Other than visiting the Visitor Center in Furnace Creek, there aren’t a lot of indoor activities at Death Valley National Park. So when we saw that there was a privately-owned Borax Museum at our hotel The Ranch At Death Valley inside the oldest building in the valley, I had to check it out.
The problem is that every day, we’re out of the hotel early in the morning and we don’t return until it’s dark and most everything is closed — and I wasn’t sure we’d ever be at the hotel during the day when the museum was open. But because of a work phone call Brian had scheduled it all worked out.
His call was at 9:00 am, which gave us enough time to walk the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail and the Harmony Borax Works Interpretive Trail before the call. Then while Brian took the call, the kids and I visited the Borax Museum.
The Borax Museum
There’s white gold in Death Valley and it’s called borax, a mineral found primarily in two places on the planet — Turkey and the California desert.
The Borax Museum is in a small wood building — the oldest structure in the national park. Built in 1883 by FM ‘Borax’ Smith, founder of the Pacific Coast Borax Company, it originally stood in Twenty Mule Team Canyon and was an office, a bunk house, and an ore checking station. Today, part of the building is the museum and part of the building is the Ranch At Death Valley Trading Post — a small store and gift shop.
The museum covers the history of borax mining in Death Valley and the history of Harmony Borax Works. If you’re interested in the history of mining and the magic of the old west, you’ll truly enjoy a visit to this museum.
Inside the museum, you’ll find historical artifacts, newspaper clippings, old mining tools, historic photos, samples of borate minerals, and relics from the Shoshone Indians. Outside the museum in the back, you’ll find a stagecoach, mining and transportation equipment, one of only two surviving original Twenty Mule Team Wagons, pioneer days artifacts, Old Dinah (a steam tractor and wagon that replaced the Twenty Mule Teams), and a Baldwin 280 Locomotive from the mining era of Death Valley, 1885-1927.
Know Before You Go
- The Borax Museum is located at the Ranch At Death Valley property on Date Grove Road in Furnace Creek, California 92328 with in Death Valley National Park in Inyo County.
- Exhibits include a mineral collection and the history of borax in Death Valley. Behind the museum building is a assembly of mining and transportation equipment.
- Be sure to pick up a free information sheet that provides information about each item on display in the outdoor portion of the museum.