Cottonwood Valley Rd & Mines - 02/13/2013 Trip Notes

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This page last updated on 05/29/2020
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Directions: From the Stratosphere, head southwest on S. Las Vegas Blvd and go 1.7 miles and turn right onto Spring Mountain Rd. Go .07 miles and turn left onto I-15 South. Travel 5.5 miles and take exit 33 to merge onto NV-160 W/Blue Diamond Rd/SR-160 (a.k.a) Pahrump highway. Heading west on NV-160 go past NV-159, the turn to Red Rock Canyon. The location of the historic marker for this portion of the Old Spanish Trail is at milepost 17, on the left side of NV-160. Turn left onto a dirt road, a.k.a. Cottonwood Valley Road, just before the historic marker and drive about a half mile to a parking area on the left. Initially, this road is relatively well maintained two lanes wide, however about a mile past this point there may be portions of the road that will require a four wheel drive vehicle. Distance to the parking area is about 27 miles and takes about 40 minutes.

Background: The Cottonwood Valley was explored, in part, by Spanish explorers as early as the late 1500s. The historical trade route, known as the Old Spanish Trail, ran through this area from about 1830 until the mid-1850s. Pack trains carried woolen goods west and returned eastward with California mules and horses for the New Mexico and Missouri markets. Though the main route went through the valley and over Mountain Springs Pass, it has been recorded that the Armijo Route followed what is now the Cottonwood Valley Road to Goodsprings and through the Columbia Pass (now known as Sandy Valley Road) on to California. For more on the Old Spanish Trail see ... Re: The Old Spanish Trail.

This area was once called the Potosi Mining District and was a part of the Goodsprings Mining District, and included the following mines; Christmas Mine, Dawn Mine, Green Monster Mine, Kirby Mine, New Year Mine, Shenandoah Mine and the Ninetynine Mine. The main two mines in this area are the DawnMine and the Nintynine Mine, though I could find very little written about either of these two mines. The Nintynine Mine was discovered in 1894. Its underground mine’s main product was Copper along with smaller amounts of Silver, Lead, Vanadium, Zinc, Gold. I can only assume that the Dawn mine produced similar ores.
02/13/2013 Trip Notes: Up bright and early, Harvey and I headed out to explore the southern end of Cottonwood Valley off NV-160, the road to Pahrump. After parking the truck at the inner parking area, we unloaded the Rhino (Fig. 04) and began our trip up (south) Cottonwood Valley Road. As you continue past the parking area, it is apparent that the road is running up a valley, with Mt. Potosi (Fig. 01) and the Spring Mountains on the west side and the Birdspring Range to the east. Refer to the maps in (Figs. 02 & 03). About 3.5 miles out, there is a sharp left turn that heads east towards the trailhead for Birdspring Peak. At about 4.7 miles out on the right you will come to the Ninetynine Mine Road (FR-800B). Shown in (Fig. 05) this road starts out heading southwest before turning right and heading northwest towards the base of the tree lined ridges of Mt. Potosi. About a mile and a half up this road it splits. If you head left at the split, the road runs out to the Dawn Mine site, (Fig. 05). Refer to the notes on the Dawn Mine site below.

Bearing right takes you to Ninetynine Mine site. Refer to the notes on the Nintynine site below and (Fig. 16). Again, refer to the map in (Fig. 02). Next, we continued on FR-800 to the dilapidated A-frame that is referred to as the “Ninetynine Cabin” (Figs. 23 thru 26).

On the return trip we took FR-800C back to Cottonwood Valley Road (see Fig. 02). Finally, we headed up the access road that led to the Birdspring Peak trailhead [Bird Spring Peak Trail] at the top of the Birdspring Ridge (see Fig. 02). All total for the day, I estimate that we traveled nearly 12 miles.
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The Dawn Mine: The view in (Fig. 05) below of the hillside containing the various tailings from this mining claim was taken several hundred yards short of the mines themselves, as the road was blocked with some rather large boulders, causing us to abandon the Rhino and hike the rest of the way to the site. We spent an hour hiking up the hillside finding no less than four mine shafts (Figs. 06 thru 09 – click to enlarge) scattered about. Even though we attempted to explore them (Figs. 10 thru 13 – click to enlarge), unfortunately, most were blocked by large steel enclosures like the one seen in (Fig. 08) that prevented entry. Other than some footings for a cableway that hauled ore from above, and a few rusty remnants consisting of corrugated roofing sheets, a large tank and some steel cable, there isn’t much left of what appeared to be a fairly extensive mining operation. We did find however, what appeared to be a couple of stone foundations (Figs. 14 & 15) that may have supported some type of living structures, possibly a large platform miners tent.

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The Ninetynine Mine:
After touring the Dawn mine we headed up to the Ninetynine Mine (Fig. 17). Similar to the previous site, we found four shafts (Figs. 18 thru 21 – click to enlarge)  openings, each of which had either been filled in or barred closed. The main shaft here (Fig. 22) had one of the largest openings that I have seen on any mine we have yet to encounter. Other than a large debris area filled with hundreds of discarded, rusty food cans (Fig. 23), we found no evidence of a campsite or anyone living here. After touring the mine site, we continued up the road to the location of what is commonly known as the Ninetynine Mine Cabin (Fig. 24). However, it appears that this very dilapidated old A-frame may have postdated the time period when this mine was in actual operation. Whatever the case, whoever built it picked a great location, nestled at the base of the Mt. Potosi cliffs, it had great views (Figs. 25 thru 27) in every direction. The southern view from the deck of the structure is shown in (Fig. 28).
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