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2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 3; Panamint Valley and Trona-Wildrose Road

After reaching the eastern Panamint Range Gap in California State Route 178 located in Searles Valley near Trona I took Trona Road north to the Inyo County Line.  At the Inyo County Line Trona Road becomes Trona-Wildrose Road and drops into Panamint Valley. 






This blog is a continuation of Part 2 which summarized the history of the Panamint Range gap in CA 178.

Part 2; CA 178 Panamint Range Gap

Trona-Wildrose descends to the floor of Panamint Valley which is a large desert basin directly west of Death Valley.  Panamint Valley is similar to Death Valley but has a low elevation of approximately 1,100 feet above sea level as opposed to the -282 feet below sea level in Death Valley.  Panamint Valley is separated from Death Valley to the east by the peaks of the Panamint Range which are generally to the right in all the photos of this blog.

Trona-Wildrose Road is mostly paved but not in very good shape.  The asphalt is breaking up and rough to drive upon.  Despite it being a serviceable roadway and a decent shortcut to Death Valley National Park the routing of Trona-Wildrose Road coupled with the terrain of the far reaches of the Mojave Desert is somewhat ominous.

Trona-Wildroad Road intersects Ballarat Road on the floor of Panamint Valley and is notable due to it being the access point to two ghost towns; Ballarat and Panamint City.






Ballarat is mostly known for being a hideout of the Manson Family which inhabited the ghost town in the 1960s.  Ballarat opened in 1897 when gold and silver mining claims were discovered to the east in the Panamint Range.  Ballarat apparently had a peak population of approximately 500 people before the mines played out and Post Office Service discontinued in 1917.






To the east of Ballarat at approximately 6,300 feet above sea level in Surprise Canyon was the location of the Panamint City Mine.  The Panamint City silver mine claim was discovered in 1872 but the community sprang up about a year later.  Panamint City was flooded out in 1876 and some of the miners headed east over the Panamint Range into Death Valley where Borax claims were discovered.  Apparently Panamint City hung on into the 1890s before dying out completely.  Today Surprise Canyon Road still leads to Panamint City but vehicular access has been blocked off.






Trona-Wildrose Road was under repair by Inyo County when I was passing through.  The repair included shifting traffic onto a temporary dirt alignment which was in questionable repair.  I was able to make it through the make-shift dirt segment of Trona-Wildrose Road to where the pavement resumed near Panamint Valley Road.








Death Valley National Park traffic is directed to CA 190 via Panamint Valley Road.  Ahead Trona-Wildrose Road becomes Wildrose Road which continues to Emigrant Canyon Road which serves as an alternate into Death Valley over the Panamint Range via the approximately 5,300 foot Emigrant Pass.

Emigrant Pass is where the Death Valley 49ers crossed the Panamint Range on foot after abandoning their wagons in Death Valley.  The Death Valley 49ers accidentally stumbled into Death Valley attempting to find a short-cut to Walker Pass following the events of the Donner Party Crossing of the Sierras.  The Death Valley 49ers would head south through Panamint Valley to Searles Lake before cutting west towards Walker Pass (which ironically they missed).  Emigrant Canyon Road, Wildrose Road and Trona-Wildrose Road essentially follow the path of the Death Valley 49ers which make them among the earliest surveyed routes through the Mojave Desert.






From Panamint Valley Road I turned east on CA 190 and approached Death Valley National Park over the Panamint Range via Towne Pass.



Trona-Wildroad Road, Wildrose Road, Panamint Valley and Emigrant Canyon Road all appear on the 1935 California Division of Highways Map of Inyo County as County Maintained.  The incomplete routing of CA 190 on the Eichbaum Tollroad is shown crossing Panamint Valley and ascending Towne Pass.

1935 Inyo County Highway Map 

Part 4 of this series can be found here:

2016 Fall Mountain Trip Part 4; Death Valley and Dante's View Road

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