Death Valley became a place of legend for people traveling westward, for its extremes and its potential as a place to strike it rich. Today as a protected landscape the modern history is still visible when you visit the park. There are over 18,000 mining features, including structures such as the aerial tramway towers and terminals at the Keane Wonder Mine. These impressive pieces of our past inspire us to imagine one of many similar stories that took place across not only Death Valley, but much of the west.
Claims were staked in December of 1903, and by 1907 the Keane Wonder Mine was in full operation. The ore buckets you can still observe along the mile-long aerial tramway would have transported 70 tons of gold ore a day during peak production. The extreme environmental conditions that are present in the park today were a factor in the lives of the workers at the mine. Summer temperatures that limit our daytime activities caused equipment to overheat. Reduced spring output made water less abundant and limited production.
By 1912, the value of the Keane Wonder Mine ebbed with a lack of raw material to continue mining profitably, and by 1942 the last attempt to continue operations came to a close. From 2008 to 2017, the area was closed for structural stabilization, mine mitigation and soil sampling. The preserved structures at Keane Wonder inspire us to imagine the miners who walked these same trails in search of a different value in the landscape.
Visiting the park today, we can treasure the unique and varied ecosystems, a rich and diverse human cultural history, and the extremes that continue to push all of us towards a different type of exploration and wonder. Though the structures now sit in silence, we can hike up the steep mile-long trail, climbing 1,500 feet in the Funeral Mountains. In this silence, we can imagine the engineering and ingenuity of those involved with the mine, and reflect on a legacy of Death Valley’s past.
Keane Wonder Mine Restoration
Reasons for the Closure
Prior to the closure, Keane Wonder Mine had been the most popular and most heavily visited mine site in the park. It was closed in 2008 due to:
Restoration for Reopening
Last updated: April 16, 2019