Myers Ranch

Myers Ranch is a privately owned ranch located in Goler Wash in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley National Park, California. The forty acre ranch is privately owned ranch and located about .5 miles from Barker Ranch.

 Myers Ranch, Panamint Mountain
Myers Ranch, Panamint Mountain

A Family Affair

Bill and Barbara Myers settled in Goler Wash in 1932, building themselves a comfortable house complete with such amenities as flush toilets, a swimming pool, an orchard, and of course, a garden. They raised three children there: Charles, Pat and Corky. The Myers family reluctantly moved to Fresno in 1960, so that their children could have a better education.

The ranch is built from wood ties used by the Searles Lake epsom salt monorail, it burned in 1999. The Myers ran a gas and food stop called Wildrose Station, which was demolished by the National Park Service.

Manson Family

Myers Ranch was the original destination for Charles Mason and his “family”. In 1968 he started to look for a desert location to move his “brood”. He choose the desert because “Out there, things aren’t so crazy”. One of his followers is Cathy (Cappy) Gilles is a grand daughter of Bill and Barbara Myers. “Cappy” obtained permission from the family matriarch for her and some girls to come up and stay at the ranch. He later received permission and based his activities at Barker Ranch.

From October 1968 to January 1969, Manson lived / camped in the area. In October 1969, CHP Officer Jim Pursell and a task force raided Goler Wash. Over the course of two days, they arrested seventeen people in the area. Charles Manson was arrested while hiding in a cabinet in the bathroom of Barker Ranch.

Myers Ranch Map

Myers Ranch Summary

NameMyers Ranch
LocationGoler Wash, Panamint Mountains, Death Valley, California
Elevation3700 Feet
Latitude, Longitude35.86162,-117.08227


Barker Ranch

Thomason/Barker Ranch is a five-acre property within Death Valley National Park. This historic site is located off of Goler Wash in the southern Panamint Range in the southwestern portion of the park. Barker Ranch is commonly referenced as being the location that mass murderer Charles Manson was arrested after the Tate – La Bianca killings in 1969.

This image, taken circa 1940, shows the main residence, workshop, retaining walls, and ornamental vegetation. Note the windmill located behind the workshop. View north (DEVA collection) - NPS
This image, taken circa 1940, shows the main residence, workshop, retaining walls, and ornamental vegetation. Note the windmill located behind the workshop. View north (DEVA collection) – NPS

Thomason Era (1937 – 1956)

In 1937, Blouch Thomason, a retired Los Angeles County detective, recorded three quartz lode mining claims named
“Tommy Group,” “Tommy Group No. 2,” and “Tommy Group No. 3” and a mill site located. The original structures consisting of three tent shelters is built in 1939.

In 1940, major improvements are made to the land. Thomason built the main ranch house, windmill, workshop, chicken coop, corral, fences, entry road, fences, water conveyance system, and planted ornamental and fruit-bearing vegetation. He also built a single rock building for “shop and storage” at the ranch. Later, a guestroom and garage are added to the shop. The Thomas ranch is inhabited full time by Blouch and Helen Thomason. They ceased mining operations due to poor yield

In 1950, Blouch passes away while visiting relatives in the Trinity Alps. Following his death, Helen moves away from the ranch, but still maintained the property as a vacation retreat.

Barker Era ( 1956 – 1971 )

James and Arlene Barker, from Oklahoma, purchased the Thomason Ranch, in 1955. In 1956, the Barkers recorded the “Chespa Mill Site” with the Inyo County Recorder’s Office. The Barkers built a 5,000 gallon water reservoir ( swimming pool ) and a 14 foot by 20 foot bunkhouse, sometime during 1957.

In 1968, Arlene Barker gave Charles Manson permission to occupy the Ranch in exchange for a Beach Boys Gold Album. After Manson’s arrest, the Barkers continued to maintain the property. In 1971, the Barkers ceased filing mining reports with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the family’s mining activity. The land (and improvements) then reverted to government control. In 1976, the ranch became part of the California Desert Conservation Area.

In 1994, Barker Ranch is incorporated into Death Valley National Park.

Manson Era ( 1968 – 1969 )

Barker Ranch - The building complex was heavily vegetated with trees, with a sparsely planted understory. Note the Manson bus in the left hand side of the image. View northwest, 1969 (DEVA collection). - NPS
Barker Ranch – The building complex was heavily vegetated with trees, with a sparsely planted understory. Note the Manson bus in the left hand side of the image. View northwest, 1969 (DEVA collection). – NPS

The Thomason / Barker Ranch history was stained forever, in October 1968, when Charles Manson obtained permission from Arlene Barker to occupy the ranch. Paul Watkins, a Manson Family Member, stated the Mason agreed to watch over the place in exchange for maintenance and work on the Ranch. Manson and his band of opted to stay and Barker Ranch over the Myers Ranch which is located about .5 miles away. A total of 19 Manson followers performed a phased relocation to the property over time. Manson family members are known to drive to Los Angeles or Las Vegas to bring in supplies.

