Friday, March 1, 2024

Into The Golden Past

 Again we had reached the time for another trip to Yuma to replenish our supplies of propane and gas. And why not use this opportunity to undertake another excursion.

This time I had plotted out Ogilby Road, which connects the I-8 with Hwy 78 towards Blythe,CA. Its more technical name is S-34. It turns off of I-8 a few miles west of Yuma. The quality of the road does not make you want to write home about, as its tarmac is very broken and in places downright bad. I wouldn't want to pull our trailer up there, yet many people do it, as the road also is a shortcut to the Glamis Imperial Sand Dunes. We were rather interested in visiting the Golden Past of the area, namely the former gold town of Tumco.  (link to mine info)

I have posted about Tumco once before, but I think every visit to this long abandoned place will leave you with a new different impression.

Here is a write-up by the Imperial Valley Press

The Tumco Historic Townsite is an abandoned gold mining town located off I-8 on Ogilby Road in Winterhaven, California. It sits on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land amid the Cargo Muchacho Mountains. Tumco is one of the earliest gold mining areas in California with a 300 year history consisting of several periods of success and failure.

Before the gold rush, Imperial Valley had Spanish and Sonoran soldiers, settlers, and laborers all mining gold in the mountains of the southeastern portion of Imperial County, known as the Chocolate Mountains. It is here where the story of the Cargo Muchachos [loosely translated as “loaded boys”] originates. According to early accounts, two young boys were playing in the mountains trying to mine for gold like their fathers. Upon returning to their camp they discovered gold all over their clothes! From then on, the mountains were named the Cargo Muchacho Mountains and word traveled fast that these mountains were “loaded” with gold. Afterwards, numerous small mines were operated and mining companies moved into the area, which purchased claims and developed the mines on a large scale.

In Imperial Valley the first local to discover gold in the area was Pete Walters of Ogilby, who first discovered a gold vein at Gold Rock on January 6, 1884. Gold can be deposited in many ways, but gold veins are a miner’s dream! Gold veins are solidified streams of high-grade minerals, ripe for the picking. From here the first gold camp commenced, originally known as Hedges, which reached its peak development between 1893-1899 with about 3,200 residents. Hedges was abandoned in 1905 and later renamed. Tumco stands for The United Mines Company that bought the mines in the area in 1910. Unfortunately, in 1911 it was once again abandoned after costly efforts and diminishing prospects of gold.

Although little can be seen of Tumco today, during the boom time of the 1890’s, it supported a population of at least 500 people and the 40 and 100 stamp mills of the mine produced $1,000 per day in gold. Ultimately, over 200,000 ounces of gold was taken from the mines in the area.

We arrived there at about 10:30 and drove to the small parking lot from where a foot pass leads the visitors into the mining area. The "road" to the parking lot requires extremely low speed. 

With Dixie on the leash we started our hike which led us to some huge old water tanks. These tanks were used as water storage for the mining operation, but today are filled with sand. The combined weight of the sand and rusting steel brought made these tanks burst open.
The hundreds of workers which once slaved for the mining company, lived in small primitive cabins throughout the area. Within those old foundations a few rusty tin cans witness about human activity. Thinking of the hustle bustle of the long-gone days the eerie quiet of this place is almost depressing. Wind gusts are picking up some fine sand just to drop it again a few yards away. Nature has taken over here, yes, the humans took gold and they took cyanid, but the surrounding mountains and the sandy plains beneath have continued to be what they've always been, a part of the huge south-western desert.
As we rounded the tanks we noticed a horned desert lizard scurrying away from us. It's color is the same as the sand. Hadn't it moved, I wouldn't have noticed it.
The one-way distance of our hike wasn't even one mile, but already we noticed that we got thirsty for water. It is extremely important to carry water on every hike into the desert. If one falls and breaks an ankle, it can take a long time until help arrives. Waiting without water may then turn out to be far more serious than breaking the ankle itself.

Back at the van we all indulged in our lunch package, Dixie drinking a lot of water. 

Want to check out my previous posting about TUMCO?

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