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Christmas Mine. Goodsprings, Nevada.
USGS Full Report
Primary Mining: Lead
Secondary Mining: Copper, Gold, Silver, Zinc
Christmas Mine is located South of Las Vegas, Nevada. Nearest towns are Jean, Nevada, Goodsprings, Nevada and Sandy Valley, Nevada. Primary mining in the area included: copper, lead, silver, gold and zinc.
There are two registered sites to the Christmas Mine. Site 2 is at the lower wash and looks impressive from the outside, but the interior was featureless and only went back a couple hundred feet. Site 1 is up the canyon wash and requires a climb up a 14 foot dry waterfall to reach. Climbing up can be done without climbing gear, but finding footing on the way down might be an issue for many. It's not an extreme climb up, but tall enough to expect injury if you fall. Safety climbing gear should be used here.
An old map showed two lower levels to Site 1 and each ended with a stope. When we first entered Christmas Mine many years ago, we were able to reach the first stope, but left the lowest level for another day. During our most recent trip, we found the mine unsafe and we will not be attempting to reach that lowest level.
Christmas Mine site 1 is an incline shaft built into the lower wall of a canyon wash. Throughout this canyon, you can see walls and waterfalls worn smooth from swift flowing water. When maintained, this mine had a wall that was densely packed to keep flowing rain water out. Without a maintained wall to keep water out, water flows freely down the mines incline shaft bringing with it a very fine silt powder. There was a time we could walk down that incline, but the powder built up to a point where we were on hands and knees and our backs still touched the ceilings.
The dust we stirred never seemed to settle. We didn't pack our breathing filters and to limit our exposure, we gave up on reaching the lowest level. While crawling back up, we encountered a new problem with the powder. Any progress up required extra effort because the powder had us sliding down under our own weight. There was a real danger of being trapped or buried under a powder land slide. There is no safe way down or up this incline. Best to stay out of this one.
Christmas Mine is also the scene of one of our most memorable animal encounters. A few years ago, we had some friends visiting from out of state. We were exiting Christmas Mine Site 2. One of them yells that something bit him and he turns just as a large snake disappears. We get out into the sun and we see that he has distinct snake bite marks roughly 3 inches wide. In this region, a snake bite of that size would most likely be a non-venomous king snake or a venomous rattlesnake.
The king snake is a constrictor and will have a bite mark similar to that of a python. A rattlesnake will usually have distinct fangs marks. When the site is bit and ripped, bite differences aren't always clearly indentifiable. It's best to treat all snake bites as venomous until you're certain it is not.
We sat him down and I asked someone to set a timer for 20 minutes while the others continued looking for the snake to positively identify it. While we waited, we all did our best to keep him calm while closely monitoring. The others never found the snake and I told them they could stop looking just as the 20 minute timer expired. I briefly looked at his wound again and told him it was likely a non-venomous king snake bite. He asked how I could be so sure and I replied, "Because if it were a rattlesnake bite on your neck, you'd be dead now.".
He didn't see the humor in that, but was relieved. The reality is, if it were a rattlesnake, he would have shown signs of distress and we would have acted with a sense of urgency. He showed no emergent symptoms, so it was best to remain calm. The only symptoms he displayed was minor swelling and increased anxiety. He couldn't remember when he received his last tetanus shot, so we stopped to get him a booster and he went home with a great story.
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