Skidoo California

Skidoo California was famous in the first decade of the 20th century when gold had been found in Inyo County and the town established in 1905. The towns existence was support by the output and economy driven by the gold mines. Within a decade the town was left deserted abandoned. At this time few structures remain and access to the mines are closed to prevent accidents.

Skidoo, CA 1907
Skidoo California, 1907

Right here on the border line between California and Nevada, just a few miles from arid within speaking distance of Nevada’s big, bonanza gold camps of Goldfield, Rhyolite, Tonopah, California promises to give birth to the most wonderful gold mines America has yet produced . . . . Here the golden goddess is again singing her siren song of enchantment and California is again beckoning to the world with a finger of gold: and the world is listening, and looking, and coming–TO SKIDOO!

Rhyolite Herald, 4 January 1907

Skidoo, originally known as Hoveck, is typical of mining towns, which flourished so long as the mines continued to produce. The small town of Hoveck was named for Matt Hoveck, who managed the Skidoo mine. The town was named Skidoo in 1907. The name Skidoo was derived from the slang phrase “23 Skidoo” which was quite popular at this time.

	Cook's horse-drawn wagon at Death Valley's gold mining camp, Skiddo.
Cook’s horse-drawn wagon at Death Valley’s gold mining camp, Skiddo.

The Skidoo Mine operated from 1906 and 1917. During operation the mine produced about 75,000 ounces of gold, which would have been worth about 1.6 million dollars. The mill in Skidoo was the only desert mill which operated complete using water. The water to power the mill was piped in from Telescope Peak was a feat of engineering and work of this still scars the landscape.

The Skidoo Mine is located 65 miles north of Trona, California, at
6500 ft. elevation. The property was established in 1906; the mill
erected in 190?. The mill burned and was reconstructed in 1913.
Owner: Skidoo Mines Co., Skidoo, CA. C. W. Cross, president, and
Crynski , superintendent .

Two systems of quartz veins occur in a pegmatite granite. The main
vein system strikes M-SE and the other E~W. The veins average from
18″ to 2 ‘ in width, with a maximum of 4’.

The ore is free milling and values average about $15.00 per ton. Ore
is hauled to the mill through tunnels. The mill equipment consists
of: ten 850-lb. stamps, five 1150-lb. stamps and amalgamation tables.
Table tailings run to the cyanide plant and precipitated in zinc boxes.
The mill is operated by water conveyed in an 8″ pipeline 21 miles
from Telescope Peak. The pipe was installed at a cost of over $200,000
35 men were employed at the mine mill. Total production to date over

California State Mining Bureau’s “Report of State Mineralogist,” 1915-16, Report XV:
Rare Air Photograph of Skidoo California Taken from the air in 1923
Rare Air Photograph of Skidoo California Taken from the air in 1923

The remains of the town of Skidoo are located within Death Valley National Monument and Inyo County.

The fifteen-stamp mill built by the Skidoo Mines Company is a rare surviving example of an early 20th-century gravity-feed system for separating gold from its ore.

Town Summary

LocationInyo County, California
Latitude, Longitude36.4355016, -117.1475604
Elevation5689 ft / 1734 m
NewspaperSkidoo News

Skidoo Trail Map


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.

Harrisburg California

Harrisburg California is a ghost town is located at 4987 feet 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.

Harrisburg Summary

Latitude, Longitude36.363889, -117.111389
Post Office

Harrisburg Trail Map

Panamint City California

Panamint City California - 1875
Panamint City California – 1875

Panamint City California is a ghost town and silver mine site located in Inyo County. The town site was built in Surprise canyon in the Panamint Mountain Range which is now located within Death Valley National Monument. Currently, the town is only accessible to hikers. Previously, it was possible to drive into the ghost town, however a series of flash floods washed the roads completely out.

Interest is the area was initidated in 1972, when silver was discovered by three bandits who were hiding out in Surprise Canyon. These bandits were William L. Kennedy, Robert L Stewart and Richard C. Jacobs where in Surprise Canyon doing some prospecting and looking for the Lost Gunsite Mine. The men were wanted for robing the Wells Fargo Stages. The men entered into an arrangement, and sold their claim to Nevada Senator John P Jones. The Honorable Mr. Jones arranged for amnesty for the bandits and they agreed repay the stolen $12,000 from their profits.

Senator John Percival Jones
Senator John Percival Jones

Nevada Senator John P Jones and fellow Nevada Senator William M Stewart created the Panamint Mining Company and bought up the larger mines in the canyon. The location started to boom with the involvement of the two senators.

William M. Stewart. Photo by Matthew Brady
William M. Stewart. Photo by Matthew Brady

Panamint City was founded in 1873 – 1974 and soon the town contained all of the services and stores required to support a town of 2000 people. Mines, Saloons, stores, post office, cemetery and a red light district were all built in the upper end of the canyon and arranged along a single road about one mile long. In general, most of these mining booms towns earned a reputation for lawlessness and Panamint City was no different.

Due to the towns reputation, Wells Fargo refused to open an office in Panamint City. To transport the silver from the town, the bullion was caste into 450 round balls, which were then transported in wagon to Los Angeles, CA

Panamint City Stamp Mill
Panamint City Stamp Mill

Flash floods are a constant danger, and on July 24, 1786, Panamint City experience just such a flood. This flood washed out most of the young town. Inyo county maintained a road into Surprise Canyon until 1983 when a flash flood again scoured the canyon. Currently, there is no vehicle access. Much of the Panamint City Stamp Mill is gone, however the tall brick smoke stake still stands as a sentinel in time to mark the location of the town.

Panamint Town Summary

LocationInyo County
Latitude, Longitude36.1182827, -117.0953327
Elevation6,300 Feet
NewspaperPanamint News ( 1874-1875 )

Panamint Map

Darwin Falls

The waterfalls of Darwin are located on the western edge of Death Valley National Park near the settlement of Panamint Springs, California. Although there exists a similarly named Darwin Falls Wilderness adjacent to the waterfall, the waterfalls themselves are located in and administered by Death Valley National Park and the National Park Service.

Darwin Falls is a nice hike near Death Valley National Park, CA
Darwin Falls is a nice hike near Death Valley National Park, CA

There are several falls, but they are mainly divided into the upper and lower with a small grotto in between. At a combined 80 feet (24 m), it is the highest waterfall in the park.

The hike into Darwin falls is rather short and easy terrain to reach the shallow pools which form under the water fall. There are, however, multiple creek The narrow canyon does contain Cottonwood trees and willows and offers some shade from the sun as you approach the waterfalls. The creek and pools in the area, like almost every other water source in the desert form an oasis of life in the desert. Birds and amphibians are common.

My trip on the early spring found no other hikers on the trail and a serene place to visit. It is easy to image that even this rather easy hike could be quite rough when the summer sun scorches the landscape and temperatures climb.

There is no swimming at Darwin Falls and the creek is a source of drinking water.