Keane Wonder Mill, Death Valley National Park
If you are looking for a real Ghost Town it doesnt get Ghostlier than this. Compared to Rhyolite which is more accessible by road and is frequented by visitors Keane Wonder Mine is deeply entrenched in the valley and is not in the "Must-see" list of many visitors. The primary reason being the road leading to it. Although the dirt road does not look very menacing, once you get on it (like we did with our Dodge Stratus) you wish you had a vehicle with better ground clearance. The reason is that the road is neither too bad ( to scare away eager visitors like us) nor is it very good for a normal car. The drive is around a couple of miles and once you reach the mine (or what is left of it) you can have a good time going around the Mill, the towers of the cable car system and the small mine shaft (tunnel).
When you look into this tunnel its dark and scary. Our tip, Walk into it, you will be glad you did it. No more tips!!! The view of the valley from the mine is very good.
From Keane Wonder Mill there is a trail to hike up to Keane Wonder Mine. The trail is only about a mile long but very steep with elevation gain of 1,500 feet. Due to the gold content in the area, the trail is full of shining rockbeds and pebbles. Better than the glittering stuff is the view towards Death Valley. In the photo and you can see the valley and the tallest peak Telescope. In the right of the photo I can see my car was the only car in the parking lot, and I was the only hiker that morning.
The view from Keane Wondre Mine Trail was just spectacular. From the Mill to the Mine I must have taken more than a dozen photo breaks (ok, they were actually water breaks). Click on the photo to see the panoramic view that I hand-stitched. To the left of the photo is Death Valley below sea level. In the middle is the Tucki Mountain. To the right is Stovepipe Wells area and even a little bit of sand dunes.
Located at the Funeral Mountains, Keane Wonder Mill was built by Jack Keane and his Keane Wonder Mining Company in 1907. The ore was excavated at Keane Wonder Mine 1,500 feet above (vertical distance) and transported down via an aerial tramway. The Mill then separated the gold and silver content from the shell before it was shipped out. The Mine ceased operation in 1916 when "...the developed ore bodies were worked out...", reportedly.
Near Keane Wonder Mine at the top of the trail there is a small shaft with a wooden door. The shaft has no warning sign. It's quite small so I assume it's an air shaft or for emergency use only. I entered the shaft for about 10 yards and it got completely dark so I came out.
After hiking straight up for about an hour from Keane Wonder Mill, I finally got a glimpse of the Mine at the top of the tramway. Imagine the miners from 100 years ago had to walk all this way to work every day?
The trail from Keane Wonder Mill to the Mine pretty much zig-zags around the tramway. The tramway has 11 towers (some say 13) but I counted only 9. The photo shows tower 6 and tower 7, with a great view towards Death Valley. Don't know if the miners 100 years ago enjoyed the scenery as much as I did?
Ok..this is a CLIMB, a trail up the mountain. And according to the trail guide (that I picked up afterwards) it's classified as "Difficult".
And it is. It's quite far and it's up up up without any kind of mercy for a Swede in anything BUT excellent condition. the prospect of rock collecting is excellent though since there is a lot of shiny ones (haha) around. the mine is in good shape and the view is spectacular of course.
One feels sorry for the poor bastards that ones walked up and down these trails several times a day perhaps...
Keane Wonder Mill and Townsite.
The Keane Wonder Mine was discovered in January 1904. The remains of the milling operation that worked the rich gold ore of the mine are readily accessible. An interpretive display describes the hisory of the area and includes a photograph of the mill when it was in operation. The wooden tramway, with thirteen towers, required more than 75,000 board feet of lumber to complete. It's length was slightly over 1 mile with a vertical drop of over 1,500 feet. The tram used no electricity and operated using gravity alone. The weight of loaded ore buckets at the mine was enough to lower them to the mill while raising empty buckets back up to the mine. It is possible to hike up to the mine via a trail roughly following the tram line. The 2 mile roundtrip however is quite strenuous since the trail rises 1,500 feet in just a mile. The shafts and tunnels are very unstable. Heed the DANGER - KEEP OUT signs.