The town of Greenwater was a classic mining boomtown. It was located in Greenwater Valley, which is east of Death Valley over the Black Mountains. The Greenwater Range is the eastern border of the valley. Greenwater was a copper mining area. The first indications of copper in the valley were observed in 1880. Two prospectors dug out a small spring that slowly filled with green-tinged water, giving the valley its name. Those prospectors filed a copper claim which was the first of several copper claims to be filed in the Greenwater area, including the Copper King and Copper Queen claims. These claims all lapsed, but were resurrected in 1904 when Arthur Kunze, the “Father of Greenwater,” grubstaked claims that were known as the Copper Queen and Copper Glance. In 1905, six additional claims were staked out about six miles north of Greenwater Spring and were incorporated as the Furnace Creek Copper Company with paper capitol of $1,250,000. The corporation sold stock on the eastern mining exchanges, sparking a frenzy of escalating stock prices. During this time, steel magnate Charles Schwab bought copper claims in Greenwater and organized the Greenwater and Death Valley Copper Company with a capitol offering of 3,000,000 shares at $1 a share. Mr. Schwab’s involvement lent credibility to Greenwater as an investment opportunity. The stampede to Greenwater began in late July and early August of 1906. By July 29 of that year, seventy men had gathered at Greenwater Spring to organize the Greenwater Mining District. Within a month, there were a thousand men on the ground in Greenwater, followed by mining engineers and promoters from Nevada mining areas. There were 4500 claims filed covering about 150 square miles.
Three towns were established in the Greenwater Mining District in August, 1906 -- Greenwater, Furnace and Copperfield. By September 1906, the Tonopa Lumber Company had sold 150,000 feet of lumber to Greenwater camps and mines. By April 1907, a telegraph and telephone line extended to Greenwater from the town of Rhyolite, and within a few months Greenwater had two newspapers, a bank, a drug store, a boardinghouse, two stage lines and, of course, several saloons. Water sold for $15 a barrel or $1 a gallon. About $200,000 was spent constructing a thirty mile long water line from Nevada, which was not completed.
At its height, thirty mining companies were established to tap Greenwater’s mineral riches. It is estimated that $30,000,000 was invested in Greenwater in a matter of four months. No one ever found a paying mine. In 1907 there was a general stock panic and mining stocks began to fall, Greenwater’s quicker than most. Within months, the Greenwater mining district was on its last legs. By September 1907 there remained a hundred people living in Greenwater, but by September 1909, Mr. Schwab terminated the last of the major mining operations after digging a shaft reaching 1404 feet without striking ore.
Today there is little left of Greenwater, except for the roads that served it, a mark on the map, and a collection of rusting cans and remnants of the activity that took place there.
Petro Road was the most direct route from the east to the settlement of Greenwater, which was located at its western terminus at the beginning of the twentieth century. It began as a horse and horse-drawn wagon route serving the Greenwater Mining District and connecting Greenwater with roads and transportation to the east. Greenwater was a major destination and home for over a thousand people. Petro Road ran from Greenwater through Greenwater Canyon to the borax mining works on the east side of the Greenwater mountain range. In 1907 there was a railroad established at its eastern terminus. With the dissipation of the population center at Greenwater, Petro Road continued as a motorized route through Greenwater Canyon, used primarily for recreation, sightseeing, law enforcement, land management, and traveling in and through the area. It continued to be a motorized vehicle route from Furnace Creek Wash Road through the Greenwater Range to Death Valley Junction until it was closed by the Park Service. There remains a serviceable road for most of the route.
Early in the twentieth century, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors accepted Petro Road into the County maintained road system. This action made Petro Road a County highway over which the County exercises custody and control. The County maintained the western portion of Petro Road to the mouth of Greenwater Canyon prior to and after 1976. The eastern portion of Petro Road, just north of Death Valley Junction, is still open and maintained to the boundaries of Death Valley National Park.
The National Park Service has barricaded Petro Road in the Park, closing the route, and has stated that Petro Road is closed due to its inclusion in the Death Valley Wilderness Area created by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994.
Lost Section Road was established at the beginning of the twentieth century as the most direct route south and west from Greenwater to Willow Springs and the small communities located in the vicinity of Willow Springs. (This Willow Springs is in the Black Mountains and is a different spring than the Willow Spring located at the northern terminus of Last Chance Road.) Lost Section Road was established as a route of convenience and by 1905 was a horse and horse-drawn wagon route connecting Greenwater with Willow Springs, one of the few springs in the Black Mountains. At one time there were two communities in the Willow Springs area, one with saloons and one without.
Lost Section Road traversed Gold Valley and provided access for mining prospectors, who discovered gold in that valley in the early 1900’s. With the dissipation of the population center at Greenwater, Lost Section Road continued as a motorized route through Gold Valley to Willow Springs, used primarily for recreation, sightseeing, law enforcement and land management. Much of Lost Section Road remains open and may still be used to access Gold Valley and the Willow Springs area. About a three mile section, beginning where Lost Section Road originally intersected with Furnace Creek Wash Road, was included in the Death Valley Wilderness Area by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. This section of the road is referred to as Lost Section Road South. It would have been the intersection used by travelers heading south from Greenwater or beyond to Gold Valley and Willow Springs.
