Rhyolite Nevada

Rhyolite is a ghost town location just outside of the Eastern edge of Death Valley National monument in Nye country, Nevada.  Founded in 1904 by Frank “Shorty” Harris when he discovered quartz with load of “Free Gold”, Rhyolite started as a gold mining camp in the surrounding Bullfrog mining district. As with many discovery’s during this time period, news quickly circulated and the Bullfrog mining district was formed.

Rhyolite, Nevada photo by James L Rathbun
Rhyolite, Nevada photo by James L Rathbun

Assays of $3000 per ton were reported by the mining press of the day, and the fall and winter saw many people converge on the area despite the weather conditions. Tonopah and Goldfield saw hundreds head south in the spring of 1905, and the migration caused “a string of dust a hundred miles long”.

It is an encouraging sign that the Ryolite Jail still stands. Also noteworthy, a brothel crib still stands as well.
It is an encouraging sign that the Ryolite Jail still stands. Also noteworthy, a brothel crib still stands as well.

The townsite of Rhyolite was found in a draw close to the most important mines in February, 1905. To start, the town was a mining camp with tents and canvas walled building. Fuel shortages caused the populous to burn sage brush and greasewood as fuel for their stoves to cook and keep warm. Food and fuel were teamed into the area on daily stages and water was bought over from Beatty for $5 per barrel.

A trains cabose as found in Rhyolite, Nevada
A trains cabose as found in Rhyolite, Nevada

However, as was common with gold rush towns, Rhyolite quickly developed all of the modern amenities of day, including newspapers, schools, hospitals and electrical power. Six thousand people called the town home in 1907. Luxuries unimaginable just two years before include, hotel rooms with private baths, and opera house, dozens of saloons, four banks, a butcher shop were brought to the town by three different trains.

The mines of Rhyolite, Nevada operated from 1905 - 1911
The mines of Rhyolite, Nevada operated from 1905 – 1911

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and a financial panic of 1907 dried up capital investment which doomed the town along with many others in the region. Rhyolite ceased to be and closed in 1911.  

Today, several building shells still exist, along with the infamous Bottle House, and outdoor museum.  The town is accessible via paved roads, which ruins the “ghosttown” effect and detracts a bit from the location.  In spite of this, it is easily accessible and worth a stop when you are in the area.

“The Last Supper” and other art pieces hold court just outside of Rhyolite

Rhyolite is a wonderful place to visit when you are running Titus Canyon and Leadfield trail.

Rhyolite, Nevada 1909
Rhyolite, Nevada 1909

Rhyolite Map

Resources

Titus Canyon

Titus Canyon has it all, rugged mountains, colorful rock formations, a small ghost town, mines, petroglyphs, wildlife, rare plants and spectacular canyon narrows as a grand finale! Titus Canyon is the most popular back-country road in Death Valley National Park and just plain fun to run.  The canyon is easily accessible from Stovepipe wells and Furnace Creek.

Titus Canyon, a narrow canyon drive in Death Valley National Park, CA
Titus Canyon, a narrow canyon drive in Death Valley National Park, CA

Although the Grapevine Mountains were uplifted relatively recently, most of the rocks that make up the range are over half a billion years old. The gray rocks lining the walls of the western end of the Canyon are Cambrian limestone. These ancient Paleozoic rocks formed at a time when the Death Valley area was submerged beneath tropical seas. By the end of the Precambrian, the continental edge of North America had been planed off by erosion to a gently rounded surface of low relief. The rise and fall of the Cambrian seas periodically shifted the shoreline eastward, flooding the continent, then regressed westward, exposing the limestone layers to erosion. The sediments have since been upturned, up folded (forming anticlines), down folded (forming synclines) and folded back onto themselves (forming recumbent folds).

Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California
Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California

Although some of the limestone exposed in the walls of the canyon originated from thick mats of algae (stromatolites) that thrived in the warm, shallow Death Valley seas, most of the gray limestone shows little structure. Thousands of feet (hundreds of meters) of this limey goo were deposited in the Death Valley region. Similar limestone layers may be seen at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
At one of the bends in the canyon, megabreccia can be seen.

