Recently, I hiked out to some mines in the Upper Confidence Wash of Death Valley, but I still hadn’t been to the Confidence Mine itself. I needed to fix that.
The mine is one of the oldest in Death Valley, being first worked in 1895. One story goes that a Paiute Indian named Bob Black found gold float in Confidence Wash and tracked down the hillside where it came from. He sold it to Frank Cole and Jimmy Ashdown for $4,000, who in turn sold it to George Montgomery for $36,000. A small fortune in those days.
The lack of resources proved too much of a barrier for the mine to be profitable though. Even as soon as the next year, 1896, the Inyo Register called it one of the “most difficult and expensive mines to work in the country owing to the scarcity of fuel and water principally, but freighting from Daggett [is] equally as arduous a task.”
It certainly is a remote place even today. Imagine trying to work this mine and ship ore to Daggett over a hundred miles away by mule and wagon. Good luck. It was, however, worked again briefly by foolishly optimistic souls in 1909, 1915, and 1934 in false hopes of getting some gold out of this mountain.
I didn’t visit it on this trip but down where Confidence Wash eventually empties out on to the floor of Death Valley is the old site of the failed Confidence Mill. It is getting trickier to find these days. Perhaps, I will go pay it a visit.
Not far from the mine is the Confidence Wash Dugout. I don’t know its origin, but I suspect it was some early prospector that dug it out. Some folks put work into fixing it up a few years back. I’m sure they did a good job cleaning it up, but the mice have since moved back in and made a big mess of the place. It is not worth staying in currently.
The dugout contains a spring bed, stove, canteen, and a few other sundry historical items. Leave everything you find here. An emergency cache of water and food is located inside a wire mesh box.
To get to the start of this cross-country trek, drive north on highway 127 for 1.7 miles (2.7 km) from Shoshone, California (this is the southern end of Death Valley) and turn left onto highway 178. Follow this road for 14.8 miles (23.8 km) (you will drive over Salsberry Pass and pass the turnoff for the upper trailhead for Confidence Wash). Park at a wide gravel pullout on the north side of the highway. If you drove to Jubilee Pass, you went too far.
|Hike Distance||7.3 miles (11.7km) Out & Back|
|Elevation Gain, Loss||1740 ft (530m) gain round trip.|
|Hike Time||4 hours|
This desolate cross-country hike follows an old mining road to a side canyon and then directly into the middle of Confidence Wash instead of the normal Upper Confidence Wash trailhead. You could start there and hike down the wash, but this route is quicker and easier.
Hike south directly across the highway from the pullout. You won’t be able to see the old mining road at first, but it will come into view soon enough. Follow it to the top of the saddle and down the other side of the hill. The road is rough and loose in a few places as it drops down to the Mister Mine, which is a small and featureless iron prospect about 0.75 miles (1.2 km) in. Find the easiest way down a rocky slope to drop into the wash here. There is a small dryfall but it can be easily bypassed.
Head down this side canyon of Confidence Wash. It will pass through a few narrow spots before opening up into a broad wash. Don’t try this hike in warm weather. There is no shade in this scorched landscape.
At 2.6 miles (4.2 km) our side canyon meets up with the main Confidence Wash and we round the mountain and turn eastward and upstream. The mine is another mile (1.6 km) up the wash. A faint zigzag miner’s trail climbs up to the ore bin high above.
I will let you discover the dugout on your own. It is just up the wash waiting to shelter another wayward visitor in this forsaken land.
Last Updated on May 21, 2021 by Guy Starbuck