Death Valley Ghost Towns & Mining Camps in California

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Eagle Borax Works, California – A small-scale borax operation, it was started by a Frenchman named Isadore Daunet, in 1881. Between 1882 and 1883 the company shipped 260,000 pounds of borax. However, sweltering summer heat and intense competition soon caused the company to fail in 1884. The failure of the company as well as personal setbacks resulted in Daunet’s suicide. With its isolated location, distance from main transportation systems, and the daily hardships involved in working under uncomfortable desert conditions, it is amazing the borax works had any success. It is located south of Bennett’s Well about 12 miles southwest of Badwater Road. Only low foundations remain today.

Echo, California – One of several mining camps located in Echo Canyon, prospectors began to climb the Funeral Range looking for promising outcrops after the discoveries at nearby Lee, California. Most of the focus centered in the lower reaches of Echo Canyon in the new camp of Schwab and at the Inyo Gold Mining Company nearby. However, in March 1907, the owners of the Lee Golden Gate Mining Company established another settlement on their claims. Called Echo, the owners began to promote the town and sell lots. But, the town never amounted to much other than a few tents, due to the lack of water, wood, and electricity. Today, only a practiced eye could still see a few leveled tent sites. Echo was located at the head of Echo Canyon overlooking the Amargosa Valley about halfway between Schwab and Lee. An old road to the old townsite travels southwest of Lee for about four miles and requires a 4-wheel drive.

Patsy Clark’s Funeral Creek Copper Mine in its earliest days.

Emigrant Springs, California – An early camp of the Wildrose Mining District, by the summer of 1906, it was projected to be a great mining camp as it had good ore showings in the surrounding properties that were attracting much investment capital. Thirty men were employed in the area, and there was talk of erecting a twenty-stamp mill. The biggest project under contemplation at this time was the construction of a road from Keeler to Emigrant to replace the over-100-mile-long Johannesburg-Emigrant supply route. At this point, both Harrisburg and Skidoo were extremely busy, ensuring some longevity for the Wild Rose District. A six-horse stage was running twice a week between Ballarat and Emigrant Springs, where there was a saloon, grocery store, corral, and restaurant. Soon, Emigrant Springs developed into a supply point for Skidoo and Harrisburg with freight teams arriving daily from Johannesburg. By early 1907, the Skidoo water pipeline was still not finished and water continued to be hauled in wagons from Emigrant Springs by ten-horse teams and was sold for $4 a barrel or three to ten cents a gallon or higher to the townspeople. By that time, the camp included several framed tents with traveler accommodations in the form of a store, a saloon, a lodging house, and a restaurant. In August 1908, 3-4 miles of the Emigrant Wash Road were completely obliterated by a cloudburst, the road being five feet deep in water and carrying 50-100-pound boulders. The townsite was located in Emigrant Wash about seven miles northwest of Harrisburg, California. There are no remains of the camp, but mining remains can be seen in the area.

Furnace, California – Part of the Greenwater District mining boom, one of the most spectacular in the history of Death Valley mining, several towns got their start in the district, including Furnace, Greenwater, Kunze, and Ramsey. Furnace was initially known as Clark’s Camp after Patrick “Patsy” Clark, a well-known copper mining operator from Spokane, Washington. When two miners uncovered rich surface croppings of what was thought to be an immense copper belt, the boom began.

Furnace Creek Inn, California – Beginning as accommodations for employees of the Pacific Borax Company, it later was developed as a tourist destination. Today, it is part of the Furnace Creek Resort. More …

Furnace Creek Ranch in its early days, Death Valley, California

Furnace Creek Ranch in its early days, Death Valley, California

Furnace Creek Ranch, California – Starting out as a supply point for William T. Coleman’s borax mines, the area was developed into an oasis. Later, it became the property of the Pacific Borax Company. Today, it is part of the Furnace Creek Resort. More ….

Gold Hill Mining District, California – Located in the southwest corner of Death Valley National Park in the Panamint Mountain Range, Gold Hill once had several operating mines in the area.

Goldbelt Spring, California – A spring located southeast from Teakettle Junction, it had been long used by Shoshone Indians before prospectors began to comb the area. It was used later by miners searching for talc and chrysotile asbestos as a base camp. Gold was first discovered by famed prospector Shorty Harris a few miles south of the actual spring. Though there was talk of building a townsite, the ore wasn’t sufficient to justify one. Harris also discovered tungsten here in 1915. In the 1940s, talc was discovered and mined in various locations, though this never amounted to much. Over the years several small mines were developed but none were major operations. Today, the area provides glimpses of flattened buildings and the spring is marked by an old dump truck.

Gold Valley, California – The rush to the Willow Creek District resulted in numerous small mines being opened up and introduced a townsite battle to the area. The Goldsworthy brothers, who were responsible for one of the bigger gold strikes, announced the formation of Gold Valley townsite to compete with Willow Creek. These brothers did not think small, and when the plat of their townsite was approved by the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, it showed an immense camp of ninety-six blocks, with over 1,200 lots surveyed and ready for sale. More…

Grant, California – A small community located about 1½ miles south of Olancha, this place once served the many travelers making their way along U.S. High 395 to and from the Eastern Sierras. A market, gas station, and hotel once operated here and pack trips could be taken from trailhead points west of the community into the headwaters of the Kern River. A few old buildings continue to stand at the old rest stop including the market and a gas station.

Greenwater, California – Located 5.5 miles north of Funeral Peak above southeastern Death Valley, the Greenwater District was established around a rich copper strike in 1905. There were actually three town sites in the district in the beginning — FurnaceKunze, and Ramsey, which, combined, are the history of Greenwater itself. The population grew to a about 2,000 people during its peak heydays. In 1907, all three town sites were consolidated at the Ramsey site, which was renamed Greenwater. Despite the fact that water had to be hauled in and sold at the price of $15 a barrel, the district bloomed briefly as a potential copper mining area from 1905-1908. It  was best known for its lively magazine, The Death Valley Chuckwalla. However, when the mines failed to live up to the expectations of their investors it was abandoned and the people left for other areas. In May, 1908, the Greenwater post office closed and the next month, there was only one store and saloon left — the Furnace Mercantile Company run by Ralph Fairbanks. When he left the following year, he hauled away the last of Greenwater’s buildings to the railroad siding at Shoshone. By 1909, all mining in the area collapsed without ever showing a profit. Today, the old town sites of Furnace and Greenwater contain nothing but rubble. However, Kunze, which was the original site of Greenwater before its move three miles west to the Ramsey site, has more extensive ruins, including a stone dugout house. Greenwater is located in the southeast corner of Death Valley National Park, about 14 miles south of the intersection of CA-190 and Furnace Creek Wash Road.

Greenwater Mining District – Greenwater Valley was the site of one of the most spectacular booms in the history of Death Valley mining. Within a year and a half from the beginning of the rush to Greenwater, the deserted desert was home to over 2,000 inhabitants in four towns, 73 incorporated mining companies, and was the focal point of over 140 million dollars worth of capitalization. More ….