Until it’s closure in 2008, the Keane Wonder Mine and Mill was the most popular and most heavily visited mine site in Death Valley National Park. Unfortunately, it was closed because of unsafe mine openings along popular trails, concerns about the stability of the tramway due to tension from the cables, and concern about the contents of the mill tailings.
Keane Wonder Mine has been closed for almost ten years, but in November 2017, just two weeks before we visited the park, the Keane Wonder Mine reopened to the public!
When we arrived in Death Valley and visited the Visitor Center in Furnace Creek, we picked up a guide to the park with a park and some tourist information. When flipping through it, we were shocked to read about the reopening of Keane Wonder Mine and were so excited! We love visiting old gold mines and learning about mining history and the timing of our trip was perfect!
We couldn’t wait to check out the mine and mill remains and the old aerial tramway… Our third day of adventuring in Death Valley National Park began with walking the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail and the Harmony Borax Works Interpretive Trail, visiting the Borax Museum, and driving through Mustard Canyon on our way to check out the Keane Wonder Mine. After our hike and lunch, we stopped at Zabriskie Point, explored Twenty Mule Team Canyon, and drove out to Dante’s View. It was a jam-packed day and the Keane Wonder Mine was a big highlight!
Keane Wonder Mine And Mill
The Keane Wonder Mine was one of the most successful gold mines in Death Valley, producing almost one million dollars in gold. Today it stands as one of the best examples of a historical gold mining operation in the national park.
The most fascinating, incredible part of the mine remnants is the well-preserved aerial tramway that still has the cables attached. We’ve visited and toured gold mines all over northern California and have never seen one with an aerial tram, let alone one with the cables still intact!
Traveling one thousand feet down in one mile, the tramway cars began carrying over 70 tons of ore per day from the mine, down the steep Funeral Mountains, to the mill in 1907. By 1912, the mine was mostly tapped out and major operations ended.
Hiking Around The Mine
First, near the Keane Wonder Mine parking area, we explored the region where the mine camp and the mill were located. Then we took a short walk up the trail at the end of the road for impressive views of the lower tram terminal and the first few tram towers.
With full Hydroflasks tucked in our adventure packs, we then began the steep hike up the trail, climbing 1,500 feet in elevation in 1.4 miles, to the upper tramway terminal, the Keane Wonder Mine, and spectacular, panoramic views of the valley below. I have to say, it was incredible to actually see an ore cart hanging from the tramway cables! I also was intrigued by the glittering, sparkly rocks covering the ground and trail all over the mine area.
If you have a chance to visit this historic Death Valley gold mine, do it! The hike is a bit challenging, but totally worth the effort.
Know Before You Go
- To reach the Keane Wonder Mine And Mill, turn off CA-190 onto the Beatty Cutoff. After almost 6 miles, turn onto the marked dirt road, Keane Wonder Road and drive 2.8 miles to the parking area.
- As part of the restoration done to reopen the mine to the public, more than 50 mine openings have been covered. If you happen upon an open mine, stay out for safety reasons.
- Do not climb on the buildings, equipment, or tramway. Though stabilized, they are not safe to climb on.
- The Keane Wonder Mine and Mill is an abandoned mining facility located in the Funeral Mountains within Death Valley National Park in Inyo County, California.