Chloride City, Death Valley
One of the oldest mines in Death Valley is the Chloride Cliff Mine discovered by August J. Franklin in 1871. As one story goes he picked up a rock to crown a rattlesnake and found silver ore. He founded the Chloride Cliff mining company with the first seven claims he staked. The location tests showed a rather rich ore of silver assaying at $200 to $1,000 per ton.
Franklin sank an initial shaft and had seven miners in his employ by 1873. His biggest problem was trying to figure out how to resupply his mine with provisions all the way from San Bernardino to Death Valley 180 miles away. In the years of 1872-1873 pack mule trains ran the route every three months. The cost of transport was too much for the fledgling operation and so it shut down after two years of promising production. Even so, Franklin keeps his assessment work up to date on his claims until he passed in 1904.
Franklin’s son George hung on to his father's claims until the Bull Frog mining boom hit the area and supplies became plentiful and more cost-effective coming from the new town of Rhyolite, NV. The boom time had come with the Franklin Mine, Keane Wonder Mine, and a new mine called the Mucho Oro. In 1905 this mining growth commanded the need for a full-fledged mining camp and so Chloride City was formed. The town included an assay office, bunkhouse, blacksmith shop, cookhouse, and mine superintendents home. Water was packed in from Keane Springs 3 miles to the north.
Today there isn’t much left other than a single grave with the name of James Mckay, but no other information about him. This is also one remaining cousin Jack cabin still standing. A cousin Jack is a living space dug into the hillside to make up one or more of the cabin walls with a rock, wood, metal front, and roof.
To get to Chloride today go 3.4 miles NE from Hells Gate rest stop on Hwy 374 towards Beatty. A small 4x4 high clearance trail marker at pullout marks the start of a trail. it is 10 miles NE of intersection with California 190. The trail is about 17 miles through rolling hills and great views. Though a high clearance vehicle is needed the trail is quite tame. The road to Chloride Cliffs overlook is a narrow shelf road but the view is amazing.