Sunday, June 13, 2010

In Search of North Pass Route into Saline?

Friends of the Saline Valley Salt Tram
As the years pass, researching the true story of the Salt Tram is getting more difficult, as the abundant photos and written first hand accounts from that era find their way into landfills (instead of museums). We  are striving to rediscover the efforts of those who built and ran the Salt Tram, in order to give proper recognition to their hopes, dreams and abundant sweat from an era that is rapidly fading from our memories.  We are actively seeking out information about the mining of Salt in Saline Valley between 1903 and the 1950's, including: documents, photos, articles, stories, artifacts, etc. If you can help us out, please email us at the address above - Thank-you! --Tim and Brian Waag, the Waag brothers (aka E. Clampus Waagus).  
Caution (PLEASE READ): Climbing around on the tramway is dangerous because its really old and defnitely unsafe, so don't even think about it. Shoot, just getting to it requires some perilous hiking, and if you don't believe me, just take a look at the Zig Zag Access Trail (or what's left of it). Plus, climbing on it weakens it and endangers your life. Also, the Saline Valley Salt Tram is on the National Register of Historic Places and should be treated with the respect that it deserves. What little remains is of great historic value, and should not be disturbed in any way. Heck, its probably against the law to move parts of the tram around, and certainly a crime to take home some of the few bits of it that remain (though you'd have to ask your friendly local BLM agent for details). So please treat it with the respect it deserves, so that future generations can enjoy whats left, without you messing it up. Really. Please. You can see its listing on the National Register of Historic Places at these web links:

QUESTION1: Determine the wagon route used to haul in approximately 375 tons of Salt Tram construction material to Saline Valley via North Pass, the only wagon route into Saline Valley at that time. Our best bet is to find period maps from between 1900 and 1920 which are likely to show the North Pass wagon route.

QUESTION2: Many documents reference the “North Pass Route” as being 75 miles long. However, an initial test route we laid out in the National Geographic Topo Software gave a length of 101 miles, far longer than the length historically quoted. Determine if Salt Tram construction material destinated for Saline Valley was unloaded from the Slim Princess in a location closer to the north pass route, cutting off the 26 extra miles that we measured.

QUESTION3: When was the road into Saline Valley via South Pass down Grapevine Canyon built and by whom?

QUESTION4: Where is Waucoba Pass?

QUESTION5: Investigate whether the construction materials bound for Saline Valley was not dumped off at Swansea, but instead was unloaded onto wagons at a location much closer to the North Pass wagon route.

Numerous Salt  Tram documents describe how in 1911 375 tons of Salt Tram construction material was transported via horse-drawn wagons over Saline Valley’s North Pass and then south to the Salt Lake. This material was used to build everything between the Salt Lake and Control Station 1 (Station 7). This included the salt collection system at Salt Lake, the salt storage bins, the Salt Tram loading station, and all Salt Tram towers and stations between the Salt Lake and Control Station 1 (aka Station 7). All told, this material comprised approximately one fifth of all the construction material for the tramway and terminals.

At the time, we believe this was the only known wagon route into Saline Valley, although numerous pack trails weaved their way up and over the Inyos into the valley during this time frame.  When the tram construction material was arriving by train in 1911, the road into Saline Valley via South Pass had not yet been constructed.  

The link below shows an A. A. Forbes photo of a wagon team hauling salt. We believe that the wagon is on the North Pass Wagon Route that we are seeking:

Link to Blog showing AAForbes Photo of Wagon Hauling Salt (Photo 1)

Salt Tram reference document Doc06 (Article Title: Ghost of a Skeleton Revisited, By Willma Willis Gore, The Album: Times and Tales of Inyo-Mono, Page 28 -32, Being a quarterly recounting of the nature and history of two California Counties, Vol. V, No. 4, October 1992, Published quarterly by Chalfant Press, Inc., Copyright October, 1992) provides the best clue we’ve found so far about the actual north pass wagon route. Here is the quote:
"Long before the tram, placer claims were patented for use by Owens Valley people. Salt traveled in double wagons drawn by 8 to 10 horse teams. It was hauled north through the upper Saline Valley into Cow Horn Valley to Waucoba Pass in the Inyos, then down to the Valley in the vicinity of Big Pine."

The 101 mile route starts at the Tramway Slim Princess Line siding north of Swansea, heads up Owens Valley to Big Pine, then cuts east up the current highway near the Overholtz Mine, then heads down Cowhorn Valley to Waucoba Wash, which leads almost all the way to the Salt Lake. We suspect that the construction materials bound for Saline Valley was not dumped off at Swansea, but instead was unloaded onto wagons at a location much closer to the North Pass wagon route, such as Big Pine. If that was the case, that would explain much of the discrepancy between the reported 75 miles, and our measured 101 mile route. 

Below: Waucoba Trail Map - Surveyor Map circa 1880 (Courtesy Eastern California Museum) click to enlarge:

Below is a photo from the Inyo Register (around 1911) that shows a photo of the Salt Tram wagon route via North Pass. Though the caption from the newspaper says "Waucoba Road, in the White Mountains", the photo has a caption written on it in the lower lefthand corner that says "Narrows Coldbelt Canyon". Hmmmmmmm. Mike and Jim are gonna figger this one out (we hope).

Once we find the route, we want to hike it or drive it (or both), just to see where the Salt Tram gear was hauled by wagon into Saline. We don't expect to find any Salt Tram-related artifacts, but we might.

The "Old Road" into Saline From the North
Jim M writes: the "old road" into saline from the north lies to the east of the present road. at least, i've always heard it referred to as the 'old road'. see usgs 15 minute maps: waucoba springs and waucoba wash. why wouldn't they have transported freight from zurich rather than tramway if accessing saline from the north? there is a goldbelt on the road to hunter mtn. [where is Zurich?]

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1 comment:

  1. Hi I too believe the old route into Saline was east of the current road taking advantage of easier terrain then the current Whipporwill canyon route. Most of the old route is still visible on goggle earth. It enters Waucoba wash about a few miles down stream from Waucoba spring.I have found ox shoe along the route and followed most of it along Waucoba wash down to the valley floor. It is obviously a hand built route, not bulldozed. Martin Freeman