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||While known for its gold and silver mines, the most profitable and longest-sustained mining activities in the Death Valley area focused on borates.|
Borax was discovered in the valley in 1873 and was first mined successfully by W.T. Coleman who built the Harmony Borax Works.
At the site of the borax works a short trail leads past the ruins of the refinery and some outlying buildings. The works were active between 1882 and 1889.
Perhaps the most recognizable feature of borax mining were the "20-mule team" wagons used to haul mined borax the 165 miles between Death Valley and the railhead in Mojave. Coleman was also responsible for starting the wagon trains. It's interesting to note that the "20 mules" was really 18 mules and 2 horses and that the weight they pulled was roughly the same weight a modern-day 18-wheeler pulls when fully-loaded. This meant that when going up hills, the team often had to pull one wagon up the hill, then be brought back down to pull up the second wagon. The trip took about 10 days on average.
The Borax operations have now moved to the area around Boron, California and the applications of borax are many and varied. If interested, visit them at http://www.borax.com/.
Continue South now to a popular overview point for the Valley: Zabriskie Point...
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