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Lookout City Area Map
Lookout City first came into existence in 1875. It's located in the Argus Range on the west side of Panamint Valley. Two large mines, the Modoc and Minnietta, are located nearby. There are some walls and foundations left of various buildings. The thing that makes Lookout City unique is the fact that it sits high up on a hill over-looking the Panamint Valley. A freight road went up Jack Gunn Canyon, otherwise known as Stone Canyon.
Thompson Camp is located up the road about a mile from the Minnietta Cabin. There are two deteriorating structures at the end of the road. A little over a mile up the canyon are some mine ruins perched on the side of the canyon. Another half mile beyond these ruins is a deteriorating cabin, an arrastre, and an empty reservoir. Hiking straight up the canyon is interesting, but the going is slow as there are many obstacles to negotiate. A trail bypasses most of the canyon bottom and provides quick access to the upper ruins.
Jack Gunn Canyon is also called Stone Canyon. It contains a bunch of mine tunnels, a cabin, some ore shoots, and remains of a road. The road was built in the 1870s by Chinese laborers and at one time connected Lookout City and the town of Darwin. You can hike pretty far up the canyon, but eventually you come to a gate beyond which is government land. The cabin in this canyon is part of the Adopt-A-Cabin program and its condition has been greatly improved over what it was like in the mid 1990s.
Osborne Canyon is located north of Minietta Mine and Lookout City. At the end of the road is an ore bunker below a group of mine tunnels. A cable still hangs down from the tunnels, which are a couple hundred feet above the road and the bunker. About a half mile before the end of the road is a mining camp known as Surprise Mine Camp. It consists of a cabin and a shack or two depending on how you count them. Below the mouth of the canyon is a large hill called Ash Hill.
The Modoc and the Minnietta mines operated separately, but they were right next to each other, and so, much information that gets shared applies to each of them more or less equally. The original claims for the Modoc were filed on April 22, 1875 by Ball, Childs, Boardman, and Burke. The Modoc and the Lookout Smelters were later acquired by Senator George Hearst. The Minietta was first located during the 1870's. It was owned and operated by Jack Gunn from 1883 to 1918. (Behind Lookout City, the Modoc and Minietta Mines is a canyon called Jack Gunn Canyon.) The Modoc and Minietta produced mostly silver and lead, but gold, copper, and zinc ores were also extracted.
The Modoc Mine is sometimes also called the Hearst Mine. Also Modoc is sometimes spelled with a "k" at the end: Modock. (Source: Ballarat Facts and Folklore 1897-1917, Hubbard et. al.) The Minnietta Cabin is part of the Adopt-A-Cabin program and is in much better condition that it was in the mid 1990s.
A sign posted on the largest structure at Lookout City provides some information about the history of Lookout City and surrounding areas. It explains that Lookout City came into existence in 1875 when it was discovered that there was lots of silver and lead ore in the area. The Lookout Mining District was formed in 1876. A toll road was built by Remi Nadeau and a stage provided transportation from Darwin three times a week. Charcoal for the smelters at Lookout City was produced at the Wildrose Kilns and delivered by burros. p> At one point there were about 50 buildings scattered over the Lookout townsite including two general stores, three saloons, a bank, and many other stone structures. Today the remains of these structures aren't even recognizable. In fact, it's hard to believe that there were that many standing structures at one time. When you visit Lookout City be sure to realize that there are two sections to the town. One section sits at the top of the hill and the other site is about a quarter of a mile to the north and a couple hundred feet down the hill. The lower site has the largest structures.
Doc Cole wrote an interesting article called "Lookout - City on the Mountain" which appeared in the November 1976 issue of California Geology.