New Idria Mine and Ghost Town

Posted by on Jan 1, 2012

The Rotary Furnace building at New Idria which contained the four Gould Rotary furnaces.
The Rotary Furnace building at New Idria which contained the four Gould Rotary furnaces.

Over the holidays Randy and I decided to explore a place that his father had told us of; an old quicksilver mine and ghost town called New Idria. Randy’s father had been there a long time ago. The mine was opened in 1854 and was named after the world’s second largest quicksilver producer in Idria, Slovenia. The town grew up around the mine with the local population eventually reaching more than 3,000 people. The mine was closed in 1972 due to falling quicksilver prices. The town still contains many historic buildings although many buildings are in extreme disrepair and the furnace building and some other buildings are fenced off.

View of dry mountains along Panoche Road.

Dry mountains and pasture along Panoche Road.

I looked up directions and other information on the mine on the Web and off we went. One of the websites said that the ghost town and mine was 115 miles and three hours from San Jose. We had no problem getting to New Idria, following highway 25 south from Hollister to Panoche Road and then on to the New Idria Road. But it was a long drive! Randy’s father had mentioned that most of the road had been unpaved when he went; now most of the road is paved although narrow at times and with many pot holes. Just before you reach New Idria the county road ends and the road is not paved and there are a couple of steep spots and it is very bumpy with areas of the road rocked with large red rocks (looks like tailings from the mine). I was a bit nervous as my car is not 4WD and not built for such adventurous driving (although it has been many places and on many roads where it should not have been).

End of the county road!

End of the county road!

As mentioned before, many of the buildings are in disrepair and are unsafe to enter, not to mention that it is all private property. There was a feel of abandonment with some buildings still having rusty beds and broken television sets and other left over belongings in them. A general store still had goods stacked up on shelves. The roofs on some buildings were sagging and some had completely fallen in. And there had obviously been a fire as there were a couple of burnt buildings, one large one with just a bit of the frame and the fireplace and chimney left. There were piles of rusting junk and broken glass and other things that I have no idea what they were lying around. Still the town was picturesque and Randy and I wandered around taking photographs of the town and furnace building before starting the long drive home.

One of the abandoned buildings in the town of New Idria.

An abandoned building in the town of New Idria.

I am still trying to learn how to use my Sony NEX camera and so used it the entire time we were there, even though I had my Nikon D300 in the car for backup. The NEX has some interesting shooting modes and I found that some of the Picture Effect shooting modes were quite effective in conveying the feeling of desolation and abandonment that I felt in the buildings.

The following three images were taken with the High Key, High Contrast Monochrome, and Toy Camera shooting modes respectively. Which do you think best conveys the feeling of an abandoned ghost town?

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Gallery of images from New Idria.

More of my most recent images can be found HERE.