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Death Valley National Park

History

The Timbisha Shoshone lived in the Panamint Range for centuries, visiting the valley every winter to gather acorns, hunt waterfowl, catch pupfish in marshes and cultivate small areas of corn, squash and beans. In 1933, when the national monument was created, the tribe was allocated a paltry 40-acre village site near Furnace Creek, which they still occupy. Their grievance was partly redressed when President Clinton signed an act granting the tribe over 7000 acres in 2000. Learn more at timbisha.org.

The fractured geology of Death Valley left many accessible minerals, and the earliest miners here in the 1860s sought gold, silver, copper and lead. A dozen mines were started in the surrounding mountains, each closing as the ore played out. The most sustained mining operation was the Harmony Borax Works, which extracted borate, an alkaline mineral used to make detergents. The stuff was shipped out in wagons pulled by 20-mule teams and hauled 165 miles to a railhead at Mojave, a grueling trip that took 10 days. By the late 1920s, most of the mining had ceased.