Skidoo Mill | Death Valley, California
Overview – Skidoo Mill, Death Valley, California
Adventure to occur Fall of 2021!
Skidoo, located near Emigrant Canyon in the Panamint mountain range above Death Valley, California, is an old California gold rush ghost town. The hills around Skidoo have around 1,000 abandoned mines along with the remains of iron machinery, wooden cabins, old rusting cars and other odds and ends from the mining era. The largest, most impressive remaining structure is the Skidoo Stamp Mill used to extract gold from raw ore. The Skidoo Stamp Mill is built on a steep hillside which slopes 3,000ft down towards Telephone Canyon. Its location on the slope was due to the use of running water and gravity in the gold extraction process.
Additional points of interest in the Panamint Mountain Range:
Directions – Skidoo Mill, Death Valley, California
From Las Vegas take Hwy 190 through Pahrump. Continue on 190 through Death Valley. Pass Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells (Skidoo is about 27 miles from Stovepipe Wells). Turn left at Emigrant Campground onto Emigrant Canyon Road. In 9.4 miles turn left at the well marked sign for Skidoo. The ghost town of Skidoo is 7 miles up the road. Reach the Skidoo Stamp Mill in another 2 miles. Along the way there are 3 unmarked forks in the road. Keep to your left at each fork.
Observations, Skidoo Mill, Death Valley, California
History of Skidoo
In 1906, two miners traveling to nearby Harrisburg, located on the Aguereberry Point road, discovered gold in the Skidoo area. By 1907 James Arnold, proprietor of the Skidoo Trading Company, had founded Skidoo. Skidoo existed for just 10 years from 1907-1917 until 75,000 ounces of gold worth $1,600,000 (at $20/ounce) had been extracted from the surrounding hills depleting the gold ore in the area. The total cost of the operation as about $300,000 leaving about $1,300,000 in profit amounting to an average of about $130,000 per year. It doesn’t seem like much for all that work, but in 2021 dollars the profits would amount to nearly $3,000,000 per year.
These profits helped support the 700 residents of Skidoo, including over 100 mine workers, along with the town’s telephone exchange, post office, newspaper press, school and bank. The mine was managed by Matt Hoveck for whom the post office was originally named. Some mining sporadically continued until 1942 and by the 1980s most of the town’s buildings were gone.
Where there’s a lot of money, there is bound to be some drama. In 1908 Joe Stimpson, co-owner of the Gold Seal Saloon with his partner Fred Oakes, was accused of murdering James Arnold. An angry mob hung him from a telephone pole. Legend (unproven) has it that the towns people dug Stimpson up and re-hung him for the benefit of the press, so Stimpson is referred to as “the man who was hung twice“.
Skidoo Stamp Mill
As mentioned, the Skidoo Stamp Mill extracted gold from ore by means of water and gravity. It was the only water-powered mill in the Death Valley area. The water was piped from a spring 23 miles South on Telescope Peak. The locals believe this was the origin of the slang term “23 Skidoo” which was used to mean “go away”, “beat it”, “scram” while the going is good! Curiously, the term “Skedaddle“, which originated in the 1800s, may have contributed to the meaning of “23 Skidoo“.
In addition to the early 20th century gravity-feed system for separating gold form its ore, there are 4 mercury amalgamation tables and nine large cyanide tanks which still leach cyanide into the environment causing an environmental hazard. Antimony, arsenic, lead, mercury, molybdenum and zinc were found between 2014 and 2016 at levels above natural background conditions, so at this time the gold ore extraction area is closed to the public while it’s being determined how to clean up the pollutants.