Exploring Nevada’s Northern Ghost Towns And Abandoned Mines.
Editor: Eric Bewley Photo: S. Bewley
PARADISE VALLEY, NV. -ZUKIWORLD’s 2004 Adventure Series’ next stop placed it’s participants in probably the most desolate, unpopulated, and rugged areas in the U. S. if not, North America. We were treated to real old west ruins, abandoned World War 2 era mines and equipment, as well as modern day mining operations.
Our adventure started off with all interested parties meeting in Lakeview, Oregon. Lakeview is a great jump off point for exploring Southern Oregon, Northern Nevada, or Northern California due to it’s location and accommodating people and businesses.
The first thing that became immediately evident was that this was big country and even though places looked pretty close on the map it takes quite awhile to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’. Our first compromise was in where we were to camp for the first night. As the sun was beginning to set we settled on a nice creek side ‘wide spot’ in the trail vs. going to an ‘official’ campground at a nearby lake. In all actuality this was better due to the known fact that most developed campgrounds are not that conducive to getting in ‘touch with’ nature.
Famous Street Corner in Denio, NV.
Early the next morning finds us on the trail headed for our first mine. The Ashdown mine located in Humbolt county approximately 110 miles North West of Winnemucca. As we approached the mine we were greeted by a friendly watchman named John. John, a former desert dirt bike racer during the era that his contemporary Steve Mcqueen raced, proceeded to tell us quite a bit about this mining operation for he had worked there for the last 20+ years under several different mining companies. He was busy preparing it for a new operation where they are going to pump out the main grade (tunnel) that was flooded and begin mining for molybdenum a mineral that is used in lubrication and steel hardening. “Yes, there is gold in this mine,” John stated “but the molybdenum is much more valuable right now and that is what we’re going for.”
After a great and informative tour of the area, we bid our farewells and exchanged email addresses for further communication.
Due to fuel issues, mainly my fuel issues, we had to deviate from the planned route to get fuel. In an it’s a small world twist we ended up getting gas in Fields, Oregon. This is the place where we gas up when we’re out on the Alvord Desert explorations. Next stop, Cordera Mine. This mine was extremely well preserved and was most active during World War Two. There was equipment strung all over the area with several open mine shafts and air shafts. Two lifts were almost complete and probably could be made functional with little effort. We spent quite a bit of time exploring the area but a few in the group felt a little uneasy in the group. It was evident is was not a gold mine per say but we did not know what the mine was for. There were a few clues as to it’s nature such as a large fenced off, and covered burden pile with warning signs conspicuously placed every ten feet, one or two ‘blast shacks’ with hazardous materials warnings on the doors, and sulfur piles strung here and there. Because of these signs, we did not venture into any tunnels or mine shafts. Upon returning, research on the Cordera Mine shown that it is a SuperFund site and was a Mercury mine during the war. This leads up to a good point that it is always a good idea to research the area you are going to explore so that you don’t end up breathing, swallowing, or otherwise soaking up something that could be bad for your health.
The next two stops were a little more traditional. The Birthday mine is an old Gold Mine not much is left but the remnants of the main hopper and hammer mill. This mine was set up very similar to the ones in Death Valley and I suspect that the era for this mine was 1860 to 1880 or so. National Mine is close by and is being reopened this year. One thing that we noticed in general was that many old mines that had been abandoned for upwards of a hundred years were now being reopened due to the rising prices of gold.
Our next treat was a Pike’s Peak like twisty hill climb on the side of the mountain that lead us up and over the ‘windy gap’ apply named this swail has some fiercesome winds even though the weather at the bottom was completely calm.
Buckskin Nation and Halcyon Mines were next. There were several buildings, equipment, and new survey and claim markers all over this area. It appeared that the Buckskin National mine was going to be reopened soon. Unfortunately for us, the new mining company is not preserving the old infrastructure, (mining carts, tracks, cyanide tanks, etc) and will most likely clean all of the area up when they leave due to new EPA mining rules. Leaving no trace of the rich history of this mine and area for future explorers.
We spent the next evening camping right off of the trail on the way to Paradise Valley. Several campers caught gold fever when the dry creek bed that was next to camp revealed a whole lot of ‘shiny stuff’ which actually turned out to be gold. At that point everybody’s empty water jugs were filled with dirt from the creek for future prospecting. We all felt like early explorers finding gold for the first time; even though, this area had obviously been explored and passed by.
Paradise Valley is a “ghost town” in the respect that there are several building that are abandoned and of historical merit. However, a lot of the town is in use by ranchers today. This provides an interesting mix of old and new. Many of the buildings on the ‘main street’ were in pretty good shape and could be in use with little refurbishment.
“One would be inclined to think the town received its name because it was exactly that-a paradise valley. It was anything but that during its early years. The original inhabitants, Paiutes, Shoshones and Bannocks, were not friendly for they saw their land being destroyed by the white man and his plowshares as the fields were being prepared for the planting of wheat. This, along with the clear water streams being polluted by mining operations was cause for attacks on the settlers that lasted for years. Many died. This resulted in two forts being built in the area, Fort McDermitt at the Oregon border and Fort Winfield Scott close to Paradise Valley. Indian attacks ceased in 1869 allowing the farmers of Paradise Valley to raise their crops without fear. The town was always more of a farming community than it was a mining camp. When mining operations ceased, Paradise Valley grew into a peaceful and productive agricultural town.” (Henry Chenowith, Ghosttowns.com)
Our last day of exploring had us check out three different mines that were located quite close together. Columbia, Juanita, and Bartlett Mines as well as Pearl Camp. John, the Ashdown mine watchman, told us of this camp and how it was somewhat famous in the area due to the camp’s owner Pearl and her exploits with a group of ‘hippies’ that moved in with her and lived for many years. There is a mine at the back of the main shack but it was so caved in we could not gain entrance.
Nevada is a large and special place with many history and wonderful places to visit. Our trip only touched the tip of the iceberg and left us all wanting more time and gas to explore further. A trip back to this area is definitely in order and may have to happen soon as many of these mines are being reopened and thus inaccessible. If you would be interested in going on an adventure to this area in 2005 send us an email and we’ll put you down as ready to go!