Death Valley
Historic Resource Study
A History of Mining
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D. The Valley Floor (continued)

6. Corduroy Road

a) History

The origin of the corduroy road leading west from the Indian Village just south of Furnace Creek Ranch and across the salt playa where it connects with an old trail skirting the eastern base of the Panamint Range is unknown. Harry Gower referred to this route as the "old Salt Creek Indian Crossing," and mentions in 1914 viewing mesquite logs imbedded in the salt and mud that formed a usable road raised above the level of the salt pan. [62] It is probable that the route was originally an old Indian trail, providing access between Furnace Creek and Blackwater Wash, up which trails led directly to the Emigrant Spring area near the site of present-day Harrisburg. The Blackwater route was later utilized by miners rushing toward the new mineral discoveries in the vicinity of Skidoo. When scattered borax operations took place at Shoveltown near Salt Springs and at other locations on the floor of the valley, this route might have been one way of reaching them and extracting from the area any material recovered. Indians frequented the playa area, obtaining salt here and some of them even wintering in the mesquite-covered sand dunes adjoining the salt pan on the west. [63] It is not known how late the road was used.

b) Present Status

During the writer's visits to Death Valley, heavy rainfall had turned the corduroy road area into an impassable mudfield, successfully discouraging close investigation of the route. The LCS crew in 1975, however, photographed it, showing many of the logs still in place. The road is not used today.

c) Evaluation and Recommendations

Although this particular part of the Blackwater trail is not specifically mentioned in any of the early data studied, it was examined by the LCS crew who felt that this old crossing is historically and possibly archeologically significant as one of the oldest communication and transportation routes across the valley, providing access to the Panamint Range for both Indians and miners alike. It is an especially valuable resource because the route is clearly marked and -there are some bridge ruins remaining. It is recommended for nomination to the National Register as being of local significance.

view along Corduroy Road
Illustration 275. View east along Corduroy Road. Note Furnace Creek Inn in distance. Photo courtesy of William Tweed, 1975.
Illustration 276. Bridge on route of Corduroy Road. Photo courtesy of William Tweed, 1975.

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Last Updated: 22-Dec-2003