Leadfield was an unincorporated community, and historic mining town found in Titus Canyon in Death Valley National Park.

Titus Canyon Trail Map

Lost Burro Mine

Founded in 1907 when Bert Shively picked up a rock to throw at some stray burros and discovered gold, the Lost burro Mine is a great destination in Death Valley. The mine was operated from 1907 to the 1970s, with its greatest production of gold being from 1912 – 1917. The road into the mine is just 1.1 mile from Hunter Mountain road located in Death Valley National Park.  The trail is very easy to pass and suitable for most stock SUVs, although it does get narrow in two places.

The Lost Burrow Mine is located off Hunter Mountain Road in Death Valley National Park, CA
The Lost Burrow Mine is located off Hunter Mountain Road in Death Valley National Park, CA

As you approach the site, there is evidence of human occupation and the large amount of tin cans and artifacts gradually increase the closer you get to the mine site.  There is a long history of haunting and curses place upon people who remove artifacts from the location.  There are at least four structures still standing at the site.  The main cabin, a storage cabin, outhouse and the mine located high above on a cliff.  You can enter the cabin and storage cabin but posted warnings of Hantavirus warn of the potential danger.

The Lost Burrow Mine
The Lost Burrow Mine

The Upper Mill

The upper mill site is accessible using a steep short trail and well worth the effort.  The structure appears to be reinforced with guy wires to help maintain its state.  Much of the pulley system remains intact and the terrain and remote location reminds us of what these men endured to survive in this location.

The cabin found at the Lost Burrow Mine is in good shape.
The cabin found at the Lost Burrow Mine is in good shape.

There is evidence of many people returning removed items in the hopes of removing the curse. There are two buildings at the site with the Mill located just to the North.  Two short hikes to the hills above offer amazing views of the Racetrack Valley and Hunter Mountain.

The Lost Burrow Mine cabin interior
The Lost Burrow Mine cabin interior

Lost Burro Mine Video

Lost Burro Mine Trail Map

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

Ubehebe Mine Trail Map

Death Valley Campgrounds

Death Valley National Park

Emigrant

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Eureka Dunes

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Homestake, Death Valley

Homestake Dry Camp

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Death Valley National Park

Mahogany Flat

Mahogany Flat Campground lies at 8,200 feet in the Panamint Mountain Range. It provides access to hiking and backpacking, as well as mountaineering opportunities. The…

Mesquite Springs Campground

Mesquite Springs Campground located near Scotty's Castle in Death Valley Mesquite Springs is a campground in Death Valley National Park, Located just a few short…
Sand dunes near Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley National Park

Stovepipe Wells

Stovepipe Wells Campgound is located in Stovepipe wells just off the 190 highway in Death Valley National Park. Located about 25 miles away from Furnace…
Death Valley National Park

Sunset Campground

Sunset Campground is another large, flat parking lot campground primary for RV camping. It is with a mile of the Furnace Creek Ranch Resort and…
Death Valley National Park

Texas Springs Campground

Texas Springs Campground is another large, flat parking lot campground primary for RV camping. It is with a mile of the Furnace Creek Ranch Resort…
Death Valley National Park

Thorndike Campground

Thorndike campground is located at 7,400 feet in the Panamint Mountains and is accessible to high clearance vehicles only. Depending on road conditions, 4-wheel drive…
Death Valley National Park

Wildrose

Open All Year Located at 4,100 feet in the Panamint Mountains near Death Valley. Featuring 23 sites, with tables, fireplaces, and pit toilets. Drinking water…

Death Valley Points of Interest

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Crowells Mill under construction in Chloride City, CA about 1915

Chloride City California

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Darwin Falls

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Frank "Shorty" Harris

Frank “Shorty” Harris

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Greenwater Mining District, CA 1906

Greenwater California

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Cashier Mill ruin and Pete Aguereberry, 1916. From Dane Coolidge Collection,

Harrisburg California

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Leadfield Sign, Death Valley, California

Leadfield California

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The Racing stones.

