In 1922, Johnson started building Scotty’s castle as a vacation home.  When the size and scope of the property was realized, people assumed Scotty used the proceeds for his gold mine to pay for the Ranch.  Scotty, ever the promoter did nothing to correct the record and soon The Johnson’ vacation home.

The Death Valley Ranch was know as “Scotty’s Castle  in spite of the fact that Scotty rarely stayed over, rather living and sleeping at a 5 room cabin in lower vine canyon a short distance away

A unique perspective of the Death Valley Ranch.
A unique perspective of the Death Valley Ranch.

Due to its remote location, the Death Valley Ranch needed to maintain its own power station and water supply and evaporation cooling system. Despite the conditions, Scotty’s Castle boasts a 1,121 pipe theater organ, fountains, clock tower and a massive unfinished swimming pool.

Water "Death Valley Scotty" Scott's grave overlooks the Death Valley Ranch
Water “Death Valley Scotty” Scott’s grave overlooks the Death Valley Ranch

There is no longer gas available at Scotty’s castle or grapevine canyon.

Scottys Castle was flooded in 2015 and not currently open to the public. The opening date has been pushed many times and currently scheduled for 2022. The flood was the result of over 3 inches in rain in just over 5 hours. The flash flood left debris in the visitors center over one foot deep and washed out the road.

Further Reading

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Ubehebe Lead Mine

The Ubehebe Lead Mine is located just west of the Racetrack Playa Road off of the Bonnie Claire Road.  Discovered in 1906, the mine is located on the west side of the Racetrack valley just south of Teakettle junction.    The site was started as a copper mine and during to coarse of its operation would produce lead, copper, gold and zinc.

Ubehebe Lead Mine Trail sign located just off of the Racetrack, Death Valley, CA
Ubehebe Trail sign located just off of the Racetrack, Death Valley, CA

In February, 1908 a large eight foot thick vein of lead ore which was perceived to run through the mountain changed the mines name and destiny.  In order to prepare, the site hauled in 26,000 lbs of provisions to feed and supply a crew of eight men for the duration of the summer.   When processed the order produced significantly lower than expected.  The lack of water, remote location and less than desirable returns caused production of the Ubehebe Lead Mine to be sporadic.

Ubehebe Mine with tramway visible at the top of the hill, Death Valley, CA
Ubehebe Mine with tramway visible at the top of the hill, Death Valley, CA

The site currently has a main adit which is blocked off about 10 feet inside of the entrance.  Several other adits are located up the hillside and all are blocked to entry at this time.  There are a few collapsed buildings of light construction that have given their all against the harsh environment and several foundations are also evident.  An aerial tramway was built to the northern works and a single tramway cable is still suspended and connected to tramway on the ridge above.

Exploring the Ubehebe Mine tails pile, Death Valley, CA
Exploring the Ubehebe Mine tails pile, Death Valley, CA

The entire area has undergone extensive washing: bits of rail and pipe sections lie about near the mine, as do crockery fragments, pieces of glass, and tin cans that have worked down from the camp site. The several dumps nearby contain nothing of historical significance.

Looking back at the jeep, Death Valley National Park, CA
Looking back at the jeep, Death Valley National Park, CA
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Lippincott Mine Road

The Lippincott Mine Road is a one way road from Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa to Saline Valley. It is a steep trail which is not for the novice or the feint of heart. Greeting you at the trail head is a sign which reads:

“Lippincott Pass, 4×4 High Clearance, No Tow Service, Caution”

Experienced drivers using 4×4 high clearance vehicles only.  What traveler in their right mind could resist a challenge like this? Provided you are equipped to do so.

Lippincott Mine Road from Racetrack Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA
Lippincott Mine Road from Racetrack Valley, Death Valley National Park, CA
Looking back at some amazing landscapes near the top of the Lippincott Mine.
Looking back at some amazing landscapes near the top of the Lippincott Mine.

The top of Lippincott Mine road starts at the end of the Racetrack Valley road and descends into the west towards Saline Valley.  The road is steep and narrow but is not too technical.  At the top of the route is the Lippencott Mine site which gives the road it’s name.  The Lippincott Mine offers great views of both Saline and RaceTrack Valley.

Looking down at the Lippincott Mine Road from the Lippincott Mine, with Saline Valley in the distance.
Looking down at the Lippincott Mine Road from the Lippincott Mine, with Saline Valley in the distance.

There are several structures, and mines to explore and a lot of time could be spent exploring the site on foot.  The Homestake dry camp offers a great spot of overnight in the area for those of us who are so inclined.

The remains of the Lippincott Mine at the southern end of Race Track Valley.
The remains of the Lippincott Mine at the southern end of Race Track Valley.
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Coyote (Canis latrans)

Coyote (Canis latrans) enduring a snow storm in Joshua Tree National Park
Coyote (Canis latrans)

A symbol of the American Southwest, the howl of the humble Coyote (Canis latrans) is synonymous with wild places. A member of the canine family and cousin to your pet, the coyote is a carnivore, predator, scavenger and survivor and even have a gord named for them, the coyote melon. The mammal is also known as the “little wolf”, “brush wolf”, “prairie wolf” and “American jackal”.

Although not necessarily nocturnal, they may hunt at night in the presence of humans. Regardless, they are more active in the evenings. They prowl and hunt in small groups. Their cries and howls at night are the reason they are known as the most vocal wild animal North American Animals. Personally, I welcome their vocalizations echoing access the desert night.

Coyote hunt reptiles, birds, small mammals, fish and even the larger bison, deer, elk and sheep. They roam up to ten miles per day on a constant hunt for food. In urban areas, this opportunist animal will eat dog and cat food, and known to attack domestic dogs and cats. In Death Valley National Park this resourceful jackal will eat large quantities of beetles and hawkmoth caterpillars for food. They are extremely resourceful and opportunistic survivors.

The coyote is classified in 19 different subspecies throughout the North America. A typical male will weigh between 18 and 44 pounds, while the female tips the scale a at a more modest 15 to 40 pounds. The fair color ranges from a light grey, tan to dark browns or even black depending upon habitat.

Coyote (Canis latrans) enduring a snow storm in Joshua Tree National Park
A extremely optimistic Coyote enduring a snow storm in Joshua Tree National Park waiting for a handout which did not come.

In Native American cultures, folklore depicts the coyote as a trickster. For this Irish American over a certain age, the coyote is call as wiley, known as a super genius and has, upon occasion, ordered an abundance of explosive from the Amce Corporation .

Resources

Classification

Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Carnivora
Family:Canidae
Genus:Canis
Species:C. latrans