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Con artist builds a crooked road in Death Valley

Con artist builds a crooked road in Death Valley

Feb. 9, 1969: Death Valley naturalist Dwight Warren checks a portion of Titus Canyon Road, which had been closed by a cloudburst.

This photo by staff photographer Frank Q. Brown was published in the Feb. 21, 1969, Los Angeles Times.

The history of Titus Canyon Road was explained in a May 22, 1977, Los Angeles Times article by staff writer Charles Hillinger:

DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL MONUMENT – It is undoubtedly the longest one-way, no-other-way road in the country.

Circa 1925 photo of Chauncey C. Julian. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

The 27-mile road winds its way west through a scenic gorge in two states – California and Nevada.

It is so narrow in spots there is barely enough room for a car to squeeze between the 500-foot-high sheer limestone walls that rise spectacularly from the canyon floor.

Titus Canyon Road is, for good reason, the least used of nine roads into Death Valley, America’s hottest and driest place.

Its 27 miles are miserable, none of it paved, strewn with dirt and rocks.

The road was built by a con artist who pushed it through the canyon in 1925 to provide access to one of the most notorious mining hoaxes of the century.

It was in Titus Canyon that Chauncey C. Julian “salted” the Grapevine Mountains and spawned a town near Bloody Gap he called Leadfield.

He proclaimed the hills in “his” canyon were alive with pockets and veins of lead, and published brochures showing ships steaming up Death Valley’s Amargosa River to the mouth of Titus Canyon to take on ore.

The Amargosa River is bone dry.

In March, 1926, Julian ran a 15-car “Leadville Special” train from Los Angeles to Beatty, Nev., for 340 investors – 24 of them women – to visit their diggings. The investors were driven from Beatty through the winding gorge to Leadfield in a caravan of cars.

A hotel, stores and homes were built in Leadfield. But the town lasted only two years. There was a post office from August, 1926, until February, 1927.

Then the bubble burst.

Julian skipped the country and fled to Shanghai where he committed suicide in 1934.

A handful of decaying structures still stand at Leadfield on the Titus Canyon Road, named after Morris Titus, a miner who entered the narrow canyon to do some prospecting in 1906 and never was seen again.

It gets so hot along the road that the National Park Service closes the canyon from mid-May to mid-October – so that nobody gets stranded and perishes in the scorching sun.

April 22, 1977: Titus Canyon Road in Death Valley is so narrow in spots that a car can barely squeeze through. This photo was published in the May 22, 1977, Los Angeles Times. Credit: Art Rogers/Los Angeles Times.

March 13, 2003: An SUV on Titus Canyon Road in Death Valley National Park. Credit: Beatrice De Gea/Los Angeles Times.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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3 Comments

  1. July 16, 2015, 10:39 am

    amazing pics

  2. July 16, 2015, 10:39 am

    super coo l pics

    By: johny
  3. July 16, 2015, 12:50 pm

    waa!! some con artist. con or not, i have to give him credit for his gutts

    By: Khan

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