Racetrack Valley

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…
Rhyolite, Nevada photo by Destination4x4.com

Rhyolite Nevada

Rhyolite is a ghost town location just outside of the Eastern edge of Death Valley National monument in Nye country, Nevada.  Founded in 1904 by…
Scotty's Castle located in Grapevine Canyon in Death Valley.

Scottys Castle

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Skidoo, CA 1907

Skidoo California

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The Arargosa Opera House is located in Death Valley Junction, California.

The Amargosa Opera House

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

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…

Leadfield California

Leadfield California is a ghost town located in Inyo County and Death Valley National Park and found on the Titus Canyon Trail. The town boom in 1925 and 1926, however, Leadfield is a town that was started on fraud and deceit.

Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California
Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California

According to Legend and an article in Desert Magazine, and shameless promoter C. C. Julian wandered into Titus Canyon and started blasting tunnels. He then discovered lead ore which he purchased and brought down from Tonopah, Nevada. Julian then produced maps and other promotional materials and found investors from the East coast. The town of Leadfield was born and died on the imagination of this one man.

On first sight of Leadfield, my son yelled "Dad, get the tool box.  We need to fix this town!"
On first sight of Leadfield, my son yelled “Dad, get the tool box. We need to fix this town!”

The truth of the tale is not quite as interesting or spectacular. According the the National Park Service, Leadfield ore was first worked in 1905. During the Bullfrog boom, which took place outside of Beatty, prospectors worked the land looking for the next big hit. In the fall of 1905, nine mine sights were identified and claimed by W. H. Seaman and Curtis Durnford. The ore from these sites was assayed in Rhyolite at $40 per ton. The men bought out a local consortium and the Death Valley Consolidated Mining Company was incorporated which released promotional material and sold shares for 2.5 cents each.

The mine and its ore did produce, however the Death Valley Consolidated Mining Company soon discovered that the expense of hauling the ore to Rhyolite and then the frieght costs to ship the material to smelters further off caused the ore to be not profitable. After six months of operation the Death Valley Colisidated Mining Company disappeared.

Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California
Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California

Despite early failures, in March of 1924 three prospectors wandered into the canyon and staked several claims. Ben Chambers, L. Christensen and Frank Metts worked their claims of lead ore for over one year before selling the claims to John Salsberry. Mr. Salsberry saw enough promise to form the Western Lead Mines Company and started to raise capital via stock sales at $0.10 per share. By the end of 1925, the Western Lead Mines Company was working 50 claims in the valley and soon began in invest in infastructure in the form of a compressor plant. A long steep road was constructed for LeadField to the Beatty Highway.

In early 1926, the Western Lead Mines Company build a boarding house and piped in water from a nearby spring. The town of Leadfield was named officially January 30th, 1926. Stock from the Western Lead Mines Company went on sale in January and within a 24 hour period, 40,000 share of stock were sold at $1.57 per share.

In February 1926 it became known to the public that C. C. Julian purchase shares and was now President of Western Lead Mines Company. Almost immediately the California State Corporation Commission began an investigation into the stock sale because a permit was not granted for the stock sale. The promoter went to work, along with several other mine operations, raise interest and money for the town. City plans were filed with Inyo County, however the spectre of investigation loomed.

Despite the arrival of a post office, investment into the location, and hundreds of feet of tunnel, C. C. Julian was ordered to cease sale of stock by the California State Corporation Commission. Around the same time, the primary tunnel of the Western Lead Mines Company penetrated to the ledge which experts predicted the highest quality ore. This ore was assayed at 2% and far too low for profit considered freight costs.

Leadfield and the surrounding mines where gone months later. Mr. Julian was blamed despite the facts that he did not start the venture, there was ore at the location, and he invested money and time towards the venture. Mr. Julian is responsible for the road through Titus Canyon, which many is a favorite route of visitors every year.

Leadfield Sign, Death Valley, California
Leadfield Sign, Death Valley, California

For a detailed history, the NPS offers a great article.

Leadfield Map

Resources