Darwin California

Darwin is a unincorporated community, gold mining town and ghost town located in Inyo County, California about 22 miles from Keeler. The town was named for Darwin French, who lead a party of prospectors into Death Valley in 1860 looking for the mythical gunsight lode. This prospecting eventually lead to the wash, canyon and town named in his honor.

The site which became Darwin was formed in 1874 following a discovery of lead and silver. The overall grwoth of the town was limited by its water supply which is piped from over eight miles away. This discovery coincided with near by Panamint, although the rush to Darwin was more muted. Darwin has a population of about 700 at this time.

The Coso Mining News published weekly from 1875 – 1878 by T.S. Harris. The newspaper closed in September 1878 and the publisher moved up north to Bodie. The moved of the newspaper is symptomatic and followed by many others including miners seeker greener pastures. The town of Darwin had a remaining population of about 250 people. Despite the plunging population the town still supported six saloons, four stores, three restaurants and a drug store. Between the years of 1874 and 1877 newspapers reported at least 80 murders.

Darwin is a rarity and survived its original boom. The town remained viable until World Was I, when larger mining operations could profit of lower yielding ores. A post office opened in 1875 and closed in 1902. Eventually, the post office reopened and remains open today.

The Darwin Store run by Reynolds and Etcharren Partners, 1906.  |  Photo: Courtesy of the Eastern California Museum.
The Darwin Store run by Reynolds and Etcharren Partners, 1906. | Photo: Courtesy of the Eastern California Museum.

Darwin Today

In 2011, a documentary called Darwin is available on Amazon Prime. The documentary is described, “Propelled from society by tragic turns, the isolated community of Darwin, Death Valley (population 35) must now find ways to coexist in a place without a government, a church, jobs, or children.” I did watch the documentary and found it interesting. However, its focus was on the people living there now and not much on the history.

Recently, Brent Underwood, owner of Cerro Gordo featured Darwin on his youtube channel. He was scrounging old boards from buildings in Darwin to help rebuild Cerro Gordo. I am not sure how I feel about damaging one old town to rebuild another…

Darwin Town Summary

NameDarwin, California
LocationInyo County, California
Latitude, Longitude36.268056 -117.591667
Elvation4,790 ft ( 1460 m )
GNIS241269
Population3500
Post OfficeOpen
NewspaperCoso Mining News ( Nov. 6, 1875 – Sept. 4, 1878 )

Darwin Town Map

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