A ‘Ghost Mill’ at the Southern Entrance to Death Valley

Old, abandoned towns of the West are given the name of ghost towns. While Ashford Mill hardly meets the requirements of being a town, I decided we could at least think of it as a ‘ghost mill.’

Abandoned mines litter Death Valley’s history. In my last post, I featured one of the most successful mines in the area, the Harmony Borax Works. It was so successful that the twenty-mule team responsible for hauling its ore across the desert served as a logo for the long running TV show, Death Valley Days. The show was hosted by none other than Ronald Reagan in the 1964/65 season when I was a student at Berkeley. It’s possible I even watched an episode or two while avoiding the baton-wielding police sent to campus by Edwin Meese, Oakland’s District Attorney at the time— and Reagan’s future Attorney General.

Mercury, talc, gold, silver, sodium chloride, Epson salts, tungsten, and copper were some of the other minerals that miners pursued with visions of wealth dancing in their heads. Few were successful. Some 2000 mine ruins were left behind as their legacy. Ashford Mill is one such ruin. It was built by the Ashford brothers to process ore from their Golden Treasure Mine located 5 miles to the east in the Armargosa Range. The brothers alternated working the mine and leasing it out to various companies for over 30 years until they finally gave up in the early 40s. A lot of money, work and heartache was devoted to the effort, but the ‘golden treasure’ was not to be found. Today, all that remains of the mill are the cement walls of what was the office and a few remnants.

A view of the office as it now looks. I decided in would be fun to photograph the surrounding desert using the various openings as frames.
Looking out toward the Panamint Range.
The Golden Treasure Mine is located up in the mountains.
While there was little left of the old mill, I found this timber beam rather impressive.
Here’s Peggy looking cool in her shades while standing next to our red Toyota Tacoma. The Amargosa Range is in the background.

For all of our trips into Death Valley over the years, Peggy and I have never entered from the south end of the park. We remedied that this time by heading over to Pahrump from Las Vegas following Highway 160 and then cutting over to the remote town of Shoshone on 178 and on into Death Valley. Following are some of the photos that Peggy and I took illustrating this route.

Looking east from the southern entrance to Death Valley, Mt. Charleston dominates the view. A ski area for Las Vegas is located up in the mountains. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The road worked its way around this rock. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Climbing up toward the pass into Death Valley provided views like this. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And this.
Once over the top we began to make our way down into Death Valley.
The Panamint Range can be seen stretching across the horizon. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I liked the contrast here.
Rocks made up of different minerals and laid down under differing geological conditions provide the color for which Death Valley is famous. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Check out this mountain as an example.
I’ll wrap up our trip into Death Valley with this photo that demonstrates just how flat things can get. I loved the perspective of the road disappearing into the distance. It seems like everything was converging.

NEXT POST: A bit of Las Vegas and the road north to Reno.

27 thoughts on “A ‘Ghost Mill’ at the Southern Entrance to Death Valley

  1. With heatwave here in Australia and the Death Valley on this wonderful journey, Curt, I have taken to taking large bottle of water upstairs just in case of dehydration.
    What beauty there is in the desolation of Death valley!
    I noticed Peggy was well rugged up. It could not have been very hot.

    • We always carry extra water when we travel through there, Girard! 🙂 Although it’s cool at this time of the year.
      I’ve been reading about the Australian heatwave. Our main concern today is getting home from Reno without having too much snow along the way! Yesterday it would have been floods. –Curt

  2. What a wonderful world! Looks like you were smart enough to avoid visiting in summer. My first trip through Death Valley was in September in a VW bug with no A/C. A bit too warm for my liking then! 🥴

    • Laughing. September can still be hot. I suspect I traveled through there in a bug myself back in the day. But it would have been during the cooler months. It is a wonderful world, Gunta. It is strange and wonderful! –Curt

  3. Pahrump? Harumph! Have you been there? I looked up the quirky-sounding name, and learned it’s based in the original indigenous name Pah-Rimpi, or “Water Rock,” for the artesian wells in the area. I also learned from Wiki that, “until the 1960s, Pahrump had no telephone service except a radio transmitter phone in a phone booth next to the small market, and there were no paved roads in or out of the Pahrump Valley.” That would have been a destination, back in the day.

    • Fun information, Linda. Thanks. This was our first trip to the town. It’s off the main route that Peggy and I usually follow on our journeys south. I’ve always been curious about it, however. The town is no longer sleepy! It’s closeness to Las Vegas has guaranteed that and they are now finishing up a four lane highway/freeway between the two locations. I suspect it will quickly become a bedroom community. Beautiful drive, I must say. –Curt

  4. Peggy looks cool indeed, and so do the ghost mill and the Death Valley landforms. We had to race through there too quickly; I’d love to go back and really take my time.

  5. Those framed shots are terrific, Curt. Just watched The Passenger, a 1975 film by Antonioni starring Jack Nicholson and Maria Schneider that has fabulous photography. It’s rarely seen, for some reason, but well worth searching out.

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