China Ranch - Date Farm – Trip Notes for 05/20/2015

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This page last updated on 03/26/2018

(Fig. 02)
05/20/2015 Trip Notes: My friend Jim Herring and I decided to go hiking at the China Ranch Date Farm located just south of Tecopa, California. After turning onto the access road to the ranch you pass through a vary narrow slot-like canyon that that contains dozens of old gypsum mines along both sides of the road (Figs. 01 & 10). Mine shafts abound in the area around China Ranch, as the area has a rich history of mining booms and busts. Lead, Silver, Gypsum and Talc are the primary minerals that have been extracted here. These were all part of the Gypsum Queen Mine (see below for more).

After stopping at the gift shop and bakery and eating an entire loaf of their delicious date nut bread, we decided to hike the Cliffs Trail (Fig 04). See below for a description. Their date nut bread alone is worth the trip 160 mile round trip dive to this desert oasis. After returning to the trailhead and enjoying a refreshing date shake, we walked along the Creek Trail, passing by several large patches of Yerba Mansa (Anemopsis californica) (Fig. 02) before reaching one of the date orchards where we just sat on a bench in quiet conversation, taking in the peacefulness of the area and enjoying the view (Fig. 03). We then walked back to the bakery and bought two more loaves of date nut bread to take home.
Cliffs Trail-4
(Fig. 04)
The Cliffs Trail (1): From the trailhead behind the gift shop and bakery, this trail is a challenging trail  that requires hand and foot climbing over two ten to fifteen foot vertical dry falls, with a little steep climbing on loose footing at the end of the trail. Though this trail is about 2 miles or more in length (R/T), we did not climb the last of the dry falls. From the gift shop, walk straight down the canyon. When the trail forks bear left, dropping down into China Ranch Creek. The creek bed is wet and brushy, and the outlet on the opposite bank is marked with a rock cairn. One must carefully wind their way through the thorny mesquite, then across the mud flats. The trail will turn left into the major drainage between the soft, light colored clay hills on the left and the darker, hard rock mountain on the right (Fig. 05). As you follow the wash uphill you pass some very colorful geology and even a few plants (Figs. 06 thru 08). The plant in (Fig. 07) is a Desert Holly. Click here for more pictures and information ... Desert Holly (Atriplex hymenelytra). Continue climbing until you dead end at the base of a sheer vertical cliff several hundred feet high (Fig. 09). You are now in a nicely formed natural "bay", hidden away in these ancient lake bed sediments. Rather than hike the same route back we decided to cross the China Ranch Creek again and hike across the desert to the Acme siding and ore loading site and the old Tonopah and Tidewater rail bed. From here we hiked the Slot Canyon Trail back to the gift shop and bakery where we sat and enjoyed a nice refreshing date shake.
(Fig. 05)
(Fig. 06)
(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
(Fig. 09)
The Gypsum Queen Mine: The deposits (Figs. 01 & 10) of the Gypsum Queen mine are located on the China Ranch in Inyo County, just southeast of Tecopa, California. Operating primarily between 1915 and 1918, the Gypsum Queen mine was made up of nearly a half dozen individual mines sites (Fig. 10). The road leading to China Ranch passes right through the middle of the bed. Because the gypsum bed deposits found here are flay-lying with much over burden, it was mined with open stopes from tunnels. The room and pillar mining used here, seen in the collage in (Fig. 11), was used extensively in California. For a time mining was carried on at the rate of nearly a thousand tons a month. The mines were closed shortly after October 31, 1917 after two men were killed in a cave in.
(Fig. 10)
The ore, seen in the collage in (Fig. 03), was transported on the Tonopah and Tidewater railroad to a Los Angeles mill that produced plaster of Paris, wall plaster and fertilizer. As a fertilizer, gypsum is used to improve penetration by water during irrigation, particularly for potatoes in Kern County. Other crops in the area of greatest use include citrus and deciduous orchards, vineyards, cotton and vegetables. The Portland cement industry in California is another important consumer of uncalcined gypsum, using between 100,000 to 150,000 tons a year. Its function is to retard the naturally fast set of Portland cement. A little more than half of the gypsum consumed by the building industry is in the form of prefabricated products, By far the most important are gypsum wallboard, lath, and sheathing board.
2015 Gypsum Queen Mine
(Fig. 11)

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