Old Stovepipe Wells (Death Valley National Park)

Old Stovepipe Wells isn’t much to look at these days, essentially just a California Historic Landmark plaque, and a capped well. It wasn’t always this way, in the early 1900’s during the mining boom at Rhyolite in Nevada, and Skidoo in the Panamint Mountains, Stovepipe was a pretty happening place.

The well was located at the junction of two known Indian trails, and the only known water source on the road between the two booming mining communities. The well was notorious for becoming obscured by blowing sand, inevitably making it difficult to find. Eventually a crafty and resourceful individual placed a stovepipe at the well for easier identification. The water at the well was anything but enjoyable, an early traveler was quoted as saying, “The water is very low in the spring, is of a yellowish appearance and intensely nauseating in taste. Its odor is very disagreeable, and it can be smelled for half a mile away.”

 

California State Historic Landmark plaque

California State Historic Landmark plaque

 

The capped well.

The capped well.

 

In early 1907, efforts were made to improve the water, and a small settlement popped up at Stovepipe to serve the freighters, and travelers between the two remote mining towns.

The Rhyolite Herold reported, “The Stovepipe road house is quite an up-to-date place. The equipment includes a grocery, eating house, bar, lodging house, corral, stock of hay, grain and provisions,–a little community in itself where travelers may find rest and food for themselves and their beasts.”

By 1908, both Rhyolite and Skiddo were on the decline, the need for accommodations at Stovepipe quickly dried up. The small community was abandoned, with all traces returned to the sand.

 

Ruins of a bottle house at Old Stovepipe Wells in 1940.

Ruins of a bottle house at Old Stovepipe Wells in 1940.

 

Taken back.

Taken back.

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.

1 Comment

  • At the motel, somewhere near Stovepipe Wells, the wind came and with it this storm like I’ve never seen. We huddled at the motel restaurant feeling safe from the storm feeling wild and crazy from this natural event.

Leave a Comment