Surprise Canyon to Panamint City, Death Valley National Park

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Snow Nymph
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Surprise Canyon to Panamint City, Death Valley National Park

Post by Snow Nymph » Wed May 03, 2006 12:11 pm

Saturday, 29 April 2006
Surprise Canyon to Panamint City, DVNP


From the DPS Guide:

"High assay silver and copper bearing ores were discovered in 1873 near the head of Surprise Canyon by Richard Jacobs and two of his companions. At the time, Jacobs and company were hiding out in the canyon, fugitives from the law because of a Wells Fargo robbery they committed a month earlier. Through a strange set of circumstances the bandits obtained immunity from prosecution by repaying their "loan" to Wells Fargo. Acting as intermediaries between the parties, two US senators from NV, John P. Jones and William Stewart secured the freedom of the outlaws in exchange for interest in their Surprise Canyon mining claim.

Starting off slowly, within 2 years the population of panamint City was over 1500 people. The town boasted some 200 houses, numerous saloons, a red light district, stores, a bank and even a local newspaper. Because of its location in the narrow canyon, the city was laid out along one street a mile long with nearly 1000' of elevation difference between the upper and lower ends! There simply wasn't room to expand in any other direction.

Along with some other boom towns in that era, Panamint City was known for its lawless nature. In fact, it had such a bad reputation that when Wells Fargo was asked to establish freight service to and from the town, they respectfully declined. This was a problem for the mine owners because silver bullion shipments out of the canyon were frequently ambushed in the valley below. A solution to this problem was finally found when Senator Stewart started having the silver from his mines cast into 750 pound balls. The sheer weight of these castings made a quick getaway impossible for the robbers, thus solving the problem of overland transportation.

Extraction of ore eventually started becoming more difficult because of the nature of the quartz veins and the hardness of the rock encountered. This coupled with a stock market crash in May 1877 brought Panamint city to its knees, never to fully recover again. Altogether $2.5 million in silver ore was recovered from the Panamint City mines before their collapse."


Friday night, I met up with WLD to hike to Panamint City. He was on antibiotics and he had to turn back. As I approached the brick chimney, I heard my name. Beldar was up there with some friends. It was 85 - 95 deg up there, but the running water helped cool me down. The hike is 6 miles each way, with ~4,000' el gain.

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison" onclick=";return false;

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Post by Rosabella » Wed May 03, 2006 12:55 pm

Great pictures!!! And what an interesting story to go with them! What wild times it must have been back then! ;)

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Post by madeintahoe » Fri May 05, 2006 12:18 pm

I have added this to my already very long to go list! SN..thank you so much for sharing this place. Surprise canyon looks beautiful with those rocks and water coming down. And even cute little froggies...I love the one with him or her on your pack strap hanging on...gosh they are so cute. :D

Panamint City...what an interesting story...that too would be cool to see and explore that area.
Thank you so much for sharing :)

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