Crater Sulfur Mine

The area surrounding the Crater Mine contains the largest deposit of sulfur west of the Mississippi River. It was created by a hydrothermal reaction to the vapor phase of a hot spring system feeding up through limestones and dolomites. The sulfur deposits were discovered in 1917, but little took place to recover it until around 1929.

The Crater-El Capitan Mining District consisted of a small number of mines. The largest of those workings was the Crater Group, which supported a small company town, aptly named Crater. Crater never grew into anything more than a “one horse town,” reaching its peak of thirty-six people in 1931.

The Crater Mine was active until 1953, when a sulfur-dust explosion blew-up the mill site.  Some small-scale mining took place between 1957 and 1986. In the 1990s a large-scale mining operation moved in, destroying what had remained of the former town of Crater, and much of the early mining equipment.

When Death Valley graduated from Monument to National Park in 1994, additional land was added to NPS protection, but Crater was not included because of its status as private land. Despite its current state of abandonment the Crater Mine remains private property, and consists mostly of abandoned machinery from the later era of mining.



About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.