2014 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Part Two: Mines, mills and bighorn sheep!

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Click on any of the photos or links in the article to see more photos of each site...

North Star Mines, NV

This is a cluster of small mines in the Silver Peak Range of western Nevada. There are signs indicating mining activity here began in 1930 and the camp was occupied into the 1990’s. Apparently it still sees occasional activity. The primary occupant of the site was Duke Cleland, and the site is maintained and protected by the Cleland family.

I wish I could have met Duke Cleland. Judging from all the whimsical personal touches he left behind, he must have been a real “character”! There are signs on everything, made of stamped aluminum or welded steel. Some indicate the purpose of the object or when it was made, some just have his name, and some have humorous lines of verse about mining. There are windmills and whirligigs everywhere, made from various bits of recycled junk. Hundreds of glass bottles adorn odd sculptures, a building, and even a hillside. And of course there are the many practical devices assembled from scrap, typical of the ingenuity and determination seen in many small mining camps.

My first visit to this site was in July, 2011. At that time I didn’t see the mine area, which is located around the hill from the main camp. I returned in August 2014 and documented the mines. A small trailer has been added to the main camp sometime after my first visit.

What I had failed to notice in 2011 was the primary mine area, which is on the other side of the hill, and the ore car tracks which connect the mines to the main camp.

At the camp, these tracks start at the tunnel next to the camp and are partially hidden by debris. From there, they pass some old equipment and a rack of pipes. The tracks continue around the hill and up the canyon to the mine site.

Even the tracks bear the quirky touch of Duke Cleland. Many of the ties are steel, with his name welded to them. In addition to the rocks and gravel, there are also thousands of rusty bottle caps used to ballast the tracks! And at various points along the way, there are welded steel markers indicating the amount of progress as the track was built.

Left: Old, weather-beaten poster inside one of the cabins.

Above: Bottle caps used as ballast on the mine tracks.

Right: The tracks approaching the mines.

Below: The tracks cross a small culvert near the mines.

Above: The building outside the mines is adorned with large glass bottles and one of Duke’s homemade windmills.

Right: Welded sign on the end of a tank...

Cleland Brothers Gold Mining

Palmetto Nev.

1946 - 1966

It’s a rough go

For short dough

The rock is hard

And the pay is low

There are three adits at the mine. The most recent is next to the building. I when quite a ways into it, and came to a “drift”, a tunnel that is perpendicular to the main tunnel. This drift appears to connect all three adits. There was some interesting equipment at this junction, as well as boxes of stored junk or trash.

I started to follow the drift, which headed east, but soon came to a spot where the tunnel ceiling was badly fractured and didn’t look very stable, so I turned back.

The second adit was a little farther up the canyon and appeared to be less recently active. It also had tracks in it, which extended to the building next to the first adit.

I followed the second adit until I came to a shaft in the middle of the tunnel. I turned back there because didn’t want to try crossing over the shaft. At another point in the mine, there was a short drift with a shopping cart tucked away at the end.

The third adit is even farther up the canyon, and older than the first two. The entrance is partially blocked by fallen rock and soil, and there are no rails or ties left. It’s a bit unusual though, because the tunnel is very tall and narrow -- maybe 18-20 feet tall. It looks like it started out as a regular adit higher on the hillside, then they dug down through the floor of it for some reason.

These were the main mines at the site. However there are dozens of small adits and prospects all around the area.

After leaving the North Star Mines, I went across the Silver Peak Range and passed through the town of Silver Peak (above). I’ve been there many times so I didn’t spend any time there on this trip.

Next I passed by the site of Blair, a turn-of-the-century mill town (below). I’ve been there before too so I didn’t stop. I had another destination planned...

High in the hills northwest of Blair is a place called the Mary Mine and mill. I’ve seen photos of it online, and it has impressive mill ruins. It’s near an active, open-pit mine on Mineral Ridge. Unfortunately, I wasted time and gas trying to get there, because every road into the area was blocked by a locked gate and “no trespassing” signs. Apparently the old mill ruins are within the boundaries of the Mineral Ridge mine.

After giving up on that site, I needed gas. I had to drive west all the way to Benton, CA to get gas. Once again, the scarcity of gas stations in west-central Nevada would prove to be a significant logistical issue. After filling the tank and replenishing the ice in my coolers, I returned to Nevada and into the Excelsior Mountains north of Marietta.

