View Full Version : Panamint

Coach Bodie
12-23-2006, 09:50 PM
It's been a few year's since I've been on this site... 2 kids will change one's life dramatically ...

I found a cool article on Panamint and thought I'd share!!!


Walking ... or driving ... on the wild side
Off-roaders, environmentalists vie for canyon near Death Valley
Associated Press Writer
Friday, December 22, 2006 7:07 AM PST

BALLARAT — Whoever named Surprise Canyon got it right. Mere miles from bone-dry Death Valley, the canyon cradles two unexpected jewels: a gushing mountain stream and what’s left of a once-bustling silver mining town.

These treasures have attracted visitors for decades — and now they’re at the heart of a legal battle between off-road drivers and environmentalists.

Five years ago environmentalists successfully sued to get the narrow canyon and its spring-fed waterfalls closed to vehicles, arguing that the federal Bureau of Land Management was not carrying out its duty to protect the land.

In response, more than 80 off-roaders purchased tiny pockets of private land at the top of the canyon, and now they’re suing the federal government for access to their property, arguing that the canyon is a public right of way.

It is one of several recent cases that could unlock thousands of miles of roads in federally protected parks around the West.

The fight over Surprise Canyon boils down to whether the rights of private property owners trump the protection of a fragile oasis on public land. The off-roaders have dusted off a Civil War-era mining law that places the public access rights of local governments and private individuals above the rights of the federal government.

Environmental groups allege that, before they won protection for the area in 2001, off-roaders destroyed the canyon by cutting trees, dumping boulders in the water and using winches to drag their Jeeps up the waterfalls. They are seeking to intervene in the off-roaders’ lawsuit.

Since 2001, the canyon has regenerated, with new vegetation attracting wildlife.

“It’s almost unbelievable what’s up there. It’s precious, it’s pristine,” said Tom Budlong, an activist who regularly hikes the canyon about 200 miles northeast of his Los Angeles home. “I shudder to think of the extreme four-wheelers getting back into the canyon and making a road where there is now no road.”

Once there was a road — a 130-year-old gravel route that flash floods washed away nearly two decades ago. Off-roaders continued driving up the rugged canyon stream bed to reach the ghost town of Panamint City, which has easily explorable mine shafts, the remains of a smelter, some mine carts and a few cabins.

The canyon grows from an arid plain just north of the one-house desert outpost of Ballarat and climbs 3,700 feet over five miles to Panamint City, inside Death Valley National Park. Most of Surprise Canyon is outside the park boundary.

Flycatchers flit among thick stands of willows and cottonwood trees that crowd along the stream. Less common birds have been spotted since the area was closed to vehicles, notably the endangered Inyo California towhee, said Chris Kassar, an Arizona-based biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity. Other sensitive species such as the Panamint daisy and the Panamint alligator lizard also are flourishing, she said.

Kassar and others believe the canyon’s ecosystem could crumble if the off-roaders prevail in their lawsuit, filed in August.

The off-roaders argue that, under an 1866 mining law, the canyon still is a public right of way even though the road is long gone.

“The issue is not off-roading and environmental issues. The legal issue is access,” said plaintiffs’ attorney Karen Budd-Falen. “If the road was once there and it’s eroded out it’s still a public access. The fact that it has been flooded out doesn’t make the legal issue go away.”

Similar arguments are being used in right-of-way lawsuits elsewhere in the West.

In 2004, San Juan County in Utah sued the National Park Service, claiming a creek in Canyonlands National Park was once a county road. Environmental groups have sought to intervene in that case, which is before the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Inyo County recently sued the same agency over four dirt roads in Death Valley National Park, and San Bernardino County sued over 14 roads in the Mojave National Preserve. Both suits allege the roads were county property before the federal government closed them.

Off-roaders say they just want to visit their property and explore the ghost town.

“I respect what was there and I want it to be there for my kids to see,” said Dale Walton, a member of the Bakersfield Trailblazers off-roading club and a property owner.

“I resent people who go in and destroy things, but I resent more people that say ‘You just can’t go in there because we don’t want you to go in there,”’ he said.

12-25-2006, 03:57 PM
Thanks! Coach Bodie, for your update on Surprise Canyon, this area nestled in the famouse Panamint Mountain Range is one of our favorite places to explore through the years.

The entrance to Suprise Canyon, is about 5 miles N/E from the picture of me above. This was taken in 1964 by "Seldon Seen Slim", A very famouse old prospector that said he lived in Ballarat, for over 40 years.

We always stop and visited with Slim, and share a few beers, and swapp few stories, that is if we caught him at his trailer, and he wasn't out on one of prospecting trips.

Slim, always made sure he was there for the "Famouse Ballarat Days" and i remember him telling us the first time we attended Ballarat Days you guys, are staying for Ballarat days aint you, there might be some "Hurdy Gurdie Girls, here tonight.

People from all over the west would show up for the celebration. We joined in on a few celebrations ourselves.

We have not been to Surprise Canyon, since the mid 1960s but every time we watch our V. H. S. tape of our old 8mm film that i took of Panamint City, and our trip down windy gravel road sure brings back some fond memories of that picturesque canyon is... beyond words.

We do wish everyone that would visit these picturesque locations would leave the loation exactly the same way they found it, but i guess that is to much to ask. It only takes just a few to ruin it for the rest of us.

We have read stories of intruders, tearing apart old buildings, to make camp fires, and littering the landscape and showing no respect for our western history that the rest of us want to save for future genarations to enjoy.

We think that the area should "not be" closed to the public but should stay open to hikers or horseback riders. We know Supurise Canyon, can't be patroled as well as some of the other Historical Sites, that are located within the National Parks bounderys, But should be kept free from any vandalism, of any kind. But should be keep as it was when the first pioneers, and miners, first entered the Canyon in the 1870s if all possible.

But we also want to add. We want the land owners to have access to the canyon and have the right visited and camped any time they want. Maybe they could help patrol the canyon and weed out the vilens that tear up the landscape. That's our 8 cents :cool:

Your Fellow Ghosttowners
Johnnie & Sheila