Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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A. Southern Panamints and West Side Road (continued)

15. Hanaupah Canyon Mines

a) History

The early history of the Hanaupah Canyon area is sketchy at best. As early as 1889 a Mr. W. C. Morton discovered silver ore on the northeast slope of Telescope Peak in a well-timbered canyon down which flowed a strong mountain spring. Mr. Morton stated that access to and from Death Valley was possible by wagon. [391] The pure water of the Panamint Range was well known by the 1900s and coveted for milling and domestic uses. "Hunopa" Canyon was one place mentioned as having sufficient quantities of water for power purposes. [392]

In 1905 a strike was reported in "Honupi" Canyon on a forty-foot--wide vein of free-milling ore assaying over $40 a ton. Again the abundance of wood and water in this particular area were seen as distinct advantages to its future prosperity. [393] About 1907 a promising copper discovery was made in the foothills at the west edge of Death Valley east of Telescope Peak. The most important deposits were located in Chuckwalla Canyon, immediately north of Hanaupah Canyon, but the mineralized district was thought to extend over several miles. It was predicted that although the area had seen little prospecting activity so far, the new discovery, whose "copper values and . . . showings generally . . . equals and in many cases surpasses anything in the Greenwater district," would cause an influx of prospectors and location activity. Two specific claim groups are mentioned: the Copper Contacts and the Chuckawalla Coppers, owned by H. M. Thurman, F. C. Kennedy, and associates. [394]

The only other mention of mining possibly in this area was a report that in September 1907 Frank Kennedy was mining silver ore on a property near Chuckwalla Canyon. The ledge was producing 400 to 500 ozs. of silver bromide, and shipping was expected to commence if the values held as development progressed. [395] This probably is a reference to Kennedy's activity in the Wildrose area, however. The next several years are devoid of mention of mining in Hanaupah Canyon. Some work was evidently going on in the early 1920s, as evidenced by an application for a permit to appropriate "one cubic foot [of water] per second from two unnamed springs in Hannapah Canyon, in Inyo County, for mining purposes," filed by a William P. O'Meara of Los Angeles. [396]

Illustration 101. Map of Hanaupah Canyon mining area.

In the spring of 1922 two lode mining claims, located about nine to nine and one-half miles west of the Eagle Borax Works and referred to as the Big Horn and Big Horn Extension, were filed on. [397] That distance would place them in the area of the South Fork of Hanaupah Canyon. In the late 1920s mining activity in the "Chuckwalla. Mountain region of Inyo County, on the west side of Death Valley" is mentioned, but it is thought by the writer that this data refers not to Chuckwalla Canyon but instead to a new mining district further north in the Ubehebe region; it will be discussed later as the "Skookum Mining District."

Sometime during the 1920s an ex-World War I U. S. Cavalry soldier named Alexander "Shorty" Borden, who had seen service on the Mexican border, came to Death Valley to indulge in some prospecting work, during which time he ranged over vast sections of the park, concentrating mainly in the Panamint, Emigrant, and Goldbelt Spring regions. On one of his expeditions he discovered what appeared to be rich silver-lead outcroppings in the South Fork of Hanaupah Canyon. Because assays of the find seemed encouraging, Shorty decided to try and develop the area. In September 1932 he began construction of the present nine-mile-long road leading west from the Death Valley floor to his mine at Hanaupah Spring. His only resources a pick, crowbar, shovel, a small amount of dynamite, and burro power, Shorty finished his access road six months later, supposedly at the age of sixty-five! At the same time he dug the well that bears his name at the junction of the West Side and Hanaupah Canyon roads. Sometime during this process Borden talked a Bill Price into partnership with him on the mine. The enterprise seems to have fizzled, however, when it turned out that shipping the ore to a smelter cost more than its assay value. [398]

The only other mine operated in Hanaupah Canyon of which mention has been found is the Peon Mine, owned by the Peon Mining Company (Dale Penner and associates) and leased to the Hanaupah Mining Corporation. No details of this operation or its dates of existence were found. [399]

mining camp
Illustration 102. Mine camp, South Fork of Hanaupah Canyon near the spring. Note adit on far hillside. View to east. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

b) Present Status

About two miles north of Eagle Borax Spring, at Shortys Well, a rough dirt road veers left up the alluvial fan into Hanaupah Canyon. About 8-1/2 miles from the road junction the gravel road ends at Hanaupah Spring, the site of a pleasant stream and spring and of an abandoned mine camp. The road forks here, the southern trail leading eventually to "a series of cascades and pools; the northern to a twenty-five-foot waterfall." [400] This southern draw might contain other remnants of mining activity, since the 1889 reference to a silver strike in this area mentions "three large natural tanks, which the elements have worn in the rocks, full of pure cold water, and . . . a stream carrying over 150 inches of water gushes down the canyon a few hundred feet from his discovery." [401] The writer followed this southern trail for about 1/4 of a mile along the hillside, but not on over the westernmost ridge. The areas closely examined included the mining camp and adits adjacent to Hanaupah Spring and another mine site on the north side of the canyon about 1/2 mile north of the main spring.

The abandoned claim at the spring consists of a prospector's residence and two adits. The main three-room house contains only a stove, sink, and table, and has been badly vandalized. One surprising feature is a flagstone terrace in front of the house's east entrance. A small porch or added room on the west end has fallen in. Northeast of the main structure is a shower house, containing a toilet and shower stall.. Both of these buildings are plywood. East of the housing area is a road running along the side of the ridge. Metal spikes and wooden boards on the hillside facing the buildings, and tramway section remains in front of the main house, indicate that at one time probably access to the adits was directly up the hill from the residential area. No structures (ore bin, chutes, or ladders) exist now. The first, main adit appears to have been used as both a workshop and sleeping area. A wooden-timbered entrance wall has been erected to protect a metal cot and workbench inside the tunnel from the elements. The tunnel goes back several hundred feet into the mountainside and then branches. The second adit on the road, south of the first, has either caved in or else was discontinued. The mining road leading south and then west up the hillside from the house leads on west over the ridge to a mine site on the north side of the canyon. From a distance only a waste dump and adit could be seen.

mine site
Illustration 103. View to west up Hanaupah Canyon. Note mine road along hill to left. Another adit is located on one of the hillsides to the right. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

c) Evaluation and Recommendations

None of the mine sites visited, and examined by this writer in Hanaupah Canyon possess historical significance. The only individual associated with mining activities here is Shorty Borden, but not enough is known about the extent of his operations, their importance, or their exact location to warrant a National Register nomination. The cabins around Hanaupah Spring are lacking in integrity and are in a decrepit state due to vandalism. According to Belden, Borden had seen some deserted Indian shacks grouped around the spring in the 1920s, which had been occupied by Indian draft dodgers during World War I. [402] No evidence of these remains. As far as could be ascertained from the vantage point of an opposite ridge, the site marked "Mine" on the USGS Telescope Peak quadrangle map contains no structures. It is possible that evidence of other mining activity exists in the area, although none is indicated here or in the Middle or North Fork of Hanaupah Canyon by the USGS. Some Indian rock alignments have been found on the Hanaupah Canyon fan southwest of Tule Spring. [403]

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003