Timeline under construction. Please notify author on the website contact page for any errors, omissions or suggestions.
1864 to 1868 – Borax first produced commercially in the United States in California at Clear Lake north of San Francisco.
1874 – Large borax deposits located in Saline Valley. Minor production began at Searles Lake in San Bernardino County.
1881 – Borax discovered in Death Valley by Aaron Winters.
1882 – Harmony Borax Works begin production. New form of borax ore discovered on the south side of Furnace Creek Wash in the area of Monte Blanco and Corkscrew Canyon in Death Valley.
1883 – Coleman buys Monte Blanco claim south of Furnace Creek wash in the Black Mountains.
1887 – Monte Blanco claims patented.
1888 – Coleman dissolves his financial empire and holding taken over by Francis Marion Smith. Pacific Coast Borax Company (PCB) founded by Francis “Borax” Smith.
1903 – Development of the Lila C. mine begins on the western edge of the Amargosa Valley and along the east slope of the Greenwater Range. This was the first Colemanite mine in the region.
1905 to 1907 – Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad built from Ludlow to Death Valley Junction with spur line laid to the Lila C. camp of Ryan station. The town of Borate was abandoned and all its equipment moved to the Lila C mine. In 1914 the Lila C. starts to play out.
Jan. 26, 1914 – Death Valley Railroad Company founded to build a new rail line from the Lila C. branch 3.19 miles out of Death Valley Junction at Horton to the Biddy McCarthy mine. (1)
Dec. 1, 1914 – Seventeen mile railroad completed to Biddy McCarthy mine at a cost of $370,000. In the interim the Lila C mine had been shut down and all the old buildings in Ryan were loaded on rail cars and hauled to their new resting place on the slope adjacent to the Biddy. (1)The company first named the camp Devar, for the Death Valley Railroad. But it was renamed Ryan in honor of John Ryan. (1)
January 1915 – The Lila C. mine was closed but not completely abandoned. Activity shifts to new town of Devair. A new calcining plant is built at Death Valley Junction.
1915 – Prosperous large-scale metal mining in Death Valley ended around 1915. Other claims near the Biddy were put into production within a year or two. The Played Out opened first. Work then started on the Grand View and the Lizzie V. Oakley. A winding 2-foot gauge rail line, the Baby Gauge, was laid to those mines. (1)
1916 – John Ryan of Pacific Coast Borax retires. (1)
1919 – Baby Gauge mine railroad extended to the Widow mine. Baby Gauge is now 7 miles long and has its own gasoline engine and 3-ton ore cars. (1)
1926 – Construction on the Furnace Creek Inn started in September and the Inn opened in February 1927.
1927 – Mining at Ryan ceased when borax discovered in Boron, Calif. Death Valley Hotel Company opens at Ryan.
1930 – Tourists take a ride on the Baby Gauge train. Short film “Hell on Earth 1930”
1930 – Death Valley Hotel Company ceased operations. Hotel was used for overflow housing when the Furnace Creek Inn was overbooked, continuing at least into the 1950’s.
Dec. 1, 1930 – Death Valley Railroad files application with ICC to abandon its 30 mile narrow gauge system linking Ryan and Death Valley Junction.
1931 – San Jose State University created Field Studies in Natural History program. A one week outdoor class room in one of the special areas of the west. (2)
March 15, 1931 – Death Valley Railroad ceases operations. Tracks later removed. Timber from a large trestle used for beam framing the bar at Furnace Creek Inn. Locomotive No. 2 is on display at the Furnace Creek Borax Museum.
August 29, 1931 – Francis Borax Smith passes away in Oakland, Calif. at the age of 85.
Feb. 11, 1933 – President Herbert Hoover signed the proclamation creating Death Valley National Monument. By prior agreement the monument was quickly reopened to prospecting and mining by Congressional action in June of the same Year. NPS website.
