Friday, June 12, 2020

Exploring the Fortification Range, Lincoln County, Nevada

For many, many years, exploring the Fortification Range, a little-known mountain range to the southwest of the Snake Range, has been on my to-do list. One Sunday we didn't have a clear plan, so we decided it was time to head south. First we would head over the Limestone Hills (above), another small mountain range.

I'm starting to keep track of mountains I visit now that the magnificent book Nevada Mountains by David Charlet is out, detailing all 319 mountain ranges in the state. Not only is Nevada the driest state in the nation, it has the most mountain ranges!

The road goes right across the Limestone Hills, and we pulled over to look around a bit. We didn't see anything too exciting, although it looked like it would be a nice hike along the spine of the range. To the west we could see the Fortification Range, with the light-colored volcanic rock in the middle. We could even see some distant snow-covered peaks of the Egan Range beyond.

To the southwest the road continues towards Atlanta and Mt. Wilson.

We had never been to Atlanta, Nevada before. It's on quite a few road signs and maps. We saw some huge mine tailings as we approached. Apparently silver was discovered in 1869, but gold ended up being the predominant ore mined, with mines operated intermittently during the 1870s, 1909-10, 1911-1920, and 1965-66. More on the geology is here.

Rabbitbrush is starting to get tall on some of the tailings. We found some buildings and roads, but everything said No Trespassing. On the Nevada Gazeteer map, it looked like there was another mining area nearby. So we turned west on a dirt road and followed it.

In a couple miles we arrived at more mine tailings. We were at Silver Park mine, another short-lived mine. The 1870 census counted 205 males, 27 females, and 14 families. The 2020 census counts 0 humans.

We saw signs of previous humans over different time periods.

On the walk down to one of the mining areas, I stopped and admired the beautiful Phlox.

The Silver Park mine produced silver, gold, copper, lead, zinc, antimony, and uranium. We saw some rocks that looked like they might have uranium. The USGS report says that the workings area has slightly higher radioactive readings. There were apparently a couple 100-foot deep adits, but we just saw surface mining.

Desert Girl enjoyed looking at all the rocks.

Some had cool vugs with little crystals in them.

Okay, now it was time to head north to the Fortification Range! Bring your maps, the roads are not well-marked. Eventually we came to a gate across the road.

A bit farther on we had some nice views of the volcanic rocks of the Fortification Range.

We took a side road to the west. Just before it ended at a wilderness boundary marker, we found a little water. So we hoped out to investigate.

If you search for information about the Fortification Range, you don't find much. The range is about 14 miles long. Much of it (30,656 acres) was designated as the Fortification Range Wilderness Area in 2004. The high point in the range is visited rarely.

It's beautiful, though! The kids even got to scramble a bit.

A claret cup cactus was blooming.

We wandered, going where it looked interesting.

We even came close to a rattlesnake.

When we got to the ridge we enjoyed the views.

Then it was back into the pinyon/juniper to get back to the truck. We watched our footing very carefully.

We found an old water tank.

Then we continued north and found a nice sign to Cottonwood Canyon.

That road led to some beautiful views and nice primitive campsites.

We also appreciated the map and information. Cottonwood Canyon is located on the northeast side of the mountain and apparently is the most-visited spot in the range.

We drove to the end of the road, glad to have high clearance. A Subaru had made it in, and we were impressed. The driver had signed in that he was going to hike for one or two days. We were planning on about 15 minutes, as the kids were getting tired and were a little afraid of more close encounters with rattlesnakes.

The trail started off into the pinyon juniper, with large amounts of feral horse poop found frequently.

The cottonwoods were just starting to leaf out, and we could see cool rocks all around us.

Apparently the trail is about 1.5 miles to a spring, and then you can wander on your own beyond that. We're going to have to go back to check it out, and fall should be a great time to do that with fall colors and cooler temperatures.

Although our visit wasn't too long, we had fun, and the Fortification Range is definitely on our list for a repeat visit. We saw no one else there, just one other vehicle, so if you want to get away from it all, this is a good place to go.
And if you know where to find more information about the Fortification Range, let me know, I was truly surprised by the scarcity of info on it.

1 comment:

iamtjc said...

Love your blog. I remember your Boy was small.

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