Early in the twentieth century, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors accepted Lost Section Road into the County maintained road system. This action made Lost Section Road a County highway over which the County exercises custody and control. The County maintained the eastern portions of Lost Section Road, including Lost Section Road South, by grading and other maintenance activities. The action by the County accepting Lost Section Road as a County highway demonstrates that the highway is a public road.
In March, 2004, Inyo County performed normal maintenance on Lost Section Road South by grading the road. Subsequent to the grading, the National Park Service informed the County that it had trespassed on the easement and asserted that Lost Section Road South was closed by virtue of its inclusion in the Death Valley National Park Wilderness area. The Park Service physically blocked access to Lost Section Road South and began converting the highway to a natural condition, as it would have existed in the 1800’s.
Last Chance Road historically served as a foot and horse route providing the shortest route through the Last Chance mountain range from the Big Pine and Willow Spring Road to the north to the (then) northern terminus of the Death Valley Road in Death Valley to the south. Last Chance Road’s northern terminus is at (the northerly) Willow Spring. It originally diverted at the head of Last Chance Canyon to Last Chance Spring, creating a desert mountain route between the two springs. The route then entered Death Valley by Last Chance Spring Road, which may still be driven today.
By 1957 the route no longer diverted to Last Chance Spring. It entered and continued through Last Chance Canyon into Death Valley by a steep descent into the canyon. It provided a separate continuous route through the Last Chance Range and provided access to Copper Canyon, which branches east from Last Chance Canyon. Prior to and after 1976, the southerly portion of Last Chance Road was utilized as a dirt four-wheel-drive road north from Death Valley through Last Chance Canyon and to the head of Last Chance Canyon, also providing access to Copper Canyon. It was used primarily for recreation, sightseeing, law enforcement, land management, and traveling in the area. The northerly portion of the road also remained passable by motor vehicles and was graded. The northerly portion of the road provides access to the steep head of Last Chance Canyon and to an overlook of most of that canyon, several hundred feet below.
Last Chance Road is located in north Death Valley National Park. The southern terminus of the road is reached from Big Pine, California by traveling east on Death Valley Road to Crank Shaft crossing, where one turns north. Death Valley Road is a paved and maintained dirt road that passes Joshua tree flats, Eureka Valley, the Eureka Dunes, and a portion of Last Chance Range before turning south into Death Valley. The northern terminus of Last Chance Road is reached by taking the Eureka Valley Road north and east from Death Valley Road to North Eureka Valley Road to Willow Spring. Willow Spring is a flowing spring in a Joshua Tree forest.
Early in the twentieth century, Last Chance Road was accepted into the County maintained road system. This action made Last Chance Road a County highway over which the County exercises custody and control. The action by the County accepting Last Chance Road as a County highway demonstrates that the highway is a public road.
The National Park Service barricaded the southern terminus of Last Chance Road and signed the northern terminus, closing the route, and has stated that Last Chance Road is closed due to its inclusion in the Death Valley Wilderness Area created by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994.
Padre Point Road is an approximately one mile spur from State Highway 190 that connects Highway 190 to a scenic overlook of Rainbow Canyon and Panamint Valley. Highway 190 is a major artery connecting Death Valley and Panamint Springs with Olancha, Keeler and Lone Pine to the west. It was constructed in the early 1930’s and provided an alternative and improved route from the west to Panamint Springs. Padre Point Road has been continuously maintained by Inyo County since its inception. The road has seen continuous automobile use since its construction, providing motorized access to Padre Point overlook.
Padre Point Overlook honors Father John J. Crowley. A memorial to Father Crowley is located at the intersection of Padre Point Road and Highway 190. Father Crowley lived from 1891 to 1940. He was a Catholic priest whose parish in 1919 and the early twenties covered 30,000 square miles in Mono, Inyo, Kern and San Bernardino Counties. He celebrated Mass at the top of Mt. Whitney and on the floor of Death Valley and was respected by persons of all faiths in his community. He was a great booster of Owens Valley during hard times for the area in the twenties and thirties. Lake Crowley in Long Valley (Mono County) was named for him. Father Crowley traveled from the eastern Sierra to Death Valley many times, putting 50,000 miles on his Model T Ford in his first 16 months of serving his parish. He died in 1940 in an automobile accident on State Route 14.
Prior to 1976 Inyo County took Padre Point Road into the County maintained road system. This action made Padre Point Road a County highway over which the County exercises custody and control. The action by the County accepting Padre Point Road as a County highway demonstrates that the highway is a public road.
Padre Point Road was included in the Death Valley Wilderness Area by the California Desert Protection Act of 1994. However, it remains open and may be accessed by traveling east on Highway 190 from Olancha or on Highway 136 from Lone Pine.
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Copyright © 2001 County of Inyo
Last Updated: March 28, 2007