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LAND OF EXTREMES: Tumco Mining Ghost Town

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The Tumco Historic Townsite is an abandoned gold mining town located off I-8 on Ogilby Road in Winterhaven, California. It sits on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land amid the Cargo Muchacho Mountains. Tumco is one of the earliest gold mining areas in California with a 300 year history consisting of several periods of success and failure.

Before the gold rush, Imperial Valley had Spanish and Sonoran soldiers, settlers, and laborers all mining gold in the mountains of the southeastern portion of Imperial County, known as the Chocolate Mountains. It is here where the story of the Cargo Muchachos [loosely translated as 鈥渓oaded boys鈥漖 originates. According to early accounts, two young boys were playing in the mountains trying to mine for gold like their fathers. Upon returning to their camp they discovered gold all over their clothes! From then on, the mountains were named the Cargo Muchacho Mountains and word traveled fast that these mountains were 鈥渓oaded鈥 with gold. Afterwards, numerous small mines were operated and mining companies moved into the area, which purchased claims and developed the mines on a large scale.

In Imperial Valley the first local to discover gold in the area was Pete Walters of Ogilby, who first discovered a gold vein at Gold Rock on January 6, 1884. Gold can be deposited in many ways, but gold veins are a miner鈥檚 dream! Gold veins are solidified streams of high-grade minerals, ripe for the picking. From here the first gold camp commenced, originally known as Hedges, which reached its peak development between 1893-1899 with about 3,200 residents. Hedges was abandoned in 1905 and later renamed. Tumco stands for The United Mines Company that bought the mines in the area in 1910. Unfortunately, in 1911 it was once again abandoned after costly efforts and diminishing prospects of gold.

Although little can be seen of Tumco today, during the boom time of the 1890鈥檚, it supported a population of at least 500 people and the 40 and 100 stamp mills of the mine produced $1,000 per day in gold. Ultimately, over 200,000 ounces of gold was taken from the mines in the area.

IVDM Lowlanders: Tumco Mining Ghost Town Hike

Mining has a rich and long history in the Imperial Valley. To learn more about mining in the Imperial Valley, come hike one of California鈥檚 last surviving ghost towns this Sunday, October 15 with the IVDM Lowlanders. Hike through the old town center, explore the graves of its cemetery, and see the massive cyanide vats which made mining possible. IVDM staff can鈥檛 wait to share this history with you!

The Imperial Valley Desert Museum is located in Ocotillo, California. It is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. 鈥 4 p.m.

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