Click on the 4Runner
or contact us at
for tour information.
of Last Chance Canyon is a new organization interested in
sustaining and protecting areas within the El Paso
Mountains, near Ridgecrest, California. The main focus is
preserving and protecting historic sites like Burro
Schmidt's tunnel and the Walt Bickel Camp.
on either logo to visit the FLCC site.
taste the difference--so can you
SEASON! Click the NIFC logo above to see what's burning.
SAVE A TREE---GET A
Click on the bag to find
SEE YOU IN DEATH
31-February 3, 2008
Don't put it off to
the last minute, now is the time to register for the 8th
Death Valley History Conference.
include Sally Zanjani (Hang Me If You Will: Homicide and
the Goldfield Legal System), Robert Palazzo (The
Mystery of the Cleveland Mining District), and Susan
Sorrells (The Ashford Brothers, Their Lives as Miners in
there are a number of new presenters including Jim Price (The
Wedding of the Waters) and Cecile Vargo (Louis D.
Gordon - The Man Behind Cerro Gordo's Zinc Era).
L.D. Gordon-The man behind Cerro Gordo's zinc
The purpose of the
conference is to encourage original research on the Human
History and Prehistory of the Death Valley area and to
disseminate that research through presentation at the
conference and publication of the papers in the proceedings.
For complete information on the
conference, contact the Death Valley Natural History
Explore Historic California!
Not too many years ago, the family station wagon was the
magic carpet to adventure. Today, that family station wagon is likely to
be a four wheel drive sport utility vehicle or pick up truck. SUV's and
other 4x4's are one of the best selling classes of vehicles. Ironically,
industry statistics show that once purchased, few owners will dare to
drive their vehicles off the paved highway.
Click your mouse through
website and enjoy our armchair adventures and the histories behind them.
If you are interested in taking one of our guided tours with your
vehicle, please contact us at:
Several years ago, we bought our first SUV. We went to a one-night class
at a local community college entitled "How to 4-Wheel Drive" by Harry Lewellyn.
The following weekend we attended the hands-on day tour. We liked what we were
doing so much that we began going out nearly every weekend and learned how to
negotiate a variety of dirt roads. Our spare time was spent doing research on
the history and ecology of our favorite areas. A one-day outing turned into 16
years of leading others on mini-vacations throughout Southern California and the
Our 4WD outings involve driving on easy to moderate dirt roads and are
ideally suited to novice and intermediate level drivers. All tours are suitable
for stock vehicles in good condition, although some tours do have vehicle size
Our tours are
operated under permits issued by the Bureau of Land Management, and other authorities.
We share our knowledge of the backcountry over the CB radio with our
guests. We frequently stop to explore mining areas, old and new, and ponder the
rocks, plants and animals we may encounter. We'll occasionally visit an old
cabin or deserted mountain lookout.
California has a fascinating history, from geologic unrest and
prehistoric petroglyph scribes to the "Radium Queen of the Mojave" and the
"Human Mole of Black Mountain." Load up your 4X, fasten your seatbelts and get
ready to explore historic California.
Roger, Cecile and Marty
Christmas Delivery at Bodie
Sparks Jordan Disaster
by Cecile Page Vargo
The month of snow fall between
mid-December 1910 and January 16, 1911, would have come as no surprise for the
residents of the mining town of Bodie who had become accustomed to digging
themselves out of one and two story buildings during the harsh and grueling high
elevation winters. When the first snowflakes hit, they more than likely grinned
and bared it, and went about their way preparing for the holidays as usual,
secure in the fact there would be a white Christmas.
While local children
made lists for Santa and fell asleep on Christmas Eve with visions of sugar
plums in their heads, the adults in town were filled with equal anticipation.
The mines in Bodie had been running on electricity generated from the Green
Creek Power Plant since 1893, but the rest of the town was in the dark for the
most part. Since the spring of 1910, papers had been touting the arrival of
electricity from the newly built Jordan Power Plant at the base of Copper
Mountain twenty miles away. Now, along with all of the delights of Christmas Day
the switch would turn on at last for most everyone in town!
