Silver Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa)

Silver Cholla (Cylindropuntia echinocarpa) is a common species of cactus which is native to the southwestern United States including Nevada, Arizona and California. The Silver cholla is a larger cactus which is known to grow in excess of 6 feet tall.

Silver Cholla waiting for an incoming storm.
Silver Cholla waiting for an incoming storm.

This species can be found rather easily and quite common in the Mojave Desert, Sonoran Desert and the the Colorado Desert. It is typically found in dry desert washes, Joshua Tree wood lands (as photographed above ) or pinyon-juniper woodland environments.

The body of the cactus is segmented by joints which are typically four to eight inches in length. The joints and body of the cactus are densely covered with spines about 1 inch long with are covered in a papery sheath. The spines are typically yellow in color, which contrast nicely against the green skin of the cactus body. This spiny armor not only protects the cactus, but is also forties the nests of the Cactus Wren and other animals who may seek shelter within this plant.

This cholla typically blooms in spring depending upon conditions. The flowers are green in color however some variants may contain yellow, pink or brown. The lumpy, tan-colored fruit hosts the seeds for germination and is known to have a foul scent.

Ballarat California

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, by an Australian immigrant George Riggins. Ballarat Clifornia 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 had to be shipped into the remote location. Adobe bricks were used as the primary building material.

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 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. “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.

“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 headline with the Ballarat Bandit camped around Ballarat and Death Valley.

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Ballarat California

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Ballarat California 36.047800, -117.225000 Ballarat California

Chloride City California

Chloride City California is located within Death Valley National Park and Inyo County, California. The town arose out of silver discoveries in nearby Chloride Cliff in 1873 and is one of the earliest of the Death Valley mines.

The first road through Death Valley was constructed from Chloride City, California to San Bernardino, California which was the nearest town 180 miles away. In the 1870’s ore was shipped out using trains of pack mules which would return carrying food and supplies to the camp. The mines of this small community struggled on for a few years, but by 1880 no mines were producing and everybody had moved on.

Crowells Mill under construction in Chloride City, CA about 1915
Crowells Mill under construction in Chloride City, CA about 1915

The nearby Bullfrog, Nevada, gold discovery excitement of 1904 brought in new capital. The Chloride Cliff Mine was bought by investors in nearby Rhyolite and re-opened in 1908. Sufficient ore was produced in subsequent years to warrant the construction of a cyanide mill in 1916. By 1918 the camp was deserted again.

The ghost town contains numerous adits, dumps and the grave of James McKay, of whom nothing is known. The town also holds the remains of three stamp mills.

Chloride City Trail Map

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Chloride City

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Chloride City 36.706600, -116.882000 Chloride City California

Harrisburg California

Harrisburg California is a ghost town is located at 4987 feed above sea level in Inyo County and currently part of Death Valley National Park. Originally, the town was to be know as Harrisberry combining the names of Frank Harris and Pete Aguereberry after the two men discovered gold at the location in 1905.

"Shorty" Harris founder of Harrisburg Ghost Town, photographed in Ballarat.
“Shorty” Harris founder of Harrisburg, photographed in Ballarat.

It is reported that “Shorty” Harris met Pete Aguereberry in Furnace Creek in July 1905. During the scorching hot summer months, the two men pared up and set off to do some prospecting in the cooler temperatures of the higher elevations of the Panamint Mountains. Upon reaching a plateau, now Harrisberg Flats, the two men began searching a rock outcropping.

A piece of rock which was chipped off the north side of a long low ledge, upon inspection by the seasoned prospector, was found to contain free gold. There is some question as to which of two men, actually found the initial claim. The two man continued on the Wildrose spring for water, and upon their return divided up the out croppings between them and each staked their claim.

The camp was named “Harrisberry”, which was a combination of their two names. Shorty Harris was emphasized to exploit his notarity and promote the camp for investors. The two men split up and headed down to Ballarat. In Ballarat, Shorty spred the news of his new find. Upon returning to their claim, the newest gold rush in Death Valley was on. Aguereberry had to reclaim his sites by persuasion and force.

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

By August 1905, Harrisberry was boasting 20 different outfits within 3 miles of the initial strike. The mining ledge found supporting the Wildrose mining district, Emigrant Springs and the the future town of Skidoo.

As was common with gold strikes, growth in Harrisberry was fast. The population of the camp was 300 strong in September and 200 claims. The cooler temperatures further expected to drain the populations of Ballarat, Darwin and nearby Rhyolite and triple the population of Harrisberry. Both Harris and Arguereberry sought outside investors and soon the Cashier Mining Company was formed with capital investment.

A prolific story teller and colorful character, Shorty Harris started referring to his new town has “Harrisburg” while on a trip to Rhyolite. Each retelling of the story further cemented the towns name as Harrisburg. Eventually the mines production faltered and the venture failed. Aguereberry continued to work the area until his death in 1945.

There are no remains of the Harrisburg California town. The site was essentially a tent city.

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Harrisberg California

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Harrisberg California 36.362400, -117.107000 Harrisburg California

Greenwater California

In 1904, a copper strike near Greenwater Spring and ensuing rush to profit caused the formation of Greenwater in Inyo County, California. Originally known by two other names, Kunze and Ramsey, the merger of these two small towns led to the formation of Greenwater in 1906.

Greenwater Mining District, CA 1906
Greenwater Mining District, CA 1906

The discovery of gold in Rhyolite triggered a flood of prospecting and brought civilization closer to this remote area of Death Valley. This waver of prospecting found many small mining camps spring into the area and Greenwater was just a town.

Greenwater California 1907
Greenwater California 1907

Greenwater was a short lived venture. The tent city grew to a population of of about 1,000 people. Although the town contained about a dozen saloons, water needed to be transport in and cost $15 / barrel. Despite newspaper promotions at the time and financial backing of investors, the town began to falter in 1907 due to lack of profits.

Greenwater California
Greenwater California

Today, very little remains can be found in Greenwater California. Like many mining towns of its day, the population lived in hastily assembled canvas sided tents. It is easy to imaging, the town literally packing up their tents and moving on the the next great boom.

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Greenwater California

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Greenwater California 36.272023, -116.448592 Greenwater California