Thomason/Barker Ranch

Thomason/Barker Ranch is a five-acre property within Death Valley National Park. This historic site is located in the southern Panamint Range in the southwestern portion of the park, at an elevation of 3280 feet. Although the property is historically and currently referred to as a “ranch”, it should more accurately be described as a single-family primitive retirement retreat, or "primitive recreational ranch."

"The wash, even by day...was unbelievably rugged. It could take a good half a day to work your way up on foot, and even the toughest jeep would have a hard time against the boulders and narrow turns." Charles "Tex" Watson describing the Goler Wash and Barker Ranch in 1968, in Thomason/Barker Ranch Cultural Landscape Inventory

A single-story rustic cabin is constructed of stone and wood, surrounded by a dry landscape.
Main residence. In 1937, Bluch and Helen Thomason, a retired couple from Los Angeles, moved to Goler Wash after filing a claim with Inyo County for a five acre mill site.

NPS Photo

view of ranch complex
The 1930s witnessed an unprecedented migration of people desiring to escape urban life in order to experience a simpler and less restrictive existence in the remote desert.

NPS

The Thomason/Barker Ranch embodies a distinctive pattern of settlement and social activity that were closely identified with this remote region of the California deserts from the 1930s -1950s. The Thomasons and Barkers were both part of a small number of primitive recreational ranchers who moved to the area—and to similarly remote areas of the desert—in order to enjoy the solitude and simplicity of living far from established civilization. These individuals were distinct from the pioneering homesteaders and miners who preceded them, because they did not depend on the immediate environment and its resources to sustain themselves. They were also distinct from other recreational ranchers and desert retirees, because they chose to live under conditions as primitive or nearly as primitive as those which characterized the life of earlier pioneers.

This way of life places them in a unique category which has few examples except in the desert. The activities and values of these primitivists constitute a distinct and important theme which has helped define the cultural character of the California deserts. With its surviving domestic, ranching, and recreational elements such as the main house, chicken coop, troughs, and swimming pool, the Thomason/Barker Ranch is the best surviving example of this theme within the boundaries of Death Valley National Park.

Quick Facts

Thomason Ranch, 1940s.
View of the Thomason Ranch, circa 1940.

NPS

  • Cultural Landscape Type: Historic Site
  • National Register Significance Level: Local
  • National Register Significance Criteria: A
  • Period of Significance: 1937-1957

Landscape Links

Visit the Landscape

Death Valley National Park is open 24 hours daily. To learn more about current conditions and to plan your visit, you can go to the park's webpage. You can also contact the park by phone at (760) 786-3200.

For a comprehensive guide to visiting Death Valley National Park, consult the Park Newspaper.

Last updated: February 13, 2018