Johnson Lake Historic Mining District
Carefully tucked into the scenic western slopes of east central Nevada's Snake Range and almost 11,000 feet above sea level, Johnson Lake Mine today lies in ruins. The remains of a few log cabins, mining equipment, and artifacts (trash) from miners and their families are left to tell the story of this mining district. The mine probably played a role in the wartime efforts of the United States during the early 20th century. The deteriorating structures and the vestiges of an aerial tramway are part of what makes Johnson Lake Mine a valuable cultural resource.
Today a historic landscape in Great Basin National Park, Johnson Lake Mine's story actually begins in the early part of the 1900s, when the mineral tungsten was first discovered in the southern Snake Range. At Johnson Lake Mine tungsten was extracted and milled onsite and then transported a great distance to be refined and then used to make alloy steel. Alloy steel was used to create things like weapons, tanks, and transmitter radios during World War I.
Following the war, mining activity was sporadic until the 1930s when a snowslide rushed over the mine and halted production. After that, the mine was closed and abandoned. Now in disrepair, with much of the mining equipment salvaged for use at other mines or collected by mining buffs, the site still possesses archeological resources. Archeologists are following clues, dusting off the remains of the past, and discovering the day-to-day practices of the mine and the people who inhabited the region.
The Johnson Lake Historic Mining District cannot be reached by car. It is accessible by a strenuous 7.4 mile round trip hike that begins at 8,000 ft and climbs over 2,700 ft in elevation. The trail begins at the end of the Snake Creek Road. Topographic maps of the area are available for purchase at any visitor center bookstore.
Please remember while visiting any archeological site in Great Basin National Park that it is a fragile and irreplaceable resource. Take only pictures, and please report any damage or suspected damage to the nearest park visitor center.
Did You Know?
One of the major ecological threats to the sagebrush-dominated Great Basin ecosystem is the introduction and spread of dozens of species of non-native plants. The most important of these, cheatgrass (or downy brome) covers the largest area: 25 million acres, one-third of the area of the Great Basin.