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)

(24) Telephone Spring

(a) History

Telephone Spring is located toward the north end of Telephone Canyon in the northern Panamint Range, about four miles northwest of Skidoo and slightly over three miles directly north of Emigrant Spring, on the southwest slope of Tucki Mountain. The canyon, actually more of a wash, derives its name from the Rhyolite-Skidoo telephone line, constructed in March 1907, that passed through here on its way to the telephone station that had been established at Stovepipe Springs (old Stovepipe Wells). By 1909 this wash had been graded to accommodate a light freight road between Rhyolite and Skidoo that shortened the trip to about forty miles, twelve to fifteen miles less than by the old route via Emigrant Spring. [327]

Although entrance to Telephone Canyon is now possible via a washed-out and barely discernible road entering the Emigrant Canyon Road about 1-1/2 miles south of its junction with California State Highway 190, during the Skidoo era the trait undoubtedly led from the canyon directly onto the flats toward the sand dunes and Stovepipe Wells. In 1910 Telephone Canyon was suggested as one segment of "Alkali Bill" Brong's proposed auto service between Rhyolite and Skidoo. Under this plan, two men would be kept busy at Stovepipe cutting mesquite with which to surface the road so that autos could, pass. The Skidoo Mines Company would then, under contract, construct the auto road through the canyon, a modicum of safety being afforded by its accessibility to the phone line in case of trouble. Two men and two cars were expected to make the trip, in eight hours, each carrying three tons of perishable supplies daily in both directions. The service could also include mail and passengers. Whether this service was ever, actually implemented is unknown. [328] Trails leading off the Telephone Canyon road ended at various small mining operations along the slopes of Tucki Mountain, [329] while a well-defined branch road leads off in a southeasterly direction toward the Tucki Mine about nine miles further up the road.

Illustration 209. View east toward wash of mill ruin at Telephone Spring. Note arrastra and diversion channel to right leading muddy mixture of crushed ore and water to pond disposal area behind embankment in lower left corner. Note also masonry water tank support in center and other stone foundations to left of picture. Photo by Linda W. Greene, 1978.

Illustration 210. Arrastra gold mill at Telephone Spring, 1934, "still in use." Photo by A.E. Borell, courtesy of DEVA NM.

(b) Present Status

The Telephone Spring area at one time supported a small mining operation, possibly during the Skidoo era, but more probably during the revival of mining activity in this region during the 1930s. Strangely, no mention of who built the large arrastra whose ruins are found here, or when, has been found by this writer. According to the caption on a monument photo of the structure, it was definitely operating in 1934.

The mill lies on the edge of the wash, and therefore is quite susceptible to erosion. Nevertheless, the site, embracing a large arrastra basin with a flume or drainage channel leading off toward three tailing dams, a shallow cement trough for holding a water tank, some leveled terraces overlooking the arrastra, and several machinery pilings and stone foundation walls, appears in remarkably good condition. Farther upstream (south), on the west side of the wash, are some stone tent foundation levels and a crude shelter set against the wall and fashioned from F.W. Woolworth packing crates. Purple glass and fragments of insulator from the telephone system have been found on various parts of the site, indicative of activity prior to 1920.

(c) Evaluation and Recommendations

It is conceivable that the packing crate shelter and stone foundations in Telephone Canyon are indicative of limited settlement in the area, dating from the pre-1917 period of activity at Skidoo when the route through here served as an important link in the Skidoo-Rhyolite transportation and communication system. It is the writer's opinion, however, that the mill was probably a later addition of the 1930s, a conjecture based on several factors: the surprisingly undamaged condition of the dams and stone walls; the fact that the operation was machine driven and fairly extensive in size; plus the later date on the monument photo of the arrastra. The lack of information available on the mill is its most puzzling aspect.

The Telephone Canyon ruins contain another good example of a machine-driven arrastra used within the Panamint Range in the 1930s. It is difficult to determine whether the site was as complex an operation as the one at Warm Spring since all its machinery, has long since been removed. The mill's location within Telephone Canyon, which has interpretive significance itself as the route of a freight road and phone line between Skidoo and Rhyolite--the latter project being one of the more interesting engineering feats of Skidoo's heyday and one on which little has been written--justifies the recommendation that this stretch of the canyon containing the mill and tent foundation levels be left to benign neglect.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003