Ryan Camp (Lila C Mine) - Death Valley National Park

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This page last updated on 02097/2018
Ryan Map - Circa 1928
(Fig. 02)
Directions: From the Stratosphere Casino head southwest on S Las Vegas Blvd toward W Baltimore Ave. Travel 1.7 miles and turn right onto Spring Mountain Rd. Go .7 miles and turn left to merge onto I-15 South. Follow for 5.4 miles and take exit 33 to merge onto NV-160 W/Blue Diamond Rd/State Route 160 W toward Pahrump. Continue to follow NV-160 W/State Route 160 West for 55 miles  In Pahrump, continue straight on Hwy. 160 through three stoplights then drive 3.1 miles. Turn left at Bell Vista Road and continue 25.5 miles to Death Valley Junction. Turn right and then immediately left on CA Hwy 190 and drive 26 miles and turn left onto Furnace Creek Wash Road. The ghost town of Ryan is about three miles on the left.
02/28/2014 Trip Notes: (planned trip yet to be taken)
01/27/2014 Trip Notes: While driving up Furnace Creek Wash Road to Dante’s View I stopped along the side of the road to take a few pictures of Ryan (Fig. 01) and the dozens of tailing piles that dotted the surrounding hillsides. At the time we had no idea that we were looking at one of the largest Borax mining areas in the state. Currently, I’m planning another trip here at the end of February.
(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)

History of Ryan: Ryan Company Town is one of the best preserved ghost towns and mining camps in California (Fig. 02). This ghost town epitomizes what the “Old West” was all about. Built in 1914, it was a company mining town built in a remote and rugged area on the side of a steep mountain on the eastern edge of Death Valley National Park that served several borax mines.

Death Valley Railroad at Ryan 1916
(Fig. 05)
It had its own train, the Death Valley Railroad (Fig. 05) narrow gauge that ran from Death Valley Junction to Ryan (refer to the map in (Fig. 02). And it had its own mine train on top of that. The Baby Gauge ran from the terminus of the Death Valley Railroad in Ryan south several miles along the hills to the Lizzie Y., Oakly, and Widow borax mines.
Baby Guage RR at Ryan
(Fig. 06)
The view in (Fig. 06) shows the ore being transferred from the ore carts of the baby guage RR into the larger carts of the Death Valley RR for transport to the processing plant at Death Valley Junction. The original site of Ryan was the Lila C. borax mine whose operations began in 1890 and continued until 1914. To learn more about "Borax". its uses, and Borax mining at Death Valley, click here ... Borax Mining at Death Valley. It was renamed to Ryan in 1907 with the opening of a post office. Its population peaked at 250 during this period. The Lila C. mine here was richer then all other Death Valley borax mines combined, producing over $8 million. During the late 20’s, as some of the mines began to play out, the Pacific Coast Borax company could see the end was near and launched a plan to recoup some of their investment and lost revenue. Improvements and accommodations were made to the old Greenland Ranch and it was renamed Furnace Creek Ranch. At the top of a bluff at the mouth of Furnace Creek Wash the company built the Furnace Creek Inn. It opened in February 1927. The community center at Death Valley Junction was turned in to the Amargosa Hotel and dormitories at Ryan were converted in to the Death Valley View Hotel.

Death Valley View Hotel
(Fig. 07)
Views from the hotel (Fig. 07) offered visitors a sweeping vista of Furnace Creek Wash and Death Valley.The plan was for people to ride a series of railroads to Death Valley Junction where they would transfer to the company’s Death Valley Railroad for the ride to the Furnace Creek Inn at Death Valley. After the mines closed in October of 1927, visitors had the second option of staying at the Death Valley View Hotel in remodeled buildings at Ryan, which was renamed Devair. This plan to attract tourists never took root. The arrival of Black Thursday in the fall of 1929 and the stock market crash that brought on the Great Depression abruptly ended the tourist boom. In 1930 the Death Valley View Hotel and the Death Valley Railroad were shut down for good, causing the town of Ryan to sit idle for the next 78 years.
In 1952 the San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History started to use the town as their base of operations for their spring time study sessions. Two years later those same students partnered with Ranger L. Floyd Keller in Ryan and created the Death Valley Natural History Association. Over this period Ryan’s founder, Pacific Coast Borax, merged with United States Potash Company, later to become US Borax in 1956. In 1967 US Borax was acquired by the Rio Tinto Group. Sixteen years later in 1983 through 1991 the US Borax exploration department quietly staked mining claims and drilled exploratory holes on the basalt-capped plateau above Ryan. In 1994 Death Valley National Monument became Death Valley National Park. In 2005 Ryan saw its neighbor, the newer and more modern Billie Mine, owned by American Borate Company, shut down operations. Ryan remained quiet a few more years and then Ryan started to catch a lot of people’s attention.
The National Park Service started to note in their plans and reports in 2005 that Ryan would make an excellent place for an educational center and expressed desire to partner with Rio Tinto. In 2007 the park service and Rio Tinto started to discuss the idea of Rio Tinto donating Ryan to the park service.
In 2008 the Death Valley Conservancy was formed and Rio Tinto decided that the best decision was to donate Ryan to the conservancy. Rio Tinto and the Death Valley Conservancy began the transfer process. In 2012 the San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History session was not allowed to return to Ryan. Rio Tinto and Death Valley Conservancy propose upgrades to a water collection system at Navel Spring inside Death Valley National Park. And a short time later a Fundraising Agreement is entered into between the National Park Service and Death Valley Conservancy.
On May 6, 2013 the Death Valley Conservancy announced the transfer of ownership of Ryan Camp from Rio Tinto to the Death Valley Conservancy. In addition to the land and property, Rio Tinto will contribute $750,000 in financial support to the DVC in the first year, with further support scaling up over time to $18 million. The money will be used to address deferred maintenance and provide an endowment to help keep the site protected into the future. Rio Tinto's financial support will allow the DVC to preserve and restore Ryan Camp, as well as promote research and education centered on historic preservation and archaeology.

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