Keane Wonder Mine

A panoramic image of old wooden structures set across a desert canyon.

NPS/Hoerner

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.
 
A keep off sign sits upon an old wooden structure in the desert.
A view of the upper aerial tramway terminal.

NPS/Hoerner

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:

  • unsafe mine openings along popular trails

  • concerns about the stability of the tramway due to tension from the cables

  • concern about the contents of the mill tailings

Restoration for Reopening

Mine Openings
Over 50 mine openings have been covered. If you happen upon an open mine, stay out for safety reasons.

Soil & Tailings
Multiple rounds of soil sampling were done over a two year period to determine the contents of the tailings and the extent of the tailings spread.

Unstable Structures
Stabilization work was done on several aerial tramway towers, and the upper and lower tram terminals. This work included replacing key structural pieces that
were rotting, cracked , or otherwise failing, while preserving the integrity of the original designs as much as possible. When you visit, please do not climb on the buildings, equipment, or tramway. Though stabilized, they are not safe to climb on.

 
A hiker stands under a wooden tram tower in the desert.
Enjoy a hike up the mountain to get a closer look at the aerial tramway.

NPS/Hoerner

Visiting Today

The Keane Wonder Mill and Tramway Area:
Located near the parking area, this site is very accessible. Take a stroll through the area where the mine camp and the mill were located. A short walk up the trail at the end of the road will give you views of the lower tram terminal and the first few tram towers.
The Mining Road and Aerial Tramway:
Walk along the mining road for views of the aerial tramway. The steep trail will take you up 1,500 feet in 1.4 miles to the upper tramway terminal and just beyond it, the Keane Wonder Mine.
How to get there:
Drive the Beatty Cutoff 5.7 miles north from Highway 190 to the marked
road for Keane Wonder Mine. Drive 2.8 miles to the parking area. The road is typically in pretty rough shape and will require a high clearance vehicle with thick tires.

Last updated: April 16, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 579
Death Valley, CA 92328

Phone:

(760) 786-3200

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