Entering the Amargosa Canyon at Tecopa, CA

The town of Tecopa was once the division point for the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad. As such it would have supplied the crews and engines for the northern half of the railroad. Ludlow, CA. was the main headquarters of the T&T until 1933 when the shops and offices were moved to Death Valley Junction. About the same time Tecopa would have lost its position as a division point.

Ruins of the TCM Mill at TecopaIn addition to the T&T's workings at Tecopa, the town also served as the junction between the T&T and the Tecopa Railroad. The latter was an operation of the Tecopa Consolidated Mining Co. which had the Gunsight and Noonday mines in the hills east of the town. This small twelve mile railroad was built to haul the ores from the two mines to the crushing mill at Tecopa . Ruins of the mill are just south of the town, immediately before entering the Amargosa Canyon Trail.

Entering the trail, there will be a small break in the growth to your left. Pushing through this will allow access to the small hill at the left, and an overview of this portion of the Amargosa Canyon. While it is possible to follow the hillside trail some distance, the return to the main trail is a bit precarious. The photo above the link to this page was taken from the overlook on the hillside.

Down off the trail.The start of the trail angles away from the roadbed which is entering a long cut. In a moment the brush opens up and the old roadbed can be seen at left, now several feet below us in the cut. Just beyond here the trail bends left, offering an opportunity to descend along a slight slope and get a low angle view of the river and the canyon.

Returning to the main trail, it skirts the slopes of the detrus from the railroad's cut and ascends again to the level of the roadbed. Here, rushing water has erased the continuation of the roadbed and a scramble down into the wash and up the other side is required. This is one of the many 'washouts' to be encountered along the way - and one of the more difficult.

Walking along the side of the material from a more shallow cut, the trail follows the roadbed to "Red Cut". This location is a very deep cut in a steeply descending hillside. At one time the land at the northern entrance to the cut gave way and the resulting landslide filled the cut. Traffic on the T&T was continued with trains from Ludlow coming up to the blockage, passengers, baggage and freight were manhandled around the landslide and placed on a waiting northbound train.

Red Cut and the SpringsOne of the reasons for the instability of Red Cut were the springs gushing out from the hillside. The T&T had a pipe driven into the largest spring and Tenders were watered with the flow. To avoid a repeat of the disaster a drainage pipe was laid into and along the upper hillside. Today the area is a luxuriant marsh, well above the riverbed of the Amargosa. Now the trail now has to climb up and around the cut.

Looking at the color of the rock in this area, the railroader's naming of the location is understood. At the top of the bypass you can see back to the town of Tecopa and on to the entrance to Long Valley. Starting the descent, look in at the first opening to the left. Here the springs on the hillside continuing to flow and soak the ground in Red Cut. Going down further, the trail will return back to the roadbed after wending through the edge of the drainage from the springs.

Where's the Train?

From the top of Red Cut - Looking South

Looking back up towards Red CutThe roadbed now runs along one of the larger fills still in place from the making of the right-of-way. [reverse angle] From the look of many of the canyon's walls, material was blasted out from them and heaped up to form the roadbed. In many places along the roadbed are the signs of cracks and depressions in the surface. This is the beginning of the erosion process and the removal of man's efforts.

Nearly to the next cut, the trail encounters another washout. This one is easily skirted to the left, with a quick return to the roadbed. Looking to the right gives a view across the canyon where the Amargosa River has made a sweeping bend. In the process it has created sheer cliffs from the harder rock of the south-western wall. The river and the railroad make a left bend here to pass by these ramparts and enter the Long Valley.

A look back towards Tecopa.This final cut of the section was necessary to preserve the grade and to avoid having to sharply curve the tracks in going around this hill. Where possible, the surveyors of a railroad would plan the route to allow minimum digging and tunneling as well as fills. Material from a cut such as this one would have been used to add to nearby fills. Additional concern would have been the action of the river in washing away the necessary fill used in another route. While the Amargosa River is normally a small and smoothly flowing stream, cloudbursts in the hills can easily swell it to a flash flood stage.

This cut [reverse angle] was used as a temporary corral after the railroad was abandoned and rails removed during world War II. The trail from Red Cut, along the adjoining fill and through this cut can easily be traced in the photograph.

At this point the trail is into the canyon about 1 mile, not counting our 'detours'. Walking time from here to return to the entry point would be about 45 minutes. It is now about 3.5 miles to Morrison and then just over a mile out to China Ranch. These distances are map measurements. Walking distance, because of detours, would be about 20% more in my estimation.

 

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01/25/2005