Black Hawk Mine, NV

There are several old mines in the mountains above the Marietta ghost town. By using Google Map’s satellite view, I could see that this one still had some structures, so I decided to check it out.

So far I have found no history of the Black Hawk Mine. There are three structures at the site -- an outhouse which is partially crushed and buried by grading; a large cabin that is starting to lean precariously; and the blacksmith’s shop next to the mine adit. The remains of a wooden ore bin are just below the blacksmith’s shop.

Below: A couple hundred yards or so up the canyon there are two more cabins which are in poor condition.

Silver Gulch Mine, NV

There are more mines in the next canyon over, to the west, but this was the only site I found that had buildings: a wooden bunkhouse and a small stone cabin.

The mine itself is a short distance down the canyon from the buildings. There are no structures at the mine. Another mine, the Birdsong, is around the hill behind the bunkhouse, and there are no structures at that mine either. I’m not sure which mine these buildings belong to, but since they are closer to the Silver Gulch, that’s what I’m calling it.

I wanted to go all the way up the canyon to the Endowment Mine, but the road wasn’t good and I didn’t have time for a long hike. I’ll save that for another trip.

Belleville, NV

My next stop was the site of Belleville, NV.

Belleville was founded in 1873 for the purpose of milling ore from the mines in nearby Candelaria. Later when pipes brought water to Candelaria, there was no more need to ship ore to Belleville, and the town was deserted by 1892.

The only remains at the site are the crumbling stone walls and foundations of a smelter. A short distance away there are a few scraps of wood and a field of tailings from the original mill.

Left: There is a long, underground chimney going up the hill to the smelter ruins. Here you can see an opening where the top of the chimney has collapsed. The purpose of this chimney is unclear; I don’t know what it was connected to at the lower end.

From Belleville, I went north to the town of Mina, where I topped off the gas and ice. Then I headed east towards the Pilot Mountains. I had been told of some interesting mine and mill ruins near the upper end of Cinnabar Canyon, at a cluster of mines including the Mina Mine.

The drive up Cinnabar Canyon was long, slow and rough. The trail had been washed out by recent flashfloods, and in some spots I had to move rocks and clear a route to get through. So it was great disappointment when I got to the trail which branched off to the mines, and found it barricaded with recent “no trespassing” signs and video surveillance cameras. Apparently someone has reactivated the mine.

So I drove all the way up the canyon until I reached the crest, hoping to see something else of interest but nothing looked promising. Rather than drive back out through Cinnabar Canyon, I cut across to the upper end of Dunlap Canyon and searched that area...

Above: Interesting geological formations near the lower end of Cinnabar Canyon.

Below: Mercury mill ruins in Dunlap Canyon.

Reward Mine, NV

This is a small cinnabar (mercury) mine along the main trail in Dunlap Canyon. On the east side of the trail are ruins of a small mill and several mercury retorts.

There is a large wooden cabin on the west side of the trail.

Farther up the canyon, near the crest of the ridge, I came across a few foundations of some unidentified mining camp.

After exploring this area, I headed down the canyon. Near the lower end I took a side trail and found another interesting site -- and some rare wildlife!

Warner Corral, NV

This site features a spring and stock tank, a large corral, and a very picturesque old cabin. When I first arrived there was a large herd of bighorn sheep near the spring. They ran up over the hill behind the cabin. About half the herd continued out of sight over the crest of the hill, while the rest stood on the hillside and watched me as I examined the cabin.

As the sun was setting, I returned to Mina for another tank of gas, then came back out to the east side of the Pilot Mountains, in search of the Gunmetal Mine. I arrived at the mine’s camp around 10 p.m. and spent the night there.

Go to page 3 to read more about my 2014 Nevada trip:

Nevada/Mojave Trip 2014 Part Three

The Gunmetal Mine, Simon, the Rawhide Ranch, and more!

Skip to:   Part One   Part Two   Part Three   Part Four   Part Five   Part Six

Note to modelers:

Many of the structures I’ve photographed would make great subjects for dioramas, or for your model railroad. It is my hope that these photos can be a useful reference resource. If you need larger, higher resolution images, just let me know. Also, in some cases I have additional detail photos that have not been posted online.

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