Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

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Death Valley Dazed
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Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by Death Valley Dazed » Thu Jul 12, 2018 1:36 pm

The remains of the borax haystacks way out near the Cottonball Marsh are eroding rapidly. The West Side Borax Camp AKA Shovel Town is difficult to locate having been exposed to nature for over a century.

I happened to stumble upon two of the borax haystack fields on my way out and back from The Cottonball Marsh. Here are a video and stills to document the haystacks as they existed in 2015 and 2017. Also included are images and comments by our very own Candace_66 and Gowergulch who added their expertise. Google Earth was a big help as well.

I do hope to make it out on the flats again soon and try to locate a few more of the haystack fields before they wash and blow away forever.

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MojaveGeek
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Re: Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by MojaveGeek » Thu Dec 26, 2019 10:03 am

A lot of the stuff that is visible from the air is hard to find on the ground due to its low profile. Best way is to mark some waypoints in your GPS and then go out hunting. Despite their low profile - we called them Borax Pancakes - they are still a cool thing to come across.

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Re: Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by Death Valley Dazed » Thu Dec 26, 2019 1:55 pm

MojaveGeek wrote:
Thu Dec 26, 2019 10:03 am
Despite their low profile - we called them Borax Pancakes - they are still a cool thing to come across.
Funny story about those Borax Pancakes. My first trip out to the Cottonball Marsh in search of those precious pupfish had no context of the history of borax mining. I had yet to learn anything about how and who scraped it all up for processing. So when I stumbled upon several acres of the pancakes out in the middle of what appeared to be nowhere I was totally mystified by what natural or alien forces created those symmetrical formations. I wondered if anyone else was even aware of them due to their remote location.

I took photos and went to the Visitor's Center the next day with those images on my MacBook and happened to greet veteran Ranger Bob Greenberg who feigned mystification as to what those pancakes were. He wisely let me wonder and fantasize about their origins being man-made or alien-made for several months until of got up to speed on the history of borax mining, Shovel Town, and the Harmony Borax Works. The fun of all of this is one reason I'm so hooked on Death Valley.
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Re: Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by MojaveGeek » Thu Dec 26, 2019 2:38 pm

That's pretty funny :) Yes it would be strange to just stumble upon them!

I knew about them for decades, from Gephardt's old thin quirky dayhike guide (which was all there was when I first showed up out there in '90) but took me decades to go looking for them.

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Re: Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by Death Valley Dazed » Fri Dec 27, 2019 10:46 am

MojaveGeek wrote:
Thu Dec 26, 2019 2:38 pm
...strange to just stumble upon them!

I knew about them for decades, from Gephardt's old thin quirky dayhike guide (which was all there was when I first showed up out there in '90) but took me decades to go looking for them.
I've Google Earth'd the flats out there and can detect four areas of disturbance that match my exploration of three separate pancake/haystack sectors. I've got at least one more to explore before they vanish completely. Please don't ask which one because I'm going by memory which is known to be faulty as the San Andreas. :laughing:
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Re: Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by Candace_66 » Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:47 pm

While you're hunting for borax haystacks / pancakes / windrows, here's some intel about a group of windrows farther south...

I spotted them while driving back to the Badwater Road from the parking area at the end of the Desolation Canyon Road. I parked along the Badwater Road and strolled out to them. IIRC they're only about 1/4 mile or so from the Badwater Road.

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Re: Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by Death Valley Dazed » Sun Jan 05, 2020 10:55 am

Candace_66 wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:47 pm
IIRC they're only about 1/4 mile or so from the Badwater Road.
Candace, thanks for your intel. I hope to check this out during my next visit to DV which can't be soon enough.

I have as much fun wandering around the valley flats as I do the canyons and mountains. Especially around the sunrises, sunsets, moonrises, and moonsets when the light takes on magical spectrums.
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Re: Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by Death Valley Dazed » Mon Feb 17, 2020 9:11 am

Candace_66 wrote:
Sat Jan 04, 2020 8:47 pm
IIRC they're only about 1/4 mile or so from the Badwater Road.
Candace, correct me if I'm wrong but I believe you've spotted the vintage roadway remains from Furnace Creek to Badwater? (Excuse my misspelling of canyon)

Image

and

Image

and finally,

Image
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Re: Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by Candace_66 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:02 am

There are some windrows out there, I promise! After I left desolation canyon, I stopped along the Badwater Road and walked out to visit them. :grin: My notes mention crossing that old road while walking to and from.

Look around 36°23'31.4"N 116°51'17.0"W ...there is a larger group just west of that. :cool:

There are also a few windrows at 36°23'15.2"N 116°51'10.8"W which is right next to the Badwater Road, near Mushroom Rock.


Looking at Google Earth, I see what appears to be a recent set of wheel tracks going across the valley floor, passing near these windrows. :roll:

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Re: Goodbye to Borax Haystacks & Shovel Town

Post by Death Valley Dazed » Mon Mar 02, 2020 5:03 pm

Candace_66 wrote:
Tue Feb 18, 2020 9:02 am
I stopped along the Badwater Road and walked out to visit them. There are also a few windrows at 36°23'15.2"N 116°51'10.8"W which is right next to the Badwater Road, near Mushroom Rock. Looking at Google Earth, I see what appears to be a recent set of wheel tracks going across the valley floor, passing near these windows.
Thanks for your detailed follow up which assisted me in locating them on Friday, February 28th on a surprise one day adventure into the park. I did not take the time to thoroughly explore the area closer to Mushroom Rock where all of those tire tracks and other windrows show up on Google Earth. There was someone out there who appeared to be performing some sort of survey and marking exercise. I did not take the time to approach him or to inquire.

I crossed what appeared to be the old grade from the previous Badwater Road or maybe just a road to reach the borax windrows? I did not cross any fresh tire tracks.

As usual, I enjoyed the stroll out to the windrows and back on a lovely clear day. Thanks again Candace for your attention to detail.

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Surveying Off Road Damages Near Badwater Road

Post by Death Valley Dazed » Mon Mar 16, 2020 9:36 am

I happened upon this Pahrump Valley Times article about NPS seeking grants for damage restoration:
https://pvtimes.com/news/death-valley-s ... ing-81945/

and wondered if the person whom I saw in my video was a surveyor so I emailed Ranger Alison at Furnace Creek for inquiry. I'll come back here and report if I gain any further information.
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