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Harmony Borax Works
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Death Valley National Park
Harmony Borax Works
Harmony Borax Works

Overview

This pleasant 0.4-mile loop runs on a paved trail through the historic Harmony Borax Works area. Exhibits along the trail include a 20 Mule Team Borax wagon train and the ruins of the old cottonball borate ore boiling facility. Signs provide information about the site, the source of the ore out on the salt flats, and the men who worked and suffered here. Across the flats, the remains of adobe structures provide more information about live in the area.

Link to map.

Harmony Borax Works

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is an entirely safe and fully accessible trail, but don't trip and fall off the pavement.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. This hike is short, so if you stay on the trail, you don't really need to bring the 10 Essentials.

Harmony Borax Works

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike is located in Death Valley National Park, about 3.5 hours northwest of Las Vegas.

From town, drive out to Death Valley. From the Furnace Creek Visitor Center (Table 1, Site 0712), drive north on Highway 190 for about 1.3 miles to Harmony Borax Road (Site 0534). Watch for signs to the Borax Works. Turn left (west) onto the paved Harmony Borax Road and drive out for about 0.2 miles to the parking lot access road (Site 0535) on the left. Turn left into the Harmony Borax Parking area (Site 1012). Park here; this is the trailhead.

Harmony Borax Works
Trail to wagons and plant site (view west).

The Hike

From the parking lot, walk southwest on the obvious trail towards the 20 Mule Team Wagons that are parked along the trail. Read the signs, learn about the transport of goods across the desert before air conditioned motor vehicles, and then continue towards to west on the trail.

The trail switchbacks to the east and soon arrived at a point overlooking the borax plant site. Again, read the signs and learn about the borax process.

Before leaving, gazes some 2+ miles out to the west and look for mounds of salt that were piled up by Chinese laborers. Contemplate the men who worked and suffered here, then continue off the trail into the parking lot.

Harmony Borax Works
Batch plant

From the official Death Valley website:

Harmony Borax Works was the central feature in the opening of Death Valley and the subsequent popularity of the Furnace Creek area. The plant and associated townsite played an important role in Death Valley history. After borax was found near Furnace Creek Ranch (then called Greenland) in 1881, William T. Coleman built the Harmony plant and began to process ore in late 1883 or early 1884. When in full operation, the Harmony Borax Works employed 40 men and produced three tons of borax daily.

During summer when temperatures were extreme, the water used for processing the borax was so hot that the suspended borax could not crystallize and the plant was shut down. Coleman moved his work force to the Amargosa Borax Plant near Tecopa, California, during summer.

Harmony Borax Works

Getting finished borax to market from the middle of Death Valley was difficult, and the Harmony operation became famous for using teams of 20 mules to pull two very large wagons of ore plus a third wagon of water. Two mule skinners hauled borax on the long overland route to the town of Mojave. The romantic image of the "20-mule team" persists to this day and has become the symbol of the borax industry in this country.

Harmony Borax Works

The Harmony plant ceased operation in 1888 after only five years of production when Coleman’s financial empire collapsed. Acquired by Francis Marion Smith, Harmony never resumed the boiling of cottonball borate ore, and in time became part of the borax reserves of the Pacific Coast Borax Company and it successors. On December 31, 1974, the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Harmony Borax exhibit now includes the batch plant ruins, machinery, signs describing life and processes at the plant, and a historic 20-mule team wagons. Across the nearby flats, the remains of adobe buildings stand in quiet testament to the people how made a living here. Out on the flats, salt "haystacks" remain from the day men walked away from here.

Harmony Borax Works
Historic 20-mule team wagons
Harmony Borax Works
Overlooking the batch plant
Harmony Borax Works
Adobe superintendent's building
Harmony Borax Works
Adobe superintendent's building
Harmony Borax Works
Adobe superintendent's building
Harmony Borax Works
Adobe superintendent's building
Harmony Borax Works
Adobe superintendent's building
Harmony Borax Works
Adobe superintendent's building

Table 1. Highway Coordinates (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Site # Location Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Easting Northing Elevation (ft) Verified
0712 Furnace Creek Visitor Center 36.46159 116.86574 512030 4034954 -186 Yes
0534 Hwy 190 at Harmony Borax Rd 36.48009 116.86866 511765 4037006 -262 GPS
0535 Harmony Rd @ Parking Access Rd 36.48027 116.87184 511481 4037026 -260 GPS
1012 Harmony Borax Works Parking 36.48009 116.87229 511440 4037005 -260 Yes

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 110327

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