Located east of Independence, Mazourka Canyon Road crosses the Owens River Valley before cutting into the western side of the Inyo Mountains. Along the way it passes a ghost train depot, a pet cemetery and numerous abandoned mines before reaching the top of Mazourka Peak, which sits 9,941-feet above the valley below.
After sleeping in a ghost camp the night before and spending most of the morning exploring Cactus Flats Rd, I headed north along Highway 395 towards Independence.
The drive through Mazourka Canyon begins at the southern edge of Independence at the intersection of Highway 395 and Mazourka Canyon road.
After driving over the Owens River…
…you’ll soon come across an old railroad crossing.
Built originally as a stagecoach depot in 1866, it evolved into a railroad station in 1883 to carry freight and passengers on the Carson & Colorado Railroad line, known locally as the “Slim Princess”. It served the Independence community from 1883 until it was closed during the Great Depression on June 29, 1932. The station was torn down in 1955 and the railroad line ceased operation on April 30, 1960. It was first named Independence, then changed to Citrus and finally Kearsarge Station in 1913. Along side the station depot was a residence for the section boss and a bunkhouse for the workers.
“In 2003, the Carson and Colorado Railway became aware that the original station site of Kearsarge was still owned by SP’s successor, Union Pacific RR. The 13-acre site included approximately three quarters of a mile of right of way that included the station site, water well, and section house sites. Through some timely donations the CCRW was able to purchase the site from UPRR. Although the site – save for some foundations – was virtually undetectable from the rest of the desert, the CCRW was determined to some day make a memorial on the site. That day came in 2009 when the CCRW was approached by the “Slim Princess” Chapter of E. Clampus Vitus (Clampers) about doing a granite plaque at the site. The CCRW decide to take it one step further and lay 100 feet of track on the original right of way to complement the plaque.” – Carson & Colorado Railway
“On a cool March weekend in 2009, the CCRW and Clampers came together and put down 100 feet of rail and ties in about eight hours. Along with the ties and rail, the station site was marked out, an interpretive sign with site map was erected and best of all an authentic Railroad Crossing sign was placed next to Mazourka Canyon Road! In June of 2009, The Clampers set their stone monument and performed a dedication ceremony that saw the largest gathering of people at the Kearsarge station in 100 years, over 120 people attended!” – Carson & Colorado Railway
Back in 1945, the residence for the section boss, a bunkhouse for the workers and the train depot still stood. Ten years later it was all gone.
Located just over the tracks to the east is a small pet cemetery.
While not as large as the rogue pet cemetery I recently visited in Bishop…
…this one, with its simple DIY markers, still had plenty of charm.
The pavement turns into a well graded gravel road shortly after crossing over the tracks. These OHV road markers are for the Adventure Trails Pilot Project, which allows ATVs to use a small, selected number of Inyo County roads just off existing trail roads to access local services such as gas stations and food establishments.
A massive ore bin stands guard near the mouth of Mazourka Canyon.
Climbing to the top provides views of Owens Valley, the Eastern Sierra and Mazourka Canyon Road leading to Independence.
The route continues east, then curves northward alongside the mountains.
The Inyo Mountains have a long history with mining and as you can see in the map above, the whole range is covered with mines.
I only had time to explore one mine, so I parked my Jeep and hiked up to the Whiteside Mine.
The large tailings pile was a good indication that I was heading in the right direction.
Old concrete foundations.
Rusted & Busted
This spot, located just outside the the main adit, overlooks Owens Valley and the Eastern Sierras and appears to be a popular place to set up camp.
Let’s check out the inner workings, shall we?
The mine features a 2600-foot long main tunnel that seems to go on forever.
I had reached the point of no return so I had to keep going, right?
Watch your head!
A 50 foot flooded vertical shaft is located deep within the mine.
The eighties were so horrible.
A wooden bridge is used to cross over a shallow water-filled pit in one of the drift tunnels.
The mine has a total of four levels but the other three, which can be accessed using these ladders, are not as extensive as the first.
After spending 40 minutes exploring the mine, I started to make my way back out to the surface.
On the way out I got to catch a glimpse of all the things I missed on my way in. I hate seeing modern graffiti inside a mine but you have to admit this piece was pretty damn good.
I noticed another interesting piece of ‘art’ as I was exiting the mine.
With all the ore they pulled out of the Whiteside Mine, you would think it would’ve been a successful operation but reports say otherwise.
After leaving Whiteside, the road began ascending the canyon, narrowing as it climbed.
Extending 165 miles along the California/Nevada border between Los Angeles and Reno, the Inyo National Forest, established May 25, 1907, includes over two million acres of pristine lakes, fragile meadows, winding streams, rugged Sierra Nevada peaks and arid Great Basin mountains.
Most 2WD vehicles with high clearance should be able to make it to the top of Mazourka Peak without having any issues.
For current road conditions contact the Eastern Sierra Interagency Center in Lone Pine at 760-876-6222.
Pinyon pines and juniper trees thrive in the higher, cooler, moister parts of the canyon.
18 miles from 395 is an area known as Badger Flat (8,700′). From here its just short drive over to Mazourka Peak.
Even though Mazourka Peak tops out at an impressive 9,941-feet, it still can’t crack the list of the top ten highest peaks of the Inyo Mountains. Sorry Mazourka.
Ham operators, emergency service providers, TV and radio stations all rely on Mazourka Peak to transmit their signals to the valley below.
Glimpses of Owens Lake and the Alabama Hills looking south from Mazourka Peak.
Keeping it green and clean up on the peak.
The dark line in the valley below is the Owens River making its way towards Tinemaha Reservoir.
I wish I could of stayed to watch the sunset over the Sierras but I had to start making my way back down the mountain.
Unfortunately, the road I had planned to take back down to Highway 395 had been closed off by the Forest Service. I generally hate having to backtrack on the same road I drove in on but that’s exactly what I had to do.
At least the lighting was good.
It’s about a 43 mile round trip drive from Independence to the top of Mazourka Peak via Mazourka Canyon Rd. It took me 4 hours from start to finish but that’s because I took my time and stopped along the way to enjoy what the drive had to offer. My 2WD Jeep Cherokee had no issues along the route but it’s always wise to do your own research before heading out on any off road adventure. For more information, visit the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center, which is located one mile south of Lone Pine, CA, at the junction of Highway 395 and State Route 136. It is open 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Closed Holidays.