1937 – First San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History session in Death Valley. Big success.(2)
1940 – Second San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History session in Death Valley. Big success.(2)
1942 – Third San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History session where students camped at Texas Springs. High winds forced them to walk to Furnace Creek where the Ranch put them up in a small hanger at the airport.(2)
1949 – San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History. This session also swept away by high winds. Students walk to one of the CCC buildings at Cow Creek.(2)
1949 – Death Valley Hotel closed the Baby Gauge mine train tour after an injury.
1952 – DVNPS tore down the old CCC building. SJSU turns to US Borax who owned the abandoned Death Valley View Hotel at Ryan Camp. San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History session is now held at Ryan.(2)
1954 – Students attending the San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History session in Ryan partnered with Ranger L. Floyd Keller and created the DVNHA. Membership fee was 50 cents.(2) (SJSU FSNH sessions were held at Ryan Camp from 1952 to 2010.)
1956 – Pacific Coast Borax Company merges with United States Potash Corporation to form US Borax.
1956 – US Borax contracts with the Fred Harvey Company to lease and operate its Death Valley Hotel properties.
July 14, 1963 – Death Valley Natural History Association Founding Documents
1966 – The Fred Harvey Company purchases the Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch properties.
1968 – US Borax acquired by the Rio Tinto Group, one of the world’s leading mining companies.
1971 – Tenneco, Inc. starts open-pit operations at the Boraxo Mine near Ryan.
1976 – Congress passed the Mining in the Parks Act of 1976 which closed Death Valley National Monument to the filing of new mining claims, banned open-pit mining and required the National Park Service to examine the validity of thousands of pre-1976 mining claims. Mining was allowed to resume on a limited basis in 1980 with stricter environmental standards.
1983 – 1991 – “Quietly, over the past eight years, the US Borax Exploration department has staked mining claims and drilled a series of exploratory holes on the basalt capped plateau above the old company-owned town of Ryan.” (3) US Borax Pioneer article
1994 – Death Valley National Park was established.
2005 – The closing of Death Valley’s last mine. For over a decade the Billie Mine, an underground borax mine along the road to Dante’s View and just north of Ryan Camp, was the only active mine in the park. In 2005 when the Billie Mine closed, the last of the Death Valley’s mines had ceased operations. NPS Mining in Death Valley.
September 2005 – Death Valley National Park, Long-Range Interpretive Plan. Recommendations, Education Program, page 26-27. “DEVA is part of a fairly new entity called the Desert Learning Center. This organization includes several national park units and is still in its formative phase of development. The potential of working through this organization to develop an education program and facility at Death Valley should be explored. Through this or similar programs, sites such as Ryan (owned by Rio Tinto Borax) could be considered for development as a future residential education center, operated and funded through multi-agency entities in partnership with US Borax.” View report.
August 2007 – First Annual Centennial Strategy for Death Valley National Park. Other Park / Program performance goal(s), “Develop a partnership with DEVA Natural History Association, California and Nevada Universities and Rio Tinto Minerals to develop a science and Learning Center at Historic Ryan Camp. Ryan Camp is presently an abandoned US Borax company town whose history is inexplicably tied to Death Valley’s mining history.” View report.
October 11, 2007 – In a letter to Rio Tinto Minerals the National Park Service proposes the preservation and interpretation of the historic Ryan Camp town site.
Jan. 30, 2008 – The Death Valley Conservancy publishes temporary web pages for the new nonprofit organization.
Feb. 11, 2008 – Death Valley Fund established on this date which coincides with the 75th Anniversary of Death Valley first being declared a “National Monument” in 1933 by President Herbert Hoover. (Information as listed on the Death Valley Chamber of Commerce website)
April 29, 2008 – Director of Government Affairs of Rio Tinto Minerals, Judith Brown, provides updates to Death Valley National Park on the potential donation of Ryan Camp to the park.
June 20, 2008 – NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis, Chief of NPS Pacific Land Resources Program Center Gregory Gress, Superintendent James T. Reynolds, Judith Brown with Rio Tinto Government Affairs, and several others meet to discuss and outline plans for Rio Tinto’s donation of Ryan Camp to the NPS.
