Stateline, UT: A Gold Mine of History
Ruins of historic buildings, sandstone formation, wild horses, an old mill to explore, desert flowers, pine nuts in the fall
by Donna M. Brown
A gypsy soul.
WHAT: A wonderful old Ghost Town right on the state line between Southwestern Utah and Nevada. You’ll see ruins of a once thriving mining community that disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. If you’re lucky, you will meet some of the wild horses that roam free and have for years in the beautiful Hamblin Valley. In the spring and summer you will find beautiful wildflowers and in the late fall, on a good year, pine nuts in the surrounding trees.
WHERE: “Where” is a little bit tricky here. This is definitely a day-long trip. I recommend taking it when you visit Modena, Utah. The historic mining town is located about 17.1 miles northwest of Modena. Depending on the time of year, this trip can take more than an hour. According to Google Maps, the address is 15384 W Stateline Rd, Beryl, UT 84714. To be fair, you’re not likely to find many road signs way out there. GPS coordinates are 37°59’55″N 114°0’36″W.
WHO: This is a great family trip, but if you plan to do any hiking, you might want to leave the little ones at home. The desert is home to many rattle snakes and potentially dangerous plants including cactus and stinging nettle.
WHY: This excursion offers lessons in history, culture, geology, geography, economics, botany and historic preservation. It’s also a great way to get out and move with the family!
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: The majority of this trip from Utah SR-56 is on a dirt road. The road is well-traveled and during dry seasons, not a bad ride. It does snow here in winter and springtime means sticky mud. Don’t attempt it without 4-wheel drive. Watch for wild horses! Take plenty of water, sunscreen, snacks, and layered clothing. Snake sightings are common, so watch every step you take.
This old town is well-preserved. Please enjoy the ruins and leave all relics where they are so generations to come can enjoy them as much as you do. Never shoot at buildings, equipment or any structures in the area and please don’t lift or shift the rocks that make up this treasured old town.
If you pack it in, pack it out. ‘Nuf said.
A Golden Opportunity to Enjoy History
My earliest recollection of visiting Stateline was as a child of 10 or 11 years old. My mother, father and neighbors Fern and Jim Cox loaded up our trucks with old sheets, rakes and leather gloves and headed out on an epic adventure of pine nut picking and exploration.
Pine nut picking is sticky business. We would lay an old sheet (later a tarp) beneath a bushy pinyon tree and wait while the adults used rakes to gently shake the branches. Pine nuts rained down and delighted us as we scooped the loose nuts up and stuffed them in pillow cases and burlap bags. Some pine cones remained un-opened and could be gathered as they were to be left outside for freezing temperatures to force them open to release their delicious nutty treats.
Hamblin Valley was a haven for pine nut hunters. Unfortunately, the ritual has become a commercial venture and the nuts in this area are much harder to find once commercial pickers ravage it in droves each year.
It was on my first pick that I was introduced to the fascinating remains of a mining encampment that continues to tell its stories to generation after generation.
Stateline Canyon became one of the region’s hot beds in about 1894 when gold was discovered (followed by silver) in the rich veins of the surrounding hills. “From the 1870s the main stage road from Frisco, Milford, and the Mormon settlements further east ran right through here as it headed towards Pioche, and the southwest Nevada mines,” according to a written history online at ancientlosttreasures.yuku.com.
Stories of cattle rustlers and moving their hooved booty through the back hills and hiding in the many crags and canyons throughout the valley are still popular among the locals today.
A small mining encampment is said to have developed in Stateline around 1894, but it grew to a full mining town when gold and silver were detected there.
“By 1903, Stateline had grown to a solid mining town of 300, with two or three general stores, a fine hotel, two saloons, blacksmith shop, shoemaker, restaurant, a daily stage to Modena on the railroad sixteen miles away, and its own newspaper, the Stateline Oracle. Several mills, for processing the ores from the Ophir, Johnny, Creole, and Big Fourteen mines were also erected in the surrounding area, close to their respective mines,” according to the online account.
Over time, the ore was found to be lacking in quality and miners slowly moved away presumably to some other land of opportunity. Mining operations have been tried (and have failed) through the years, most recently in the 1980s.
A small mill still overlooks the encampment on a nearby hill. The remains of the mill have been miraculously spared despite the passage of time. It’s a fascinating, but potentially dangerous, place to explore and learn about the mining process. Watch every step and look at, but don’t touch, the interesting equipment remaining from the most recent attempt to extract treasure from a treasured piece of Utah’s history.