On October 10 and 12, 1969, CHP officer Jim Pursell and the INYO Sheriffs Department along with California Highway Patrol and NPS Rangers raided Barker Ranch. Actually, they raided the area around Barker Ranch. A raid is executed in search of vandals of earth moving equipment which repaired damage to the playa in Racetrack Valley. Over the coarse to several days, the task forced hunted down Family members who were scattered about the area. The diminutive Manson is arrested when found hiding under the sink in the bathroom at Barker Ranch.

To this day, Barker Ranch is the subject of investigation into the crimes of Charles Manson.

Barker Ranch Map


Barker Ranch was built by “recreational ranchers” who moved to the desert to enjoy the solitude and simplicity of living far from civilization. Bluch and Helen Thomason moved into the area the the late 1930s to try their hand at gold mining. Around 1940, the constructed a small stone cabin and outbuilding, with electricity. provided by a wind mill and generator, and drinking water from a nearby spring

In 1955, the ranch was sold to Jim and Arlene Barker, who moved to the desert from Oklahoma. To accommodate their family gatherings, the Barkers enlarged the house and constructed more building.

The ranch became infamous when Charles Manson and members of the “Manson Family” were captured at the site. Family members attracted the attention of local law enforcement when they were suspected to burning a piece of road maintenance equipment. Detectives later discovered that the vandalism suspects were responsible for a series of murders in the Los Angeles Area.

Barker Ranch became part of Death Valley National Park in 1994. Tragically, the main house and workshop were destroyed by an accidental fire in May 2009.

National Park Service – Barker Ranch


Racetrack Valley

TeaKettle Junction lets you know you are starting to get close to the Racetrack.
TeaKettle Junction lets you know you are starting to get close to the Racetrack.

Racetrack valley is a rough graded road which departs the Ubehebe Crater site and heads south into the desert. The road is rough, but easily passable in a regular car. However, when entering back country areas such as this it is always a good idea to have the insurance of a reliable vehicle, high clearance, four wheel drive, etc…  Do yourself a huge favor and air down your tires if you are properly equipped to air up when the trip is over.

Looking north from the Lippincott Mine towards the Racetrack off in the distance.
Looking north from the Lippincott Mine towards the Racetrack off in the distance.

The racetrack valley road is a 25 miles one way trip to the playa. The road is grated, but can be heavily wash-boarded depending on the time of year, rain fall, etc…

Along the way, there are many side trips and alternate trails to help expand your visit.

As you leave Ubehebe Crater, you will be driving south and gradually gaining elevation. Take your time and enjoy the drive, if you are lucky you may see a big horn sheep herd. The road gradually gains in elevation and climbs through a Joshua Tree Forest.

Once you reach the pass, the road continues to drop in elevation all the way down to the playa. Continue straight through tea kettle junction, and bear left down the valley past the side road to the Lippincott mine, which is a great side trail.

The Racetrack Playa of Death Valley.
The Racetrack Playa of Death Valley.

As you continue past the road to the Lippincott mine the road drops down to the Racetrack Playa itself. The first stop is ‘The Grandstand’ which is an outcropping of rock located in the north west corner of the racetrack. The second stop is the parking area to hike towards the stones. Don’t try to hike to the stones from the first Grandstand parking lot, or you will be hiking significantly further.

The highlight of the trip, is a short hike to the sailing or racing stones. The start of the hike is the parking area at the southern end of the racetrack playa.

Jeeps and Labradors are not allowed on the playa!

To reach the stones hike east from the parking lot across the playa towards the dark stone hillside. It is short FLAT, meaning really FLAT hike towards the stones. Be sure the check the temperatures before you leave, and bring lots of water. This is true with anything you might want to do in Death Valley. Don’t walk on the playa if it is wet or muddy.

The Racing stones.
The Racing stones.

At the end of the 30 miles road there is a small primitive campground for overnight visits. Be sure to check with the National Park Service for regulations of back country camping within the park.

Every racetrack needs a grandstand.
Every racetrack needs a grandstand.


On September 19th, 1969 a Michigan front end loading is found burning along the road near the playa. Apparently, Manson order the machine burned. Park Rangers were deployed to the Racetrack. The rangers followed a set of tire tracked which belonged to a Toyota Land Cruiser which was stolen by Manson. The follow up investigate lead to the arrest of Charles Manson at Barker Ranch on October 12th, 1969.

Racetrack Valley Trail Map


Ballarat California – Inyo County Ghost Town

Ballarat, California - Marriedtofilm at English Wikipedia - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons by Malafaya using CommonsHelper.
Ballarat, California

Located in Inyo County, Ballarat California is a ghost town which supposedly has a few residents living their dream within the town. Ballarat is located in the Panamint Mountain range just off the Trona Wilderness Road and sough of highway 190.

As early as 1849, the area served as a watering hole known as Post Office Springs. Prospectors and travelers alike would stop for water in the hot and dry Mojave Desert.

The town of Ballarat was founded in 1897 and named for Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. The town is named by an Australian immigrant George Riggins. Ballarat California was originally founded as a supply point for the mines Panamint Mountains and surrounding area. A blacksmith shop and store supported this efforts.

