Harrisburg and the Eureka Mine, Death Valley, Cal

Trek Date: October 7, 2015

After leaving the site of Journigan's Mill, I continued south along Emigrant Canyon (Wildrose Canyon) Road until I reached the turnoff for Aguereberry Point. I followed the dirt road (which appears to be regularly maintained) east until I arrived at the Eureka Mine and the ghost camp known as Harrisburg.

Pete Aguereberry

It was back in July of 1905 that Pete Aguereberry and Shorty Harris ran into each other at the Furnace Creek Ranch, and possibly due to the heat, decided to head up into the Panamints to do some prospecting. When they arrived on the open plateau now known as Harrisburg Flats, one of the men (each of course claiming it was him) saw something that attracted his eye on the north side of a low, long hill. Pulling out a pick and chipping off a sample, the material contained free gold. The two men divided up the outcroppings, with Harris taking claims on the south side of the ridge and Aguereberry staking claims on the north side. They came up with a name for the camp which was sure to boom on the site, they called it "Harrisberry."

News of gold always spreads quickly, and within a month there were at least twenty parties of prospectors staking claims in the surrounding area. By October, a townsite had been surveyed and an active business section was soon in operation. The Cashier Gold Mining Company, which now operated the claims Shorty Harris had established, employed twenty-three men who each earned $3.50 a day. By the end of the year, numerous claims had been staked within a five-mile radius of Harrisberry and the region was swarming with miners.

The mines in the area, and specifically the Cashier claim and Aguerreberry's Eureka claims all had their ups and downs. Sales were made, litigation was litigated, feelings were hurt but  gold continued to be produced. The rich strikes at nearby Skidoo enticed many of the miners to leave Harrisberry, as miners always seem to think the prospects are more golden on the other side of the mountain.

Shorty Harris later took sole credit for the discovery which launched the gold activity in the area and changed the name of the camp to Harrisburg. But he didn't stick around long, he was a wandering man. Pete Aguereberry, however, spent some 40 years working his Eureka claims, interspersed with doing odd jobs in the area: stage driver, cattle rancher, road builder.

All that remains today of Harrisburg are the ruins of Aguerreberry's homestead, scattered bits of mining machinery, some collapsed dugouts, what's left of the Cashier Mine Mill and assorted pieces of desert gold on the hill and plateau. But it's a fascinating site to visit. I love poking around places like this and could have easily spent the entire day doing so. An interesting contrast appears on each side of the hill. The Cashier group  of mines on the south side of the hill were operated by a large-scale commercial interest which is evident by the impressive mill ruins and the cement foundations. While on the north side, Aguereberry's Eureka claims were basically a one-man operation that produced gold for forty years.

I pulled T-Red into the small parking area and set out to explore. The tunnel in the middle of this photo is that of the Eureka Mine. It has tracks leading into it, but the entrance has been gated shut. A blacksmith shop was located to the right of the mine entrance.

Looking in through the gate, into the Eureka Mine. I would love to be able to go in and explore, but it was not going to happen. Aguereberry reportedly gave tours of his mine to tourists; but only his ghost is around these days.

The Eureka Mine is located at the east end of the hill that contained all the gold. I decided to circle the hill, so I headed southwest and followed along the base.

This stone dugout is located just a short distance away from the Eureka mine tunnel. Was it a residence, a storeroom, an office? I don't know but my guess is that it was a living area. It at one time had a brush and pebble roof. 

I wonder how many people knocked on the front door over the years and what kind of stories this place could tell.

The ruins of the Cashier Mill stand on the south side of the hill, below several of the main mine shafts of the Cashier Mine. When originally built, wood walls enclosed the operation but those walls have long since disappeared. The mill is still very impressive, even after some 100+ years of life. It's not enclosed or gated, so visitors can get up close and personal. Hopefully no one takes advantage of that.

There are other mines out in those hills in the distance, and I could make out some wood frame structures or ruins, but exploring those will be saved for another day.

I continued climbing to the top of the hill, wondering how much gold was still waiting below my feet. From the crest, a grand view of Aguereberry's homestead opened up.

The north side of the hill has several shafts and tunnels, I believe this side of the hill belonged to Aguereberry. It's amazing the amount of work he put in over the years, as his was basically a one-man operation.

I commenced hiking back down the hill and then cut across it at a low point, skirting a small ravine that drains to the back of Pete's homestead. It would have been too steep to try to head straight down.

The building at the far right is most likely Aguereberry's original two-room home, built sometime around 1907. The middle cabin was a guest house, built in 1941. It contained three bedrooms and one bathroom, complete with toilet, sink and shower. The two-room cabin on the left was probably built in the late 1940s, when Pete's nephew, Joseph, became administrator of the property.

A couple views inside Pete's original cabin. The fridge was empty.

The above five images were taken from inside the three-bedroom guesthouse. It certainly would have been great to see this place back in the 1940s or even 1950s. The white buildings with green trim, the rock work and paths, it must have been a neat place. There's a lot of junk out back to check out as well.

Continuing east along the north side of the hill, I came across this site. Perhaps all that wood and metal was a chute that brought ore down to the valley floor? There are a couple mines up there and a lot of tailings.

My walk around the hill was almost complete. This last tunnel has a fairly large opening in at its entrance, maybe used for storage or perhaps even a shelter. Looking deep in there, you can see sunlight coming in from a shaft that must have connected with the tunnel.  

Pete Aguereberry's ride. One of my favorite things at Harrisburg.

Enough barrels for a race, but not a horse in sight. This brought me full circle around the rich hill that was the site of a lot of drama over the years. Definitely worth the visit if you ever have the chance. Building ruins, mines, collapsed structures, a mill, lots of desert gold AND an old car. These are a few of my favorite things.

Google Earth view of the Harrisburg area.

A six-minute video of the Harrisburg/Eureka Mine area. Please take the time to watch, and maybe leave a comment or "Like" the video on the Youtube page.

If any of my pictures strike your fancy, feel free to left click to enlarge them and then right click to save them. Use them for whatever you like, credit back to Cali49.com would be nice, but it's not required. You can't copyright a mountain.