1159-Borax – Death Valley, CA

Each year the snow would melt in the surrounding mountains and flow through Death Valley filling the dry lake bed with precious water and minerals. As the summer heat approached, the water would dry up in the 125 degree temperatures leaving behind a layer of borax and other salty minerals that were collected and refined.

This is one of the smaller borax processing sites in Death Valley that operated during the late 1800s. A small company village was created populated by Chinese workers from the San Francisco area. The workers would scoop the layer of salts from the lake floor in hand carts and deliver them to the initial refining boiler where they were concentrated. The concentrate was loaded on 20-mule team wagons and hauled out of the valley

Twenty-mule teams were teams of eighteen mules and two horses attached to large wagons that ferried borax out of Death Valley from 1883 to 1889. They traveled from mines across the Mojave Desert to the nearest railroad spur, 165 miles (275 km) away in Mojave. The routes were from the Harmony and Amargosa Borax Works to Daggett, California, and later Mojave, California. After Harmony and Amargosa shut down in 1888, the mule team’s route was moved to the mines at Borate, 3 miles east of Calico, back to Daggett. There they worked from 1891 until 1898 when they were replaced by the Borate and Daggett Railroad. The wagons were among the largest ever pulled by draft animals, designed to carry 10 short tons (9 metric tons) of borax ore at a time. (this paragraph was stolen from the web)

To see a Gallery of photos from Death Valley click on this link:
Death Valley Photo Gallery

Wagons and water tank from one of the 20-Mule Teams. That’s my car in chilling’ out in the upper left by one of the adobe buildings from the 1890s.



Refining boiler used to concentrate the borax before loading into the wagons.