Death Valley Ghost Towns
The town of Ballaret was erected in 1897, and was named after a gold camp in Australia. By the year 1898, the population of Ballaret was up to 400 residents, and was home to several legendary figures of the Death Valley area. Located just off of the Panamint Valley Road, Ballaret is privately owned and also contains many ancient adobe ruins. The biggest mine in the area was called Radcliff, and it produced almost 15,000 tons of gold ore between the years of 1898 and 1903.
In 1905, the Bullfrog strike forced people into the Chloride City area so that they could try and resurrect old mining claims there. In 1905, Chloride City became officially recognized as a town, and proceeded to last one whole year before it became a ghost town. Located 3.5 miles east of Hell's Gate on a four wheel drive road, there are many reminders of the town's old mining occupation. Dumps and adits are numerous, as well as the remains of at least three stamp mills. Chloride City is also accessible via the dirt road which is seven miles further east at the park boundary, by turning right after the cattle guard.
Also in the year of 1905, Greenwater was a town that was erected amid a copper strike, during which time water had to be imported to the town and was sold for at least $15 per barrel. During its peak, the town's population had boomed to about 2,000 people, and it was widely known for it's energetic magazine entitled The Death Valley Chuckwalla. Unfortunately, the town only lasted about four years before the realization that no profit had been made from the mining became apparent, at which time people decided to leave the town in search of more prosperous areas. Today there are no ruins remaining of Greenwater, which is located off of the Greenwater Valley gravel road, just south of Dante's View.
In 1905, two men struck gold in this area and ended up creating a town here. It was originally supposed to be named Harrisberry because the two men who founded it were named Shorty Harris and Pete Aguereberry. However, later on, Harris ended up taking full credit for the gold strike and proceeded to name the town after himself. Nevertheless, Aguereberry, a hard worker to the core, went on to spend the next 40 years of his life working hard to erect his claims in the Eureka mine. Harrisburg began as a small tent city which eventually expanded to support about 300 residents. As of today, there is no sign of the town that once was, aside from Aguereberry's home and mine, both of which are located about two miles in on the gravel road which leads to Aguereberry Point.
In the Leadfield area, lead and copper had been reported as being present as early as 1905, but the area did not become heavily mined until around 1926. The flamboyant promoter of the area was named Charles Julian. In February of that year, Julian became president of Western Lead Mines, which was the town's leading mine company at the time. Due to Julian's promotional efforts, large numbers of people flocked to the area, and by 1926, there were already 1749 lots laid out.
Unfortunately, by the year 1927, the town was already in trouble and near demise, due largely in part to the financial downfall of Julian and to the playing out of lead in one of the main mines. Today the area is still littered with tunnels, mines, prospect holes, and dumps. Wood and tin remains of buildings, dugouts, and cement foundations of the mills exist today as a reminder of the town that once was. Leadfield is located on the Titus Canyon Road.
Panamint City used to be called the roughest, toughest, most raw little hell-hole that ever passed for a real town. It was founded by outlaws who were hiding in the Panamint Mountains trying to outrun the law, who meanwhile stumbled upon silver in Surprise Canyon and decided to try and find a way out of their life of crime. Panamint City boomed to about 2,000 residents by 1874, but by autumn of 1875, the boom was already over. In 1876, a flash flood proceeded to wipe out almost the entire town. Panamint City's old ruins were added on to Death Valley National Park in 1994, and the smelter chimney is the most prominent artifact left today. Surprisingly, mining in this area continued sporadically up until recently. This historic area is accessible by a five mile hike from Chris Wicht's Camp, located six miles east of Ballaret.
Rhyolite was the biggest mining town in the Death Valley area. During it's height from 1905 to 1911, it's population swelled to almost 10,000 people. At the height of it's existence, Rhyolite was home to 50 saloons, 2 churches, 19 lodging houses, 18 stores, 2 undertakers, 8 doctors, 2 dentists, an opera, and a stock exchange. Today the town site still contains various historical ruins including a train depot, a jail, and a 3 story bank building. It is located 4 miles west of Beatty and 35 miles away from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center on BLM land, and it is accessible by car.
Skidoo is a town that was founded when a couple of prospectors en route to Harrisburg got side tracked and struck gold here. By 1906, the town had reached a population of 700, and had become famous for it's reputation as the only town near Death Valley where a hanging took place. The hanging occurred when a saloon owner named Hootch Simpson allegedly fell upon hard times and attempted to rob a bank. He was unsuccessful in his attempt, and later went back and proceeded to kill the owner of the store in which the bank was located. After this incident, the townspeople of Skidoo hanged Simpson during the night. According to the legend of the town, Simpson was hanged twice- the second time to accommodate the press who missed the first hanging. No one was ever apprehended for the murder of Hootch Simpson. Located off of the Wildrose Road, nothing remains of Skidoo today except an interpretive sign.
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