As if there weren’t enough interesting things about Death Valley National Park, here’s one more for you: the park is honeycombed with tons of abandoned mines, representing a bygone era of mineral exploration and exploitation. (http://www.nps.gov/deva/naturescience/mining-in-death-valley.htm). Many of these mines can be seen from the trail, most notably in the Golden Canyon region, but a majority – if not all of these mines may be unsafe, due to a variety of factors – the mine may not be seismically stable, there may be hazardous gasses (methane), or there may be morlocks or other serious hazards within the mine. Fortunately, should you have the itch to explore a mine in a safe manner; there is an option for you: the Eureka Mine (provided you are headed there during the right season).
The Eureka Mine is part of an area worked by Pete Aguereberry, and was at one time – the site of a town that housed three hundred people that, depending on who you talked to, was called “Harrisburg” or “Harrisberry”. (http://www.nps.gov/deva/historyculture/pete-aguereberry.htm). If the site doesn’t look like it once held three hundred people, that’s because most of them lived in tents. Today, the ruins of Pete’s house and the mine are all that remain. Personally, driving up to Pete’s house and the remaining portions of the mine make me think of one thing: “thiiiiiiiiiiiiis towwnnnnn is commmmmmmmming like a ghooooost town” (In case my singing doesn’t help you, and it may not, listen to the classic song from The Specials here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WhhSBgd3KI).
It’s interesting to walk into Pete’s house, and surrounding outbuildings, and see what the ravages of time in the desert have and have not done (I think it’s mostly the ravages of other park visitors, but that’s just me). There’s an entrance to the mine just up the road that is the main attraction here, but here’s the kicker: the mine is closed during wintertime to protect hibernating Townsend’s long eared bats. So, if you arrive at the mine in the wintertime, you’ll really be singing the Special’s ghost town blues.
However, even if the mine is closed, there’s plenty of outbuildings to explore, as well as the hill above the Eureka Mine. If nothing else, it’s a great short stopover when you are in the Panamint Mountain Range, and a great example of a ghost town that still exists – unlike Skidoo (http://www.nps.gov/deva/historyculture/death-valley-ghost-towns.htm)!
Directions: From Death Valley park proper, take Emigrant Canyon Road. After approximately ten miles, there will be a well-signed turnoff for Aguereberry Point/Eureka Mine. If you are entering the park from Wildrose Canyon, turn left (North) onto Emigrant Canyon Road, and follow the road for approximately seven miles, where the turnoff will also be well signed. From the turnoff, it is two miles on a graded gravel road to the site, and the site will also be readily apparent by the ruined buildings, ruined car, and other mine workings. If you drive six miles down the road to Aguereberry Point, you’ve gone too far!
Tips: As noted above, if you come in winter, you’ll only experience the scenic ghost town and its surrounding structures, as the mine will be closed until spring to let the bats get their beauty rest!