July 1, 2008 – Preston Chiaro and Henry Golas meet with Death Valley National Park in regards to their newly formed group known as the Death Valley Fund that was incorporated Feb. 11, 2008. The founding Board of the Death Valley Fund consists of Preston Chiaro as President and Henry Golas as Secretary and Treasurer. At the time of this meeting Preston Chiaro was the Chief Executive of Energy and Minerals with Rio Tinto. Joint Death Valley National Park and Death Valley Fund Meeting
July 20, 2008 -Death Valley National Park Superintendent James T. Reynolds sent a document to Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) for the Boundary Adjustment for Ryan Camp Donation.
July 21 – 23, 2008 – NPS conducts a condition assessment on selected sites at Ryan Camp in preparation for Rio Tinto donating Ryan Camp to Death Valley National Park.
Jan. 3, 2009 – Death Valley National Park Superintendent James T. Reynolds retires. Sue Husari appointed as Acting Superintendent.
Jan. 11, 2009 – Revised Mission Statement of the DVC.
Jan. 23, 2009 – Linda Greene, chief of resource management at Death Valley National Park, retired on January 2nd. A retirement luncheon is planned for January 23rd, at the historic Ryan Mining Camp. NPS Digest.
Jan. 29, 2009 – Internal Revenue Service letter to the Death Valley Conservancy (DVC) in care of Henry Golas. PO Box 3595, Santa Barbara, CA 93130, approving the application for tax exempt status under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code.
March 23, 2009 – Sarah Craighead becomes Superintendent of the Death Valley National Park.
April 6, 2009 – Death Valley Conservancy list of current donors, supporters and participants.
Dec. 21, 2009 – S. 2921 in the Senate of the United States, Senator Feinstein introduced the bill which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Included on page 72, line 17 “(3)(A) on transfer of title to the private land to the National Park Service, the approximately 280 acres of private land in Inyo County, California, located adjacent to the southeastern boundary of Death Valley National Park, as depicted on the map entitled ‘Proposed Ryan Camp Addition to Death Valley National Park’, numbered 143/100,097, and dated June 2009; and “(B) the approximately 1,040 acres of Bureau of Land Management land contiguous to the private land described in subparagraph (A), as depicted on the map entitled ‘Proposed Ryan Camp Addition to Death Valley National Park‘, numbered 143/100,097, and dated June 2009.
April 7, 2010 – Internal Revenue Service 2009 Form 990-EZ for the DVC signed by Henry Golas, secretary. Officers listed in Part IV indicate Henry Golas as director, secretary and treasurer and Preston Chiaro as director and president.
Nov. 22, 2010 – US Borax donates 110.86 acres of land along with several mine claims to the National Park Service and maintains an easement of 25 feet on either side of the centerline of the road to Ryan. View donation Grant Deed.
March 25-30, 2011 – San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History staff decides to hold the 2011 session in Furnace Creek. “The program campsite is located near Furnace Creek at the National Park Service staff housing site called Cow Creek. It is about two miles north of Furnace Creek on Highway CA 190. We enjoy the use of the mobile home trailer that is owned by the Death Valley Natural History Association (started by SJSU in 1954).” Field Studies in Natural History
April 5, 2011 – US Borax donates 110 acres of land and mineral rights to Death Valley National Park. The donated site is located east of the Death Valley NP boundary and adjacent to the Dante’s Peak Road The site consists of three patented claims of undeveloped land. Included are the Hope patented lode claim (21 acres), the Fag End patented placer claim (70 acres), and the Oversight patented lode claim (20 acres). Review of historical sources found that the site has been undeveloped since 1910. Mineral prospecting has occurred on the site as recently as 1988, but there is no evidence of mining activities. View NPS news release.
July 2011 – California Fed. of Mineralogical Societies (CFMS) Newsletter contains June 2011 CFMS PLAC South Report June 2011 provides update on page 10 of the report on S-138 California Desert Protection Act of 2011 with same language as described in S. 2921 December 21, 2009.
Oct. 26, 2011 – Death Valley National Park, the Death Valley Conservancy, and the Death Valley Lodging Company hosted a “Park Partners” evening at Stovepipe Wells Village. Present was Preston Chiaro. View NPS news release.
