TwHP Lessons

Johnson Lake Mine: Mining for Tungsten in Nevada's Snake Range

[Photo] Cabin at Johnson Lake Mine.

[Photo] Johnson Lake, Great Basin National Park.
(National Park Service, Western Archeological and Conservation Center Photos)


arefully 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.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Great Basin National Park

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Mining Rush in White Pine County
 2. Laws of White Pine Mining District, 1865
 3. The History of Johnson Lake Mine
 4. Modern Archeology at Johnson Lake Mine

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. "Beaver" brand flathead motor
 2. Map of the Johnson Lake Mine complex
 3. Interior of cabin
 4. Elevation drawings of cabin
 5. Detail of the trash and rubble scatter from the
 collapsed cable-way terminal building

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. The Archeological Record
 2. The Mind of the Archeologist/The Mind of
 the Public

 3. The Puzzle
 4. Life During WWI

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Great Basin National Park

The lesson is based on Johnson Lake Mine Historic District, one of the thousands of properties and districts listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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