Mule Tail Mine (Death Valley National Park)

The Mule Tail Mail - Looking down Marble Canyon
The Mule Tail Mail - Looking down Marble Canyon

The Mule Tail Mail – Looking down Marble Canyon

 

The Mule Tail Mine is located in a remote region of Death Valley National Park – the upper reaches of Marble Canyon.

The discovery of the Mule Tail Mine is credited to Shorty Harris, a legendary Death Valley prospector. Discovered in 1904, it is often cited as his first discovery in the region. Shorty would go on to be credited with the discoveries of Bullfrog in Nevada, and Harrisburg in the Panamint Range.

The Mule Tail discovery was initially located as a talc mine, however there was enough traces of gold and tungsten in the ore, that it set off a rush – and so began the Goldbelt Mining District.  But the Goldbelt district never really took off, despite attempts by several parties. The camp that sprung up near Goldbelt Spring, became a ghost town before those that moved in had the opportunity to unpack.

Shorty’s mine had a short revival in 1916, with $1,500 in ore being removed in March of that year.

The Mule Tail Mine - Inside the lower adit the rail tracks remain intact.

The Mule Tail Mine – Inside the lower adit the rail tracks remain intact.

 

Mule Tail Mine - Discarded ore cart.

Mule Tail Mine – Discarded ore cart.

 

After 1916, the records for the mine are nonexistent until the mine exchanged hands in 1941. The mine’s new owner, William C. Thompson, improved the roads leading to the mine, and purchased new machinery. Despite his efforts, little to no new work was performed during his ownership.

Today the Mule Tail sits in shambles. The adits have collapsed in places, and are very unstable. A discarded rusty ore cart sits near the rail tracks leading out of the lower adit, and rotten lumber from fallen ore bins lies scattered across the landscape.

The view from the mine is breathtaking, in one direction a view straight down Marble Canyon, and in the other, the jagged peaks that surround Hidden Valley.

The Mule Tail Mine - Looking toward the jagged mountains, surrounding Hidden Valley. The old mining road is clearly visible in this photograph.

The Mule Tail Mine – Looking toward the jagged mountains, surrounding Hidden Valley. The old mining road is clearly visible in this photograph.

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.

  • David Taylor

    Which is it, Mule Tail or Mule Tale? Either one works for me.

  • Michael

    I have been exploring this region for many, many years. I am an Inyo county property owner. I think it is wonderful that you have found these places and want to share your experience. The problem is every time someone writes/blogs/exposes these hidden gems, then more and more people come out and eventually things get carted off, petroglyphs get chiseled out, trash piles up, and the place is a little less sacred. I have resisted the temptation to “show off” my exploits to the world, but as the days go on more and more books are written, the net is full of waypoints and coordinates, and the world is shrinking ever so. Please respect the fact that some of these places just need to be left for the wayward wanderer and not for the masses. There is a fine line between educating the public about these treasures and leaving the possibility of delightful discovery that happens only when you set out to explore an “unknown” region where very few humans bother to take time to physically tread.

  • LAEVE

    You gotta love a mine called ‘Mule Tail”. As always, great story and pictures!