Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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B. Emigrant Wash and Wildrose Canyon (continued)

2. Wild Rose Mining District (continued)

i) Sites (continued)

(2) Wildrose Spring Cave House

(a) History

Wildrose Spring, located on the Wild rose Canyon Road about 1 miles south of its junction with the turnoff to the Wildrose Ranger Station, was long a popular campsite and meeting place for the Death Valley Shoshone, who traveled seasonally in search of pinyon nuts from the floor of Death Valley to the upper Wildrose area via Death Valley Canyon on the east' slope of the Panamint Range. [70] It may be safely assumed that roving travelers and prospectors camped at the spring from the time of earliest mineral explorations in the region. When the Wildrose charcoal kilns were producing for the Modoc Mine, Wildrose Spring would have been a natural rest stop for the burro teams hauling the charcoal west. Pete Aguereberry, Shorty Harris, and others frequently camped there in travels between Harrisburg and Ballarat in the early 1900s. While Skidoo's mining operations flourished between 1906 and 1917, the Wildrose stage stop existed less than one-quarter mile further south, consisting of a station, corral, blacksmith shop, and other outbuildings.

Dates of occupation for the Wildrose Spring cave house could not be definitely ascertained. Allusions to similar structures in the area were found, however: a 1904 water location for "Lower Emigrant Spring" mentioned that the spring was situated "on down canyon about half mile from cave house in Wild Rose Mining District on road to Death Valley"; [71] Burr Belden, in relating the experiences of Shorty Borden in Death Valley, recounts that he "arrived in Death Valley early in the 1920's and put blankets down in an Emigrant Canyon cave which he enlarged, fitting the opening with a door and window." [72] Both these references, however, appear descriptive of a structure or structures further north in upper Emigrant Canyon.

Frederick Clark, who drove a stage between Ballarat and Skidoo in 1910, said that he changed horses at Wildrose Stage Station, "which was located about a quarter of a mile down the canyon from the old Kennedy-Grundy place, now removed from the present highway." [73] The distance given here corresponds perfectly to the location of the cave house and a nearby platform site. The two men mentioned were associated with antimony mines in the Wildrose area during this time period and certainly might have had some sort of shelter or home here. In 1915 Wildrose Spring was described as a "much-used camping place on the road to Death Valley by way of Emigrant Springs. The water is very good and the supply is plentiful." [74]

Edna Perkins, during her journey through Death Valley in the 1920s, met a small group of cowboys driving cattle to a feeding ground in Wildrose Canyon. The impression she gives is that they were heading for a spring near the charcoal kilns, but upon reaching Wildrose she and her companions found the cattle and also a two-room stone shack with an iron roof near "the spring at Wild Rose." [75]

(b) Present Status

The Wildrose Spring cave house is hewn out of the cliff on the east side of the Wildrose Canyon Road on the edge of the wash near the spring. Its timber-framed door is shored up and strengthened by a surrounding masonry wall. The room itself measures about six by fifteen feet and is spanned by timbers. A small screen vent has been placed above the doorway. About 200 feet north of the cave entrance and also along the edge of the wash is a level platform site supported by a stone retaining wall. The possibility exists that this was associated with the cave in some way. [76]

mine entrance
Illustration 127. Closeup of entrance to Wildrose Spring cave house, showing interior wall. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

cave house entrance
Illustration 128. Wildrose Spring cave house entrance. Note possible leveled building site on hillside to left of cave. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

Too little data has been found on the Wildrose Spring cave house to either determine its purpose or imbue it with any historical significance. It is possible that it dates to at least the early 1900s when this route between the Panamint Valley and the Emigrant section was heavily utilized by stage and foot travel. Whether it was originally, designed as a cool and protected temporary home or camping spot, or whether it served as a cold-storage vault or spring house for a residence or store of some kind on the nearby platform site is unknown. Nonetheless, the cave is an interesting resource and a policy of benign neglect is recommended.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003