GSM 2013 March Death Valley - Day 6
Apr 20, 2013Public
Photo: Another pair of signs that struck me as oxymoronic
Photo: The Borax Museum at the Ranch at Furnace Creek provides the history of the property and key figures involved in the history of Death Valley and the resort. Behind the museum building is a assembly of mining and transportation equiment.
Photo: The museum offers a pictorial history and showcases artifacts from the past such as antique stagecoaches, mining tools and a railroad steam locomotive. It is the oldest structure in Death Valley. The yard is filled with mining equipment. All the objects and machines within and around the museum were assembled so that visitors to the Valley might better understand the history of Death Valley and the twenty mule team. Pictured here: equipment for crushing ore.
Photo: An Arrastra is a primitive mill for grinding and pulverizing ore. The simplest form of the arrastra is two or more flat-bottomed drag stones placed in a circular pit paved with flat stones, and connected to a center post by a long arm. With a horse or mule providing power at the other end of the arm, the stones were dragged slowly around in a circle, crushing the ore. The word "arrastra" comes from the Spanish "arrastre", meaning to drag along the ground. Arrastras were suitable for use in small or remote mines, since they could be built from local materials and required little investment capital.
Photo: Background: 60-Ton Oil Burning Baldwin 280 Engine built in 1916
Photo: Old Dinah
Photo: Harmony Borax Works was the central feature in the opening of Death Valley and the subsequent popularity of the Furnace Creek area. The plant and associated townsite played an important role in Death Valley history.
Photo: When in full operation, the Harmony Borax Works employed 40 men who produced three tons of borax daily. During the summer months, when the weather was so hot that processing water would not cool enough to permit the suspended borax to crystallize, Coleman moved his work force to the Amargosa Borax Plant near present day Tecopa, California.
Photo: The Harmony plant went out of operation in 1888, after only five years of production, when Coleman’s financial empire collapsed. Aquired by Francis Marion Smith, the works never resumed the boiling of cottonball borate ore, and in time became part of the borax reserves of the Pacific Coast Borax Company and it successors.
Photo: Getting the finished product to market from the heart of Death Valley was a difficult task, and an efficient method had to be devised. The Harmony operation became famous through the use of large mule teams and double wagons which hauled borax the long overland route to Mojave.The romantic image of the “20-mule team” persists to this day and has become the symbol of the borax industry in this country.
Photo: Twenty-mule teams were teams of 18 mules and 2 horses attached to large wagons that ferried borax out of Death Valley from 1883 to 1889. They traveled from mines across the Mojave Desert to the nearest railroad spur, 165 miles away in Mojave, California. The first wagon was the trailer, the second was "the tender" or the "back action", and the tank wagon brought up the rear.
Photo: The wagons were among the largest ever pulled by draft animals, designed to carry 10 tons of borax ore at a time. With the mules, the caravan stretched over 180 feet. No wagon ever broke down in transit on the desert due to their construction.
Photo: Salt Creek Interpretive Trail: Diane, Dick, and Joanie try to find a bit of shade.
Photo: Much of Salt Creek is usually dry at the surface and covered by a bright layer of salt which was created by many flooding and subsequent evaporation of water that periodically flows at the surface. Over time the small amount of solutes in the water accumulate to form this linear salt pan.
Photo: A part of salt creek runs with brackish water year-round. It is here that the last survivor of Lake Manly resides: the Death Valley pupfish.
Photo: Wetland and riparian areas have a unique scientific value. The Death Valley / Ash Meadows area is a classic example of a plant and animal laboratory in evolution. This fact is due to the relatively recent development of the desert climate and a unique geologic history where large marshes and lakes were relatively plentiful as recently as 15,000 years ago.
Photo: This combination of events has had the unusual result of confining several aquatic species that were probably widespread at the start of the last Ice Age to remnant wetlands that have persisted for thousands of years.