Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Road to the Champion Mine

We came in from the east or north, depending on how you view the direction of I-80 as it traverses the entire north-south length of the west flank of the Humboldt Range from Florida Canyon to Limerick Canyon northeast of Lovelock.

The Oreana–Rochester exit from the north on I-80.
We took Exit 119, turning off onto the Oreana–Rochester road, a paved road that goes up Limerick Canyon to Spring Valley Pass and the turnoff to the Coeur Rochester Mine.

The I-80 underpass near Oreana.

Go straight ahead, under the underpass, do not turn left back onto the freeway, unless you'd prefer to go to Rye Patch or points north.

The junction of the Limerick Canyon and Rochester Canyon roads.
To get to the Champion Mine, stay left at this junction, on the paved Limerick Canyon road. Don't take the dirt road to the right, which goes to Rochester Canyon. After the junction, you will take the first dirt road to the left, a fairly decent alluvial fan road. The right turn onto the road to the Champion Mine is marked below in my newly added location section, above the blog tags or labels (if clicked, the location will open in Google Maps).

No trespassing sign.
The dirt road up Rolands Canyon to the Champion Mine is a narrow, high clearance road with lousy turnouts in case you happen to meet someone coming up or down. You'll pass a small No Trespassing sign, which is there because of the spring and an old, not presently used (AFAIK) trailer at the cottonwood tree.

Rolands Canyon should be Rowlands Canyon, named after R. H. Rowland, who had some claims in the area of the Humboldt Queen Mine and Humboldt Queen Canyon back in the 1920's (NBMG Bull. 8, p. 10). Humboldt Queen Canyon is not named on topo maps of the area, but lies between Rolands Canyon and Limerick Canyon (MSRMaps location; USGS TNM Viewer topo).

We took a little side road to the Humboldt Queen, which gave us this view of the spring...

...and this view of the Champion Mine, high on the hill above Rolands Canyon.

A long time ago, on one of my first mineral collecting and mine visiting trips in Nevada, I went to a dumortierite prospect or old mine high on the western range front of the Humboldt Range up some long and narrow — and I thought rough — 4WD road. A long-time grad student with plenty of Nevada and 4WD experience was driving; he exhorted me to always drive with my thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel when traversing backcountry dirt roads.

Most 4WD trucks (all?) lacked power steering back then, and if you hit a rut or rock, the steering wheel could twist radically, and thumbs could get sprained, or worse. (Ford introduced power steering in trucks in 1959 (or 1954?); it became an option in their 4WD trucks in 1979 (or standard by 1977?).)

I still drive with my thumbs outside the wheel on dirt roads.

View of the main Champion Mine workings from a very old road.
The road to the Champion Mine has few pullouts in its steepest and curviest spots, and someone coming downhill when we were going up had to (begrudgingly, it looked like), back up and pull over into a large bush-tree to let us continue going uphill. (A Rule of the West: Drivers going uphill have the right of way on dirt roads, although it seems like very few people know that these days.)

When MOH and I walked up the part of the road that is now completely impassable, I thought the old road, now washed out and heavily overgrown, looked like it hadn't been used for at least 50 years. (But it's been quite a while since I actively knew the ages of old roads and had a lot of practice with road-age estimation.) And when I couldn't identify a road going right to the main dumps, I was became convinced that this wasn't the same dumortierite mine I went to back in '76. (Air photos do indicate a road going to the upper dump, coming in from the direction I remember, so it *is* possibly the same mine.)

Current end of the road, as seen from some lower workings.
And so, we had reached the end of the road and turned around and parked leaving room for someone else to turn around if they came up while we were hiking and prospecting. And we had hiked up the old, overgrown road and climbed the hill to look at the lower workings.

To be continued...


Utemike said...

When I moved to Elko in the early 90's (since moved away), I rented from a Nevada couple. She had grown up in the house beside the Rochester road, the one with all kinds of stuff in the yard (almost an organized Thunder Mountain).

I remember him bringing out a handful of ammonites and telling me he picked them up along the Rochester road. I never got around to looking for them, but I always think of that couple when I pass that exit.

As he described it, sounded like a shale layer in the area.

Silver Fox said...

I've seen small fossils in the Prida Fm, not sure if it occurs anywhere along Rochester Canyon, but it might. Will keep my eyes open next time I'm up there.