Thursday, December 20, 2012

Laughlin, NV ~ Nov 04-05, 2012

The adventure continues with the drive from Bakersfield to Laughlin. This is your quintessential wide open spaces drive with a spider web of blue highways and roads less travelled. We took Hwy 58 east to Hwy 40 east to Hwy 95 north.

We went from hill county covered in valley oaks to an autumn desert that was more colorful than expected: green, tan and gold with soils of black, red, gray, and ochre. It was sunny and warm with very little traffic.

Arrived in Laughlin in the late afternoon, tossed our stuff in the room at the Aquarius Hotel and took a walk on the Promenade along the Colorado River. We had a light dinner, spent a little time in the casino and called it an early night.

Monday morning after breakfast we took off to find the Katherine Mine. It was discovered by my grandfather John Sherman Bagg. He worked as a teamster hauling ore from the Sheepstrails Mine to their mill down along the Colorado River. The road took him past a solitary granite knob protruding from a flat gravel plain. One day he decided to pan some samples and in September 1900 he staked his claim and named it the Catherine Mine (original spelling) after his sister.

John Sherman Bagg

He mined about 2,000 tons of ore from the Katherine between 1900-1903. The mine was leased out in 1903 and an unknown amount of ore was removed before the it was closed in 1904 and sold to the Arizona Pyramid Mining Company. He sold the mine so that he could pursue a degree in mine engineering. He attended Claremont College and then UC Berkeley where he met my grandmother Hazel Hobson (more on them later).

The young ranger at Lake Mojave Park didn't have a clue about the location of the mine, but after a little exploring we found an obscure sign at one of the landings.

A large area of tailings from the mine is closed off by chain link fence for safety reasons (Our guess maybe 1/5 mile wide and 4/5 mile long). In the early days cyanide and other hazardous chemicals were used for gold extraction. We could see the remains of at least four coffer dams. Satellite imagery from Google Earth is quite impressive. We parked and followed the fence line up the hill and found the ruins of the mine. Pretty amazing to touch a piece of your history.

Then and now

I didn't realize until I saw both photos side by side, but if you look at the mountains in the distance, you can see the line of sight is almost the same. You can see a portion of the tailings out past the remaining foundations of mine buildings. In the distance you can see Lake Mojave, which was at the time, the Colorado River before Davis Dam was built.

One of the mine entrances, long since filled in for safety reasons.

More research will be needed for these large pipes, they were either for pumping water and slurry out of the mines or for the tanks holding the processing chemicals.

On a whim I called the Colorado River Museum in Bullhead City, AZ. We had stopped by but they are closed Sundays and Mondays. I talked with Vicki and told her who I was and what I was researching. She also gave me her phone and told me to call next time we were in the area and she'd open up for us. They have articles and photos including one of author, Louis L'Amour, sitting on the steps of the bunkhouse at the mine. The historic documents are not yet digitized but the project is in the works.

In correspondence with L'Amour's grandson, Beau, I found out that Louis never wrote specifically of the Katherine Mine, but it is mentioned in his book, The Education of a Wandering Man. Guess I'm going to have to find a copy of that one!

Each door I open provides more trails to follow and kindred spirits along the way. I'm beginning to understand the love of the chase. Stay tuned.