This once booming mining town of over 2000 people included a dairy, four restaurants, a movie theater, and the “Bucket of Blood” saloon. Today, it sits abandoned slowly succumbing to the harsh desert elements that surround it.

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I had driven by Atolia on numerous occasions over the years and actually stopped to photograph this old abandoned house in 2013, which is located about 1/4 mile north from where the majority of all the other buildings are located.  – photo from my trip in 2013

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I remember seeing the old mill building & yellow silo in the distance but from the angle I was viewing it from it looked like it was still active. The home that sits on the west side of the highway was also occupied at the time (or at least looked like it was), so I decided to wait, do some more research and explore it at a later date.

That date finally arrived last month while I was traveling through the area on another one of my Eastern Sierra adventures.

That date finally arrived last month while I was traveling through the area on another one of my Eastern Sierra adventures.

The 25-acre site

Ownership of the 25-acre site (approx.) has been somewhat difficult to pin down. Some people have reported that it is still under private ownership, while others insist that it’s now under the BLM’s control. All of the mining operations ceased in 2007 and from what I could find in the public records, it appears that the BLM may now have control over the land that most of the buildings sit on. While looking through photos that previous visitors have taken at the site, it’s obvious that a lot of the machinery was removed shortly after 2007, so perhaps the previous owners or preservationists took it upon themselves to remove these artifacts prior to the land opening up to the public..?

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I didn’t see any “No Trespassing” signs on my way into the area, however, I did notice a few weathered ones near the highway as I was leaving. There are numerous dirt roads off of Hwy 395 that lead into the site but I would highly discourage anyone from using them. Most require a high clearance or 4WD vehicle plus there’s a large amount of 3-4 inch nails littering the majority of them.

We should also respect the area by treading lightly and avoiding any activities that could negatively impact its historical integrity.

You should also respect the area by treading lightly and avoiding any further activities that could negatively impact the sites cultural resources.

Which obviously hasn't been done by everyone.

Which obviously hasn’t been done by everyone.

 Nine years after the initial gold discoveries in Randsburg (circa 1904), the area had settled into a period of consistent mining production. No new major gold discoveries had been made and the easy finds had be thoroughly exploited. Big mining companies ran the large lode mines such as the Yellow Aster and miners worked for hourly wages ($3-$4 per day). For years, miners and prospectors at the St. Elmo and other mines in the Stringer district to the southeast had cursed a heavy, creamy white substance that hindered their gold recovery. They nicknamed this material "heavy spar" and left it at that. What these miners had stumbled across was actually scheelite, a tungsten ore. Tungsten is used to harden steel and as filaments in incandescent light bulbs.

For years, miners and prospectors at nearby mines had cursed a heavy, creamy white substance that hindered their gold recovery.

They nicknamed this material "heavy spar" and left it at that. What these miners had stumbled across was actually scheelite, a tungsten ore...

They nicknamed this material “heavy spar” and left it at that. What these miners had stumbled across was actually scheelite, a tungsten ore…

Tungsten is used to harden steel and as filaments in incandescent light bulbs.

…which is used to harden steel and as filaments in incandescent light bulbs.

The word, "Atolia" was derived from the contraction of names of two area mining operators: Atkins and Degolia

The word, “Atolia” was derived from the names of two area mining operators: Atkins and Degolia, who put up the first mill here in 1907.

The Atolia Mining Company produced close to $100,000 worth of ore in 1906, their first year of operation. By 1913, just 7 years later, they had produced $1,000,000 worth of ore.

The Atolia Mining Company produced close to $100,000 worth of ore in 1906, their first year of operation. By 1913, just 7 years later, they had produced $1,000,000 worth of ore.

Atolia's biggest year was 1916, as the value of tungsten was skyrocketing.

From 1916-1918 the company was the largest individual tungsten producer in the world. It was during this time that the town’s population soared from 300 people in 1915 to over 2000 the following year.

- Atolia, circa 1916. Courtesy Rand Desert Museum http://randdesertmuseum.com/site/

The district soon boasted four restaurants, three general stores, a drug store, two stationary stores, two shoemakers, one hotel, three rooming houses and several lodging tents, four pool rooms, four barber shops, an ice cream parlor, picture show, garage, three butcher shops, a newspaper, and a new school house for 60 pupils.  – Atolia, circa 1916. Courtesy Rand Desert Museum

Scattered throughout the district today are a myriad of headframes, miner's shacks, hoisting houses...

Scattered throughout the district today are a myriad of headframes, miner’s shacks, hoisting houses…

...and ladders descending into the unknown depths of the landscape.

…and ladders descending into the unknown depths of the landscape. A geological survey done by the United States Department of the Interior, reported that the Atolia District had about 10 miles of drifts and crosscuts and over 2 miles of shafts and raises when the survey was completed in 1940.

The landscape itself seems at times reminiscent of the battlefields of Verdun. Pocked with endless craters and mounds of relocated earth and rock.

Miners Cabin

Miners Cabin

a shaded porch + the mojave desert = f*ck yeah!

Shaded porch + the Mojave Desert = F*ck yeah!

Inside Miners Cabin

Inside Miners Cabin

The nearest Home Depot is only 30 minutes away.

The nearest Home Depot is only 30 minutes away.

The open floor plan is a nice touch.

The open floor plan is a nice touch.

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...and how about that Master?

…and how about that Master?

The kids can play Chutes & Ladders whenever they want.

The kids can play Chutes & Ladders whenever they want.

Assay Laboratory Building

Assay Laboratory Building/Office

There were probably others throughout its history but this was most likely the last one that was used prior to the operations closing down.

There were probably others throughout its history but this was most likely the last one that was used prior to the operations closing down.

Come on in.

Come on in.

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Exhaust hoods are always good to have when you're playing with chemicals.

Exhaust hoods are always good to have when playing with toxic chemicals.

I've been unable to identify what this building was used for but older photos appear to show lots of stacked bags full of a powdery substance.

I’ve been unable to identify what this building was originally used for but older photos appear to show lots of stacked bags filled with a white powdery substance. Hmmm…

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This was most likely a storage shed...

This small building actually had electricity.

I found this sign inside of it.

This sign was found inside of it.

[not so] Straight up GAYngster!

[not so] Straight up GAYngster!

Up

Up

Down

Down

Merry Xmas from downtown Atolia.

Merry Xmas from downtown Atolia.

Mill Building

Mill Building

Corroded barrel storage outside the mill building.

Corroded barrel storage outside the mill building.

Cork Dork

CorkScrewU

Hello from the other side.

Hello from the other side.

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Mill Interior

Mill Building Interior

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A portion of the very large Joshua Hendy Ball Mill

What’s left of the very large Joshua Hendy Ball Mill.

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After prices dropped in 1919 with the end of the war and it became cheaper to import scheelite from China than to mine it in Atolia. Silver discoveries a few miles to the north in Red Mountain sealed Atolia’s fate. The area was worked off and on through WWII and Vietnam War. Atolia was, for many years, the No. 1 or No. 2 U.S. tungsten producer with total production in excess of $15-million.

Prices dropped in 1919 with the end of the war and it soon became cheaper to import scheelite from China than to mine it in Atolia (sounds familiar). Silver discoveries a few miles to the north in Red Mountain sealed Atolia’s fate. The area was worked off and on through WWII and the Vietnam War but its most productive years were from 1906-1918. Atolia was, for many years, the No. 1 or No. 2 U.S. tungsten producer with total production in excess of $15-million. Please respect and preserve California’s mining history.