Within a year of the founding, the towns population stabilized at about 500 residents. Three hotels, seven saloons, a school, jail and morgue all served this outpost along with a post office and Wells Fargo station. The town site featured few natural resources and ore to be shipped into the remote location. The town buildings is constructed primarily of Adobe bricks.

The town was relatively lawless and was mostly filled with hard working miners looking for relaxation and an opportunity to blow off steam. The saloons and a population of prostitutes were supported by Ballarat.

The main mine, the Radcliffe, produced 15,000 tons or more of ore from 1898 to 1903. From 1927 to 1942 its tailings are reprocessed with cyanided. This process reported recovery value of one quarter of a million dollars in gold. The town began to fail following the closure of the Radcliff Mine in 1903. Despite supporting other mining towns like Harrisberg, as the gold played out, so did the fortunes of Ballarat, which closed the post office in 1917.

In 1941 the Ballarat Mining and Milling Corporation, a Nevada company, bought property in the Slate and Panamint ranges in San Bernardino and Inyo counties. A Los Angeles company intended to make exhaustive metallurgical tests, paving the way for a projected modern fifty-ton reduction mill south of town to perform custom work. An assay office and metallurgical laboratory were to be part of the complex, and once again Ballarat would see a resurgence of mining activity.

“Shorty” Harris, along with a few other prospectors continued to live in and around the town site for decades after the closure. The last of these die hard prospectors, “Seldom Seen Slim” died in 1968.


In 1968 and 1969, Charles Manson and his “family” moved into Barker Ranch. The town of Ballarat was Mansons last link to civilization and served as a supply source for his desert exploits. Not to caste the town with the murderer, the town also supplied the arresting officers who raided Barker Ranch and subsequently arrested Manson and his family.

“Shorty” Harris founder of Harrisburg, photographed in Ballarat, California
“Shorty” Harris founder of Harrisburg, photographed in Ballarat, California

Time has taken its tole on the builds of the adobe buildings. Wind and water are literally melting the builds back into the desert.

Today, Ballarat is the subject of a few odd television shows and again made headlines with the Ballarat Bandit. In 2003, George Robert Johnston camped around Ballarat and Death Valley. During this time, he committed burglaries before leading investigators on a chase across the desert.

Ballarat Personalities

Charles Ferge "Seldom Seen Slim"

Charles Ferge “Seldom Seen Slim” – A Ballarat Prospector

Charles Ferge "Seldom Seen Slim" Charles Ferge "Seldom Seen Slim" is the last of the known prospectors who lived in the town of Ballarat located…
The booking photo of the dimunutive Charles Milles Maddox. Inyo County October 1969.

Charles Milles Maddox

Charles Milles Maddox AKA Charlie Manson was a serial killer and most of the bad parts of the Old Testament sort of criminal. He briefly…
Frank "Shorty" Harris

Frank “Shorty” Harris

Frank Harris was a prospector, desert rat and perhaps the best known character in western mining history. He looked the part, often travelling the desert…
Pete Aguereberry

Pete Aguereberry – A Panamint Valley Miner

Pete Aguereberry was a prospector and miner who operated around Death Valley National Park, for whom Aguereberry is named. Born in the Basque Region of…


Goler Wash and Mengel Pass

Goler Wash and Mengel Pass over a route into Butte Valley from Panamint Valley. Although not technically in Death Valley, this trail is consider part of the area. Trail conditions vary from easy to difficult depending upon recent rainfall, with one section near Mengel pass being difficult.

The route twists and turns through a narrow valley, until it opens a bit into Goler wash itself. There is a short side trip to Baker Ranch and Meyer Ranch which was the one time, although short lived home of Charles Manson and his family prior to their arrest by Inyo County Sheriffs Department in October of 1969. Manson and others were responsible for the famous Tate – La Bianca murders in Los Angeles, California. Mason and his family drove a school bus up to Barker Ranch. The ranch was used as a mining and recreational property before Manson.

Barker Ranch - The building complex was heavily vegetated with trees, with a sparsely planted understory. Note the Manson bus in the left hand side of the image. View northwest, 1969 (DEVA collection). - NPS
Barker Ranch – The building complex was heavily vegetated with trees, with a sparsely planted understory. Note the Manson bus in the left hand side of the image. View northwest, 1969 (DEVA collection). – NPS

Barker Ranch

Barker Ranch is originally built in the 1930s by Bluth and Helen Thomason who were attempting mining operations at the site. They built a small stone building in the 1940’s and a windmill generated electricity. In 1955 the property was purchased by Jim and Arlene Barker. The Barkers expanded the original stone build for Barker family gatherings. In 1969, over the period of two days Charles Manson and his “family” are pursed and arrested. The arresting officer was CHP Officer Jim Jim Pursell.

In 2009, Barker Ranch is destroyed by a fire which tore though the dry wood of the buildings.

Asa Russell "Panamint Russ" in front of the Geologist cabin - Courtesy of Desert Magazine April 1955
Asa Russell “Panamint Russ” in front of the Geologist cabin – Courtesy of Desert Magazine April 1955

Follow the trail up to Megel pass, which offers the explorer access to Butte Valley, Megel’s Cabin, the Geologists Cabin and Russell’s camp.

Futher Reading

Goler Wash and Mengel Pass