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Soap Mines

1860 - 

Huntington Valley

Elko, Nevada

SW1/4 sec. 18  T.31N. R.56E.



On August 25, 2001, my boy, his friend and I were following Huntington creek, south of Twin Bridges,

 to trace the 1846 route of the Donner Party along the Hastings Cutoff trail.  Three miles south of Twin Bridges there is an old abandoned stone cabin.  I took some photographs and began a web-page titled

  'Stone Cabin South of Twin Bridges'. 


The hope was to learn more about the history of this cabin.  I have not verified much, but at the Jiggs, Nevada bar, Harry thought it might be the old 'Ballanger or Bellinger' ranch.  Mr. Zaga, Harry and the museum's archive gang all also mentioned the old 'Soap Mines' near this cabin.  I missed this on my first trip to the area.  Embarrassingly so, since I'm supposed to know stuff like this.  Nobody knew if the cabin had any relation to the mines or not.  The quest continues ...                               


On September 2, 2001, my boy  and I returned to the area to visit the 'Soap Mines'.  That's the subject of this page.  They are cool!  Figuratively, historically and literally!  I do not advise going in them, though.  They have been abandoned a long time.  The rock is weathered and the ground stability is questionable.  The timbers are rotting.  Strike three - I'm out.


The mineral mined at the "Soap Mines" was 'montmorillonite' a white, pure, mostly sodium silica clay (see formula below).  This clay is also known as bentonite and fuller's earth.  The first miners may well have been the Indians.  The first recorded miner's that I could find at this locality were the emigrants headed west on the Hastings Cutoff trail (Moorman, 1860 - see links).  They mined it for its soap properties to wash their clothes.  Someone later dug some fairly substantial tunnels in the hillside to mine the clay.  A future courthouse trip to the recorders office may answer the who.  But in 1940, when the C.C.C. camp was located in Twin Bridges, this locality was already a long abandoned mine.





Click on photos to see original high clarity digital photographs



Soap mines are at base of hill.  Photo taken from Huntington Valley road looking east.

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Close-up of Soap Mines

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 North                                                                                                                                                                                                                                South

Soap Mines- Looking East 


North Adit

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South Adit

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At Soap Mines looking north down Huntington Valley.

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Old carbide can at mine entrance.

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Prospect south of main mine area.

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Looking north, downstream, of Huntington Creek

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American Brookline (?)

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"Travelers had to carry the soap with them. There were some supplies along the way. But on the south fork of the Humbolt River at a place called Huntington Creek (south of Elko), the discovery of a soap mine was an important stop for travelers."

"In the bank of the creek where it angled to the West, we discovered a soap mine, there seemed to be any quantity of this substance. As good a soap as was ever made." --- Moorman, 1860 (Curran, p.80-82)




Nevada Mining Districts

Elko County

Huntington Creek - Bentonite




Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology
Publication Sales


Montmorillonite, bentonite, and fuller's earth deposits in Nevada, by Keith G. Papke, 1970.

The properties and uses of and tests for montmorillonites, and a description of 31 deposits in Nevada, by county; references and index.




C.C.C. Camp @ 1940 Twin Bridges

"My Life in the Twin Bridges, Elko County, Nevada C.C.C. Camp" by Louis Kamps, 1983.

Northeastern Nevada Historical Society Quarterly 1987 - 1

The following is a small excerpt from this article.

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Additional Information:  Northeastern Nevada Museum


© 2001 - Elko Rose Garden Association

Recent Photos by Dan Turner