Abandoned mine buildings (Anaconda Copper Mining Company) in the bright sunlight on the outskirts of Darwin, a ghost town outside Death Valley, CA (darwin08xy)
Darwin Ghost Town, just outside of Death Valley, California. A close-up shot at some of the abandoned mining buildings as viewed from the roadside. This is from a few hundred feet from the roadway, with 'no trespassing signs' all around, and I could hear the voices of a couple of caretakers of the property on the wind.
Unlike downtown Darwin itself (which dates back to the 1870's), less than a mile to the east, these buildings are from the 1940's through 1970's, built by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company, which operated a big-time lead mine located here. This area used to be one of the most active mining areas in all of California, with thousands of residents -- but now all that is left are a few dozen residents in the town center and slowly fading mining buildings on the edge of town.
Darwin Ghost Town, near Death Valley, CA. At its peak in 1877, the remote mining camp of Darwin boasted a population of more than three thousand, but these days it is just a dusty remnant of a town on the edge of Death Valley. In the 1860's and 1870's, several prospectors, including Dr. Darwin French, scattered out all over eastern California in search of the next big gold strike. In 1874, a rich grade of silver ore was found in the nearby Coso Mountains, and Darwin was born.
Within a year, Darwin boasted over a thousand residents and several businesses, including a hotel, drug store, restaurants and saloons, a baseball team and a newspaper. Despite the extreme isolation and harsh environment, the boomtown boomed - by mid-1877, the population peaked at over 3000, but a national depression and a miner's strike quickly destroyed the town. Prospectors and workers moved to other nearby, richer mining towns, and within a year only a few hundred residents remained. By the time the 1880 census rolled around, only 85 people were left to be counted in Darwin.
In 1880, a fire swept through town, destroying most of the businesses. A new, low-grade mine opened nearby in 1908, and Darwin experienced a minor boom, only to be destroyed again in another widespread fire in 1917, then a third time in 1918. Mining continued nearby, and Darwin never completely died, but was just a shell of its former self. In 1926, the Eichbaum Toll Road provided easier access to Death Valley through Darwin and Darwin Falls, and Darwin experienced some tourism business. But it was short-lived, as State Highway 190 bypassed the town to the north in 1937.
After World War II, the Anaconda Copper Mining Company opened a massive complex about a mile to the west of town on the slopes of Mount Ophir - and for several years they operated the state's largest lead mine. But these mines closed down in the seventies, leaving Darwin once again to fade away. Darwin has never completely died off like several of the nearby mining camps did - small-time mining by hardened desert rats continue to this day, but only a small handful of people call Darwin home, and there are no active businesses remaining.
Darwin is found at the end of the Olancha-Darwin Road, which wraps around the southern flank of Mount Ophir, while State Highway 190 takes a more northerly course. Heading east towards before the highway drops down into Death Valley and Panamint Springs, hang right along the crumbling blacktop of the Olancha-Darwin Road for about five miles, until the road dead-ends at the only stop sign in center of town. I only did a quick visit and snapped a handful of photos at the center of town, but there are plenty of opportunities to explore the surrounding landscape for mining ruins and ghost town relics - but be careful because some of the back-roads can get extremely rough, and some of the local residents may not take too kindly to trespassers on private property. Also worth noting: nearby Darwin Falls, a year-round spring-fed waterfall in the heart of Death Valley, a tiny speck of green in the bleak, parched desert (pictures of Darwin Falls are also included in this photoset).
For more info about Darwin:
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Note added 4/08: This is my sixth photo to reach '100 Views' on Flickr. Thanks everyone!