HYDRO ELECTRIC COMPANY AT JORDAN
APRIL 25, 1910 Bodie Miner
Actual construction work
commences. Supplies for power plant in route from Minden to Jordan. Some
ideas of the size of the plant can be had by the construction calls for
12,000 feet of wooden pipe, 48 inches in diameter and 31000 foot of steel
pipe from 48 inches to 36 inches. The plant will be in operation by the
first of August. The freight coming along for the hydro-electric plant at
Jordan is in at Thorn - two transformers weighing 12 ton each. This will
make it necessary to build a steel track for carrying. The dynamos are
monsters being 12 foot high and 11 feet wide. Which will manufacture juice
JUICE WILL ARRIVE IN BODIE ON
December 24, 1910 Bridgeport
The hydro Electro Company is stringing wires for the distribution of light
and power to the residents of Bodie. The pipeline is completed and it is
expected that the juice will be turned on Christmas Day.
Jordan hydroelectric power plant was located at the base of Copper
Mountain, near the center of this photograph taken in August, 2007.
The area is north and west of Mono Lake, near the intersections of
Highways 395 and 167.
Life in Bodie and
other Eastern Sierra communities continued on after Christmas, with high winds
and heavy snows raging around them. Thermometer readings often dipped twenty
and more below zero. Roads were often closed for days at a time, making travel
virtually non-existent. One resident recalled the story of a secretary to the
Power Company and her unusual snow mishap that winter. After work one day, Miss
Cassin headed to the Occidental for dinner. The snow was so deep she had to
stoop under the power lines on Main Street. Snow was melting away from the
buildings and mounted against the walls. As Miss Cassin prepared to duck under
one line to get across, she slid down the snow and directly into the dining room
taking the window frame in with her.
On March 6, 1911 yet
another storm raged in the Eastern Sierras. Emil and Gus Billeb lived with Nat
Smith and Ed Stinson on the Bodie bluff near the railroad and lumber company
office. By the second day of the storm, the four decided to go to town until it
was over and wait it out at the Occidental Hotel. It took them four hours to
travel from the hill to Main Street, only a half a mile away. The snow reached
the roofs of houses and visibility was nearly zero. Another half hour was spent
traveling the few blocks down Main Street to the Burkham Barn where the horses
would be stabled.
On March 7, the town
of Bodie went dark for the first time since power had been delivered on
Christmas day. The old oil lamps were brought out once again. When the storm
died down the next day efforts began to dig out and get the roads opened in town
and to the outside world. Work went on through the dark of the night, with no
electricity to light the way. The telephone lines were down, until the next
morning, when a caretaker at Mono Mills finally made connection 17 hours later.
The word was that the Jordan Power Plant had been wrecked but the true extent of
the tragedy can best be told in the newspaper stories that followed in days to
AVALANCHES BRING DISASTER,
DESTRUCTION AND DEATH
Parties Are Searching for Bodies of Unfortunate Victims
BUILDINGS OF PACIFIC POWER COMPANY AT
COPPER MOUNTAIN ARE DEMOLISHED
Plant at Crystal Lake Gold Mining Company at Lundy is Buried Under a
Mountain of Snow
thief in the night, the mountainside came to the valley, took the
lives of those in its path, leaving broken hearts and desolate homes
in its wake. As soon as the news of the calamity was known willing
hands took up the work of rescuing those who perchance might be
alive or the bodies of those beyond human aid. The minds of Bodie
are closed and an army of shovelers are opening a road to Copper
Mountain, 20 miles distant. Meantime the rescue work at the power
plant is progressing rapidly.
H. Mason. Yesterday the rescue party found Mrs. Mason alive and she
was taken to J. A. Conway’s, where every care and attention is being
given her. With her husband she occupied one of the cottages that
was destroyed and for nearly 60 hours was entombed in the wreckage.
