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Chemung Mine


Chemung Mine siteLocated in central California in a picturesque landscape overlooking the Sierra Nevada Mountains is Chemung Ghost Town. In its heyday the Chemung Mine and Mill extracted more than one million dollars in gold ore. The Chemung mine was discovered in 1909 by Illinois native Stephen Kavanaugh. He named his discovery after the town he grew up in and the name stuck.

Chemung is located at 8,000 feet of elevation, just one and one half miles west from the Nevada border. During the 1920s, the mine was extracting both high and low grade ore. At this time, rising prices of mining materials and the high cost of shipping ores to the smelter in the closest working mill in Bodie made it difficult for operations to grow. The Chemung mine was fully operable until 1938.

The last recorded miner to work the Chemung mine was Elton Heinemeyer, known as “Heinie” who stayed on during the 1950’s and 60’s, but he never did strike it big.

We, the DeLucia family, went to explore Chemung in late August 2012. We were thrilled with the site and it enchanted us enough to send a few hours poking around in the mill and mine. Being cavers, we always find a way to go underground when the opportunity is there.

Our photos and video of the area are more sparse than some we saw from the 1990s. There is evidence of tampering all about, equipment disappeared, a slew of bullet holes appeared (apparently within the last decade) a few cabins fell, and major walls of features have collapsed.

Adjacent on the right is a beautiful patch of aspen trees and below is a dry lake bed.

As with all Ghost Towns, there are ghost stories of Chemung. We didn’t see any on our visit, but legend has it that no one is allowed to stay overnight on a Saturday due to a feisty spirit that will physically make you leave. We’ve heard similar stories of other caves, most notably “Fern Cave” in Lava Beds National Park, where the ancient medicine men spirits insist on no visitation after ten the cave. With Fern Cave tours reduced to one per year, the spirits evidently can still pull their weight around and got their way.

Bridgeport ReserviorAt Chemung Mine, it appears the present visitors may be spookier than the ghosts of past, if you count the recent bullet holes and artifact thefts. And that’s part of the reason behind us creating the “OutDoors And not” Blog and to help preserve the history in photos, video, and the stories, that make our wonderful American outdoors experience our national treasure.

Let’s go!

-Lisa DeLucia

Lisa's book on our early adventures and her tact to balance work life and cave exploration