Thursday, September 8, 2016

Leadfield: Views from Old Mine Buildings

Now we'll leave the parking area near the Leadfield sign and, as I promised last time, we’ll walk out to what I’ve been referring to as the “far west cabin," although maybe that should really be "far northwest cabin." (I have this habit of thinking of Titus Canyon as an east-west canyon, when in fact, the Leadfield section is oriented closer to southeast-northwest than east-west.)
From the trailhead across from the Leadfield sign, I zoomed in to get this shot of the northwesternmost cabin at Leadfield proper. It sits at the end of an old road, past the main dump and past downtown Leadfield.
Once again, these photos will be an agglomeration from two trips taken by MOH and I; the first was back in early May of 2009, the second was earlier this year in late February.
A prominent old building sits just below the main dump.
Lengner and Troxel (2008) have this building located on Western Lead Mines Company's (WLMC) March Storm Claim No. 2. It looks like it's #3 on their map; #3 is labeled “Frame and Iron Warehouse.” (The bolding is theirs, presumably to indicate the function or name of the building.)
A dried plant, last year's wildflower, in front of the old warehouse.
When we went through Titus Canyon in February, 2016, we were on our way to see the superbloom that was going great guns down near Badwater. It looked like Titus Canyon's wildflowers would be putting on a good show later in the spring.
Here's the view from inside the warehouse. We're looking nearly due north, up the main branch of Titus Canyon. We'll join this branch just below Leadfield.
Here's a geologically labeled version of the same photo.
The geology, from Niemi (2012), is fairly simple (now that someone else has mapped it!), with the Titus Canyon Formation (EOgtc) being overlain by the Panuga Formation (Tg), and it being overlain by the Wahguyhe Formation (Tw). From this angle, we can see one branch or splay of the Fall Canyon Fault Zone (FCFZ) snaking away from us, more or less heading up Titus Canyon where it disappears beneath a large jumble of what has been mapped as QTls, Quaternary or Tertiary landslide deposits.

But let’s move on.

Hike, hike, hike, walk, walk, walk…and we’ve arrived at the metal building we first saw from Red Pass (!); it's sitting on leveled ground next to a mine dump.

The creosote was in bloom when this photo was taken in May, 2009. When doing field work down in the Mojave (which this qualifies as, roughly speaking) we used to say, “The field season is over when the creosote starts blooming.”
The "far west cabin" at Leadfield is on WLMC's March Storm No. 1 claim according to Lengner and Troxel (2008). It's listed as "Frame and Iron Compressor and Engine Room."
A number of outcrops on the rocky slopes behind the old building show some goethitic iron-oxide staining. As I've mentioned before, these are the sorts of exposures that would catch the eye of an oldtimer prospector, and I'd be remiss, when doing exploration, if I didn't at least walk over to take a look.

It’s about this time during a typical Leadfield excursion that I usually note a bird or a lizard, if I haven't seen any on the walk over to this site.
And sure enough, here's a lizard sitting on what looks like a bit of breccia!
And what can we see looking out the window of this metal shack?
Well, depending on which window we choose, either a brushy, rocky slope or...some geology! (I see geology everywhere, however.)
We look to the north-northeast out a roughly square window that has been elongated by my crude photo stitching.
To this same photo, I've added some geological labeling (from Niemi, 2012).
This is fairly typical geology for this area, this time with a few down-to-the-east faults drawn in, including the mostly dotted-in fault that partly separates the foreground bluff from the background scrabbly-looking hills (it's dotted because we can't really see it from this angle). The faults are all essentially strands or offshoots of the FCFZ. A westerly major strand of the large fault zone lies just off the photo to the left (west, and seen in the geology-labeled earlier photo above), and an easterly major strand cuts through just beyond the Tp-covered ridges. The minor faults, most of which are ones that I mapped on Google Earth (and which are not shown on Niemi's map because they are too small), probably flatten to join the westerly major strand at depth, and off the photo to the right (southeast), the easterly strand joins the westerly strand (see Niemi's map). To emphasize how useful a few marker horizons can be, I’ve outlined the base of a few whitish cliff- and ledge-forming units in orange, pink, and lavender. I think these whitish layers are probably tuffs, and the thicker, middle one might be the crystal tuff marker bed we saw on “Tw Hill” over near Red Pass. These marker beds are entirely within in the Panuga Formation (Tg). Anyway, we’ve once again got the Titus Canyon Formation (EOgtc) overlain by the Tg, overlain by the Wahguyhe Formation (Tw), overlain by the Crater Flat Group tuffs (Tc), overlain by the Paintbrush Group tuffs (Tp), which are all ultimately overlain by the Timber Mountain Group tuffs (Tm; not seen here).
A better view of the bluff, as seen from the same window.
Standing on the mine dump in front of the corrugated shack, we have a great view of the adit and a collapsed building that doesn't show up on Lengner and Troxel's map of the claims, workings, and town. According to their map, the adit accesses a little more than about three thousand feet of drifts. The hill the adit cuts into has been mapped by Reynolds (1969, seen in Lengner and Troxel, 2008) as Mbx: Tertiary megabreccia in the lower part of the Titus Canyon Formation.
Beyond the hill, we almost get a glimpse of a low-angle fault.
In this enlarged shot of the adit, we see that the rocks do look like a breccia.
Carbonate breccia is exposed on the left rib. Blocks of carbonate or breccia have been used to wall up the opening.
This type of metal gate is not currently in use. Newer types of gates keep people out while also letting other animals use the mine (e.g., bats, snakes, owls, various rodents). Possibly bats can get through the small opening, but some species won't fly through something that small (I'm not sure whether any of the species of bats in Death Valley need the larger openings or are the type of bat that won't fly through a grate). Read more about bat gates here (pdf) and here.

For next time: cactus, more old building remains, and more geology!

Selected References:
Lengner, K., and Troxel, B.W., 2008, Death Valley's Titus Canyon & Leadfield ghost town: Deep Enough Press, 175 p.

Niemi, N.A., 2012, Geologic Map of the Central Grapevine Mountains, Inyo County, California, and Esmeralda and Nye Counties, Nevada: Nevada, Geological Society of America Digital Maps and Charts Series, DMC12, 1:48,000, 28 p. text.

Location map

Related Posts:
The Approach to Titus Canyon: Tan Mountain
The Approach to Titus Canyon: Up and over White Pass
The Approach to Titus Canyon: To Red Pass
The Approach to Titus Canyon: Just Below Red Pass
A Hike at Red Pass, Titus Canyon Road, Death Valley, CA
Titus Canyon Road: A Little History and a Few Maps
Down into Titus Canyon: We Leave Red Pass Behind (Finally!)
Titus Canyon: The Upper Part of Lost Canyon
Leadfield: Scams with a Side of Geology

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