Reports this morning indicate that she will recover.
who was occupying a cabin a short distance from the power plant.
The Rescue Party Is Making Good Progress and Expects To Find The
Other Bodies Today
storm this week has been the most destructive to the life and
property of any in history of the county-so far nine lives being
lost in snow slides.
o-clock Wednesday morning the power and light went off at Bodie and
investigation proved that a snow slide had demolished the building
of the Pacific Power Company at Jordan and that eight lives were
lost in the disaster.
dead are: R. H. Mason, H. M. Weir, E. M. Peacock, Harold Hardy, Ben
Pessner, John Sullivan, Patrick Stromblad. As soon as the news of
the terrible accident reached Bodie Thursday forenoon relief parties
were organized and in a few hours nine men on snowshoes started for
in the day another party left for the scene of the disaster in an
effort to relieve the situation. Linemen, Paul Greenleaf, of the
Pacific Power Co. and L. A. Larson of Bodie were the first to learn
of the catastrophe. Wednesday morning they left Bodie to locate what
was supposed to be a break in the line and traveled the entire
distance to the power plant, which was found wrecked and covered
went to Mono Lake in an endeavor to communicate with headquarters,
but found the telephones at Mattley’s and Hammond’s out of
commission. Going to C. W. Bogt’s place they finally reached the
Bodie office by the way of Mono Mills Thursday morning.
scene of the accident is 20 miles from Bodie where a power plant of
200 horsepower was installed last year by the hydro electric Company
and turned over to the Pacific Power Company at the first of the
year. The pipeline from Lundy, a distance of seven miles, carries
the waters of Mill Creek along the north side of the canyon and
around to the east side of Copper Mountain where there is a fall of
1500 feet to the power house.
building was a one story concrete structure and the machinery
therein was the most modern. Two concrete cottages were built to
accommodate the employees and the slide demolished these as well as
the power house.
ordinary conditions the buildings would be considered safely
situated as they stood nearly 1000 feet from the steep part of the
mountain, but the unusually heavy snow upset all calculations and
the catastrophe arrived.
the buildings were wrecked, the machinery was but slightly damaged.
At one time a smelter was in operation there in a building that has
stood there since 1879, was destroyed by the big slide, as were
several other structures nearby that had been erected 30 years.
lines were furnishing power and light to Bodie, Lucky Boy and
Hawthorne and would be supplying the mines and mills of Wonder,
Nevada. It is believed that the plant will be in operation again
Saturday March 18, 1911
Clearing Up Wreck Of The Disaster
terrible snow slides of last week that destroyed the life and
property at Jordan, Lundy and Masonic are the worst ever known in
the county. The power plant at Jordan, where the greatest loss of
life took place, was only erected last summer and the current was
turned on last Christmas Day furnishing light and power for Bodie,
California, Aurora, Lucky Boy, Hawthorne, Fairview and Wonder,
THE JORDAN POWERHOUSE SITE TODAY
LEFT) R. H. Mason, and other Jordan avalanche victims are buried on
a small hill about one mile north of the site of the powerhouse.
Their headstones were cut from insulating panels used at the
(TOP RIGHT) A
section of riveted iron penstock rusts near the old powerhouse
(RIGHT) View of
the concrete discharge channel from the old powerhouse looking west
toward the avalanche path on Copper Mountain.
Bodie Ranger Rod Duff for inadvertently sending
us on an adventure to Jordan following his excellent stamp mill tour
earlier this year.
Norm De Chambeau for sharing his family history
and sparking our interest more during an impromptu visit to the Mono
Lake School House Museum
David A. Wright for the special gift of The
Album which helped us to put the pieces together after our on site
Volume 1, Number
Electrifies The World"
by Barbara Moore
by Barbara Moore
“The Mines Are Doing Well
by Michael Piatt
North Bay Books
Ghost Town of Bodie-A California State Park
by Russ and Anne
by Emil Billeb
by Thomas C.
Pioneers of Mono Basin