Nov. 14, 2011 – Internal Revenue Service 2010 Form 990-EZ for the DVC signed by Henry Golas, secretary. Officers listed in Part IV indicate Henry Golas as Director, Secretary and Treasurer and Preston Chiaro as Director and President.
Dec. 19, 2011 – American Borate Company donates 431.75 acres of land along with several claims, all buildings and improvements to the National Park Service. The donation included the Boraxo No. 1 and Boraxo No 2 open pit mine, the Billie Mine, and other claims in the area of Ryan. View donation Grant Deed.
Jan. 10, 2012 – Request to Monica Argandona, Southern California Conservation Director, California wilderness Coalition, asking about the current status of the proposed Ryan Camp addition to the bill. Monica indicated that “It was dropped from the bill because an agreement couldn’t be made between the various parties involved.”
March 17, 2012 – Tour of Ryan for the Amargosa Conservancy fundraising event.
April 18, 2012 – Navel Spring Water Collection System Upgrade. The National Park Service (NPS) at Death Valley National Park (Park) is seeking public comments regarding a proposed project to upgrade the water collection system at Navel Spring, located east of the Zabriskie Point area in the park. Navel Spring Water Collection System Upgrade
US Borax, a subsidiary of Rio Tinto Minerals, holds a pre-1914 claim to Navel Spring and is in the process of conveying this claim, along with the historic borax mining camp of Ryan, California, to the Death Valley Conservancy. Rio Tinto and the Death Valley Conservancy have proposed upgrades to the water collection infrastructure associated with this claim, and the National Park Service is conducting an environmental assessment to examine the associated issues and ensure the protection of park resources. Navel Spring Upgrade
May 2012 – Mary Ringhoff presents a thesis to the University of Southern California titled Life and Work in the Ryan District, Death Valley, California, 1914 – 1930: A Historical Context for a Borax Mining Community.
June 25, 2012 – Fundraising Agreement is entered into by and between the National Park Service and Death Valley Conservancy.
Nov. 4, 2012 – DEVA superintendent Sarah Craighead leaves to become superintendent of Mammoth Caves National Park in Kentucky. Kelly Fuhrmann, Chief of Resources, is assigned as the interim superintendent.
Jan. 17, 2013 – Rio Tinto chief executive officer Tom Albanese is asked to resign and is replaced with Sam Walsh.
Jan. 24, 2013 – DEVA announces that Kathy Billings has been selected as the new superintendent for Death Valley National Park.
January 25, 2013 – Joint Death Valley National Park and Death Valley Conservancy Meeting
March 24, 2013 – Sacramento Bee article “History’s guardian debated in Death Valley“
April 14, 2013 – DVC email invitation for “An Evening at Historic Ryan Camp – May 3, 2013 – The Next 100 Years”
April 16, 2013 – Inyo County Recorder document for a Quit Claim Deed (Land) dated March 27, 2013 between US Borax Inc. and the Death Valley Conservancy.
May 3, 2013 – Rio Tinto and the DVC invitation, Ryan Camp – 2013 The Next 100 Years.
May 24, 2013 – GRE, aka Gold Rush Exhibitions, quitclaims to US Borax the unpatented lode mining claim known as “Lila.”
June 6, 2013 – Rio Tinto Legacy Management case study – Ryan mining camp
July 22, 2013 – US Borax notice of intent to hold mining claims and mill sites. The document is signed by Nathan Francis, Land Manager for Rio Tinto Minerals (U.S. Borax). Francis is also a Director for the Death Valley Natural History Association.
August 30, 2013 – In the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Barbara, Case number 1415232, the Death Valley Conservancy is mentioned in a Tentative Ruling. This case may be viewed on the court website by searching under case number 1415232 or view the Tentative Ruling.
October 31, 2013 – Death Valley Conservancy announces on the Ryan Camp Facebook website a public tour of Ryan Camp on Nov. 6, 2013. The tour is limited to 15 persons.
Nov. 2013 – Environmental Assessment, Navel Spring Water System Repair and Maintenance Project. This environmental assessment was prepared by Jessica Smith, Ph.D., under the direction of the National Park Service. Dr. Smith resides at Ryan Camp.
