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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Goldbelt Springs

A discovery by the famous prospector “Shorty Harris“, led to the founding on the Goldbelt Springs mining district off Hunter Mountain Road in Death Valley National Park, California. The earliest known occupants of this area were a seven member family Saline Valley Panamint Indians who, despite the higher elevation, would winter in the area.

A sorting screen at the Calmet Mine in the Goldbelt Springs Mining District, Death Valley National Park, California
A sorting screen at the Calmet Mine in the Goldbelt Springs Mining District, Death Valley National Park, California

Gold was discovered in the area, just a few miles away by Frank “Shorty” Harris in the later half of 1904. Following “Shorty”, miners migrated into the area utilizing a route from Ubehebe via Willow Springs. Soon, small claims were staked out on the northwest slope of Hunter Mountain. Harris, L.P. McGarry, E.G. Padgett (Pegot or Paggett), Joseph Simpson, and W.D. Frey were among the first credited with strikes. In January, 1902 the Gold Belt Mining District was established and recorded.

A sign clearly marks the Calmet Mine
A sign clearly marks the Calmet Mine

Initially the site looked good for mining development. There was a water source and fuel to facilitate mining operations. High grade gold ore with small silver veins was discovered on four foot ledges prompted optimism in the sight. The ore was assayed at $8 – $176 or $38 to $240 in gold depending upon the source. On this news, plans for a town were starting to be developed.

A completely flattened structure at Goldbelt Springs, Death Valley, California
A completely flattened structure at Goldbelt Springs, Death Valley, California

In February of 1905, enough capital was available from investors from San Francisco to allowed expanded exploration of the area. Not much is available of this exploration, however by the fall of 1905 and exploration was abandoned. It could be inferred that the ore quantity and quality was not sufficient to justify the expense to those investors.

Regardless, smaller operations continued in the area of Goldbelt Sprints, from 1905 to 1910 including operations by Annetta Rittenhouse of Los Angeles, H.W. Eichbaum of Venice, L.P. McGarry of Pioneer, and W.S. Ball of Rhyolite.

More Ruins near the old mining camp
More Ruins near the old mining camp

In 1916, “Shorty” Harris again road into the area near Hunter Mountain. World War I had increased the price of tungsten. Harris pulling from his previous exploration probably knew of the mineral, and soon found a tungsten mine. By March, he had produce several hundred pounds of tungsten ore worth some $1500.00.

An abandoned truck silently waits for its owner to return in Goldbelt Springs.
An abandoned truck silently waits for its owner to return in Goldbelt Springs.

Throughout the 1940s and 1960’s various small operations were mining the area. This would include mines called Calmet and also nearby Quackenbush. The site today has smaller ruins. A truck and mine are still visible and an ore sorting platform is standing at the Calmet location. The wooden structures are completely flattened by time and the elements.

An old mine tunnel
An old mine tunnel

Mine Summary

NameGoldbelt Springs
LocationHunter Mountain, Death Valley National Park, California
Latitude, Longitude
ProductionGold, Silver, Copper, Tungsten, Talc
Year Productive1904 –
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Alabama Hills

Located near Lone Pine, CA the Alabama Hills are an awesome spot to visit and explore in Inyo County.  Large boulder formations erupt from the ground and create a maze of canyons, trails and roads. This feature in itself, is more than enough fun to justify a trip to this area, however add to the equation that the Alabama Hills has appeared in more Hollywood movies than one person can name and you have the perfect combination of terrain and nostalgic history.

Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, California
Alabama Hills outside of Lone Pine, California

The location are featured in many “Western” movies and is the birth place of the Lone Ranger, Star Trek and Iron Man. A final punctuation mark is the area is located in the foothills of Mount Whitney (14,505 ft), the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states.

Access to the locations is extremely easy, just follow Whitney Portal Road west out of Lone Pine, and take a right turn on  Movie Road. From here the possibilities are almost endless. The BLM publishes the “Movie Road Touring Brochure” which gives directions on how to find the film locations of some of your favorite movies.

Looking down on the Alabama Hills and Owens Valley from Whitney Portal
Looking down on the Alabama Hills and Owens Valley from Whitney Portal

There is an over-abundance of camping locations within this location.  I would love to camp in this site, with the only draw back being the number of tourists driving the trails. This is actually a big draw back for me.  Most of the trails are easily accessible by almost any vehicle on the market. My last trip, we saw a brand new Porsche driving movie road.  

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, California

The routes are short and easy traisl, however, there are a labyrinth of roads and canyons to explore and get lost. The fun can be search for and finding the filming locations of some of your favorite movies or televisions shows..

The area is managed by BLM. Camping is allowed by the BLM, however camping should follow all rules, regulations and the leave no trace principles in order to protect this resource and camping destination. Personally, my preference is to camp at the nearby Tuttle Creek, Lone Pine, or Mt. Whitney campgrounds.

Take your time and enjoy.

Alabama Hills Trail Map

Resources

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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Lone Pine Campground

Lone Pine Campground is a wonderful campground in the eastern foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range in Inyo County, California. The campground is located between Line Pine Creek and Inyo Creek just a few miles west of Lone Pine. The campground is located the site of the old Rock Creek sawmill. This sawmill once operated at this location from the 1930s thru the 1950s.

Mt Whitney looms large over the High Sierra, outside of Lone Pine, California
Mt Whitney looms large over the High Sierra, outside of Lone Pine, California

Lone Pine Campground is a great place to stay. It is very scenic located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The sites are reasonably large and suitable for trailers. The Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail begins at west end of the campground. There is fishing in the nearby Lone Pine Creek and lots of outdoor activities.

The creek is of special significance to me personally. My grandfather taught me how to fish is the cool waters of the stream just about 50 feet away from our campsite. I was about five years old and remember placing my line in the waters in a nearby pool. My memory is that within 15 minutes I caught my limit of 10 fish, at that time. My dad to this day maintains that they recently stocked the stream, however I continue to maintain that this was early skill on may part.

This campground is a known bear active area, so safe food handling and trash disposal should be observed to protect yourself and the bears.

Campground Summary

NameLone Pine Campground
LocationLone Pine, Inyo County, California
Latitude, Longitude36.5974524,-118.1870643
Elevation5885 feet
Sites42
AmenitiesVault Toilet, Bear Boxes, Tables

Directions

Located on Whitney Portal Road, six miles west of the town of Lone Pine, California.

Lone Pine Campground Map

References