Take an off road adventure through the white chalky hills that once produced nearly all the steatite grade talc in the United States.
Located 5.7 miles northwest of Darwin, CA, this fun little tour begins by turning onto Talc City Cutoff Rd which is located directly across Hwy 190 from the turnoff to Darwin (Darwin Rd) and the Darwin Historic marker.
The well graded dirt road doesn’t require a 4WD vehicle but beware, as with most mining areas, broken glass, nails and other sharp objects may be found along the route.
The route above is approximately 7 miles long through isolated terrain and since the closest gas station is nearly 18 miles away in Panamint Springs, make sure your vehicle is in good working order and you have enough gas, food, and water before you begin. It’s also a good idea to let someone know where you are in case something happens and you don’t have cell service. Safety first!
As you can see from the diagram above, taken from a U.S. Geological Survey printed in 1962, there’s quite a few mines within this small little area.
Talc mining in eastern California began during World War I. One-half of all known talc deposits of commercial interest could be found in Inyo County during this time. Up until the 1940s, the Talc City Mine provided nearly all the steatite grade talc in the United States.
Originally known as the Simmonds Mine, it was operated before 1915 by the Groah Mineral Company of San Francisco. Other owners included the California Talc Company (1915-1917), the Inyo Talc Company (1917-1922), and Sierra Talc Company (1922-end of production). The mine first provided talc for use in the manufacture of insulating cores for Hotpoint stoves. Later, in the mid-1930s, the talc was used in making high frequency electrical insulations. By 1950 the total production from the Talc City Mine was a quarter of a million tons.
The original memorial once read: Beloved CMA Comrade Dean Longress *American Hero* Flight Engineer B-36 Peacemaker 10/6/1939 6/16/1998
Portions of the Talc City Mine can be seen in the distance.
Ore was first discovered at the Silver Dollar Mine back in 1910.
Between late 1910 and early 1911 a shaft, sunk to a reported depth of 90 feet, followed a vertical vein on the south side of the main pit.
During the next four years, lessees enlarged the main pit and drove short drifts along a vein dipping to the northeast, backfilling the original shaft.
This northeast-dipping vein was followed for 100 feet down before work was abandoned in 1915.
During the late 1930’s a 130-foot shaft 100 feet east of the main pit was sunk.
Crosscuts were driven from the bottom of the shaft to points under the main pit, but no ore was found.
The main talc workings consist of a 75-foot inclined shaft with several hundred feet of drifts and crosscuts.
After exploring the workings, I came across a strange creature.
Made with objects found around the mine (hey, what happened to protect don’t collect?), this beast looked ready to brawl.
That’s why I’ve decided to name him the Silver Dollar Brawler. Pretty good, huh?
S.D.B. ain’t f*cking around!
This is the road that leads to the Alliance Mine. The main workings consist of a northeast-trending glory hole about 200 feet long, 50 feet in maximum width, and 30 feet in maximum depth, an inclined shaft 70 feet deep that connects with about 500 feet of level underground workings and stopes, and several minor adits and pits.
Exposure to sodium sulfide can cause severe irritation to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. Breathing sulfide dusts may aggravate asthma or other pulmonary (breathing) diseases and may cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
My sixth sense told me to proceed with caution in this particular area, so I parked my car and started to walk down the road towards the mine. As I rounded the corner I saw some very unsavory looking mutants in the distance that didn’t look like the kind of folks I usually like to hang out with, so I quickly headed back to my Jeep and got the hell out of there. The Talc City Hills area can be a fun little side trip on the way to DVNP, Darwin or Owens Valley if you have some extra time to kill, just make sure you don’t get killed yourself. Come prepared, use common sense and take a buddy along for some extra backup in case things get weird.