Jan. 28, 2014 – Navel Spring Water System Repair and Maintenance Project. Finding of no Significant Impact. (FONSI)
July 24, 2014 – US Borax notice of intent to hold mining claims and mill sites. The document is signed by Nathan Francis, Land Manager for Rio Tinto Minerals (U.S. Borax). Francis is also the Treasurer for the Death Valley Natural History Association.
Nov. 12, 2014 – The 2013 Internal Revenue Service, Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, indicates a net asset or fund balance of $23,559,830.
Nov. 25, 2014 – Various business news agencies reporting “an all-but-inevitable takeover of Rio Tinto Group by Glencore Plc.” Top UK banker tells hedge funds: Glencore buying Rio Tinto “inevitable” and Glencore readies for Rio Tinto round two.
Dec. 31 2014 – Kathy Billings retires from the NPS and leaves her position as superintendent for Death Valley National Park.
March 28, 2015 – The Sydney Morning Herald “Rio Tinto to axe highly paid M&A team as cutbacks deepen.”
May 11, 2015 – Sydney (AFP) Business Insider mentions Rio Tinto in article titled “Australia targets multinationals in tax crackdown.”
May 31, 2015 – Mike Reynolds begins his new assignment as the superintendent of Death Valley National Park.
June 2, 2015 – Web pages for the Death Valley Conservancy have been unreachable for the past few weeks. The URLs of http://www.deathvalleyfund.org/ and http://www.deathvalleyconservancy.com/ return with this message “500 – Internal server error. There is a problem with the resource you are looking for, and it cannot be displayed.”
June 18, 2015 – Web pages for the Death Valley Conservancy started working again. Henry Golas with the DVC related to a third party that they got hacked recently and apparently an index file was deleted. The DVC is in the process of redesigning the website and working on a new and much better website.
June 21, 2015 – Westminster College, a private comprehensive liberal arts college in Salt Lake City, Utah, announces that at a recent board of trustees meeting, Westminster elected Preston Chiaro as new vice chair. Westminster Announces New President and Board of Trustees Members – Vice Chair Preston Chiaro. Preston Chiaro also serves as the President of the Death Valley Conservancy.
July 24, 2015 – Joint Death Valley National Park and Death Valley Conservancy Meeting and US Borax notice of intent to hold mining claims and mill sites The document is signed by Nathan Francis, Land Manager for Rio Tinto Minerals (U.S. Borax). Francis is also the Vice Chair for the Death Valley Natural History Association.
Sept. 23, 2015 – Shoshone Museum Reader, Fall 2015, The Story of Ryan – Death Valley’s Best-Preserved Mining Camp, Jessica L.K. Smith, Ph.D.
Nov. 13, 2015 -The 2014 Internal Revenue Service, Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, indicates a net asset or fund balance of $24,101,473.
Jan. 8, 2016 – Since 2011 when San Jose State University Field Studies in Natural History moved from Ryan Camp to their new home at Death Valley Natural History Association’s Cow Creek facility they have continued to make upgrades and improvements to better serve students and participants. The current project is to raise $40,000 to upgrade restrooms and shower facilities. Capital Campaign – 2015/2016
March 1, 2016 – Inyo County Recorder document of a Quit Claim Deed (Water Rights) between U.S. Borax Inc. and the Death Valley Conservancy for Navel Spring in Death Valley National Park.
March 17, 2016 – Jean-Sébastien Jacques succeeds Sam Walsh as Rio Tinto chief executive. Jacques relates it is paramount to focus on maintaining a strong balance sheet.
April 1, 2016 – Nathan Francis becomes the Chair of the Death Valley Natural History Association. Francis is employed as a Land Manager with Rio Tinto Minerals.
May 28, 2016 – Laws Railroad Museum, Bishop, California, effort to raise funds to house the Death Valley Conservancy’s new 20-Mule Team reproduction wagons being built in Montana. Artist rendition of new Wagon Barn to house Borax Wagon exhibit. Project description from Engel’s Coach Shop on the Borax 20 Mule Team Wagons project. And the Twenty Mule Team press kit from Nevada Silver Trails.
