Lori Carey Photography

Monday, January 19, 2009

Black Mountain Rock Art District, Part III - Scouts Cove

From our last stop we continued along the trail through Black Canyon. This section of Black Canyon Road wraps around the western side of Black Mountain, first through a sandy wash and later alongside a lava flow. Our next stop was at the site of the Black Canyon Stage Station. There was little to see here but the snow was deep enough for the kids to have a friendly snowball fight.

There is no water source at the Stage Stop, which is perhaps the reason it did not last. About a mile and half further down the trail is the Black Canyon Well (also known as Dove Springs and Pigeon Springs) and a stone trough. At one time there was also a windmill, but that has long since disappeared. It's not known for certain when the well was dug; the first public record is dated 1915 but it is thought to have been dug in the 1870's during the Death Valley mining boom. Apparently once the well was dug the stage began stopping at this location instead of the original Stage Stop. There is another Tillman signature at this site - "A. & J. Tillman, Sep. 30, 1974".

We couldn't find the trail to the famous Birdman petroglyph (perhaps access is being restricted), so in another mile we took a side trail to Scouts Cove, an opal mining camp that was financed by the Tiffany Jewelry Company of New York during the turn of the century. The Scouts Cove Mine shaft was one of the first chosen by the State of California for remediation due to the danger of the open shaft and it was filled in early 2003, but Opal Mountain is still popular with rockhounds for fire opal and jasper. Small pieces of fire opal were easy to find and we each left with a pocket full of tiny pieces and a few good nuggets. I keep thinking that one of these days I should buy a tumbler and polish some of my finds so at least they look better on display.

The most unusual feature at Scouts Cove are the tufa mounds. Tufa, like that found at Mono Lake and Trona Pinnacles, are calcium carbonate deposits - exactly the same material as stalagmites. But tufa has a spongier texture and is formed differently. Almost all methods of tufa formation require water so I'm speculating that this area was at one time under water, but I haven't been able to find any information to confirm that.

A shelter was dug in one of the tufa mounds. There are two holes in the roof, one for the fireplace and one for ventilation. Of course the sun was on the opposite side from the entrance, sorry for the bad light in this shot:

I found a copy of Desert Magazine from November 1958 that showed a photo of what was called the Scouts Cove Dugout. It appears to be this same structure, but at that time the entrance was elaborately framed with rocks, including an arch. I suppose those are the rocks seen lying at the base of the structure now. One can only wonder if the damage was done by vandals or the harsh environment. The 1958 photos of the Scouts Cove area are really neat to see and I found the accompanying article fascinating so I've embedded here if you're interested. The article begins on Page 18 and the photo of the shelter is on Page 21.

195811 Desert Magazine 1958 November

I'll conclude this trip with photos from Inscription Canyon tomorrow. If you want to visit Scouts Cove, here is a map of its location:

View Larger Map

Nothing after the jump.

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