Established as a mining camp in the 1880s, Ibex Springs on the southeastern border of Death Valley National Park, is probably one of the parks least visited areas and that’s exactly why I wanted to check it out.
I knew there was a chance my 2WD vehicle might not be able to make it all the way there and I ended up being right.
The sandy dirt road crosses over an eroded flood plain and is prone to washouts. When we reached this deep gully, we parked the car and hiked the remaining 2.5 miles to the site.eroded flood plain
While 2.5 miles isn’t that long of a hike, it felt like it took forever to get there.
The white spots on the distant hills are the Pleasanton, Monarch and Moorehouse Talc Mines. Yup, that’s talc.
In the early 1880s, two men found an outcrop of cooper and silver here and named it Ibex. By 1882 the men sold their claim to a Chicago syndicate who formed the Ibex Mining Company. They erected a five-stamp mill three miles southeast of the mine and the camp soon came to be known as Ibex Springs.
Mining activity during this time was sporadic due to lack of fuel and water.
A small smelting furnace was constructed in 1884, further taxing the sparse supply of fuel.
The stifling summer heat was also a problem, often forcing the mine to cease operations for several months out of the year.
After seven years of operating the mine, the company finally gave up in 1889.
Around 1907 there was renewed activity when rich silver copper deposits were discovered nearby. While some of the ore was of high quality, there just wasn’t enough of it to justify operations starting up again at the desolate and remote location.
From the mid-1930s until the 1960s, Ibex was resurrected as a small mining camp for the nearby talc mines.
Miner’s Cabin @ Ibex Springs
You can’t beat the views.
The National Park Service has assigned a policy of “benign neglect” to the remaining structures that are left standing.
An excerpt from “The National Park Service Historic Resource Study: A History of Mining”:
Due to the great predominance of the scene by the modern talc mining camp, there is very little historic integrity left at Ibex Springs. The modern camp is certainly not of historic significance. The early 20th-century stone ruins have more interest, but due to a great proliferation of such type ruins throughout the Monument, and the fact that the more modern structures negate the integrity of these remains, preservation efforts are not warranted on this site. Since the older stone ruins are small, difficult to locate, and are tucked away out of sight of the rest of the camp, a policy of benign neglect should lead to no more than natural deterioration of the site.
It’s surprising how much is still standing.
Bill Mann and the Mojave River Valley Museum have become stewards of the site.
They’ve installed a plaque…
…and provided a cool visitor registration kiosk…
…for guests to sign in at.
It’s also become a place for visitors to deposit historic artifacts they may have found while exploring the area.
Ibex Spring, straight ahead!
This cabin had great A/C…
…and one of the best views of any of the remaining structures.
The “spring” of Ibex Springs is fairly easy to locate.
Near the spring you’ll find more buildings in various states of deterioration.
Some are in better shape than others.
This structure, possibly a bathhouse or bunkhouse, remains in pretty good condition after all these years.
The spring, which was the reason for the camp’s location, is still abundant today. A small shed/shelter is built over it which provides desert critters access to the life giving water.
As we approached the spring, a giant horned owl flew off through the willows and palms.
The areas earliest inhabitants were the Shoshone Indians…
…and miners in the area reported finding arrowheads, pottery, and stone structures around the spring.
During our four hour exploration, we were the only two people in the entire area. There were no 4x4s or motorcycles on the nearby dirt roads and none of the irritating or obnoxious crowds one usually encounters in the more touristy areas of the park. We were in DVNP heaven and we weren’t done yet. Before we left the area, we explored the nearby Pleasanton Talc Mine. Its massive collapsing wooden ore bin and white talc walled inner workings were an incredible site to see. You can have a look yourself by checking out my next post: “PLEASANTON TALC MINE: DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK.”