Aug. 1, 2016 – US Borax notice of intent to hold mining claims and mill sites. The document is signed by Nathan Francis, Land Manager for Rio Tinto Minerals (U.S. Borax). Francis is also the Chair for the Death Valley Natural History Association.
Nov. 8, 2016 – Death Valley Natural History Association Telescope newsletter, “Sustaining the Legacies: Mining and Death Valley” by Nathan Francis, Board Chair DVNHA. Francis is also a Land Manager for Rio Tinto Minerals (U.S. Borax).
Nov. 9, 2016 -The 2015 Internal Revenue Service, Form 990, Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, indicates a net asset or fund balance of $22,950,639.
Nov. 22, 2016 – Death Valley Conservancy’s reproduction 20-Mule Team Wagons Joliet coach maker’s latest work to be seen by millions
Jan. 20, 2017 – Joint Death Valley National Park and Death Valley Conservancy Meeting and fundraising agreement reference document NPS Director’s Order 21 Donations and Philanthropic Partnerships
Jan. 30, 2017 – Marta Becket, 92, died at her home in Death Valley Junction. Becket was the owner of the Junction which was built in 1923 by Pacific Coat Borax to accommodate company business which included the Death Valley Railroad and its service to Ryan Camp. Becket’s death now presents an uncertain future for Death Valley Junction. The Attorney General for the State of California, Department of Justice has served notice of intent to suspend or revoke Amargosa Opera House Inc. which operates Death Valley Junction. After Marta Becket’s death, will the show go on at Amargosa Opera House? California Attorney General Delinquency Notice, Warning of Penalties, Fees California Attorney General Notice of Intent to Suspend or Revoke Registration Amargosa Opera House Inc. Internal Revenue Service and State of California Filings
May 26, 2017 – The Attorney General for the State of California, Department of Justice issued a notice that the Amargosa Opera House Inc. is now current and the intent to suspend has been cleared.
June 5, 2017 – Xanterra Parks and Resorts announces name changes for their resort properties in Furnace Creek. The former Furnace Creek Ranch Resort will be called the Oasis at Death Valley and the Furnace Creek Inn will be called the Inn at Death Valley. In 1926 the Pacific Coast Borax Company began construction on a magnificent Inn for guests to enjoy the beauty of the valley and it opened in 1927. The Fred Harvey Company purchased the Death Valley hotels from U.S. Borax in 1966. AMFAC (now Xanterra) Parks & Resorts bought the Fred Harvey Company in 1968 which included the Furnace Creek Inn & Ranch Resort. Los Angeles Times – Furnace Creek Resort $50-million renovation brings new name: The Oasis at Death Valley
June 22, 2017 – The Sydney Morning Herald “Rio Tinto’s governance a fiasco as director charged with fraud.” PDF copy of article here.
July 6, 2017 – The National Park Service announces the promotion of Sarah Craighead to Deputy Regional Director of the Southeast Region. While serving as the superintendent of the Death Valley National Park from 2009 to 2012 Craighead was involved in talks with Rio Tinto regarding the donation of Ryan Camp to the park service.
July 24, 2017 – The Guardian “Serious Fraud Office says it is investigating Rio Tinto over Guinea operations.” PDF copy of article here.
July 25, 2017 – Business Insider “’This is not a standard situation:’ Read the emails between Rio Tinto executives that sparked a corruption investigation.” PDF copy of article with emails here.
Aug. 18, 2017 – US Borax notice of intent to hold mining claims and mill sites. The document is signed by Nathan Francis, Land Manager for Rio Tinto Minerals (U.S. Borax). Francis is also the Treasurer for the Death Valley Natural History Association.
(1) Richard E. Lingenfelter, Death Valley & The Amargosa, A Land of Illusion 1986
(2) DVNHA 50th Anniversary 1954 – 2004, Keepsake No. 44, Nov. 11-14, 2004
(3) Ryan Revisited, Steven B. Carpenter, US Borax Pioneer magazine, Volume 32 Number 1, 1991