Mammoth Lakes History & Museums: Old Mammoth, California

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Old Mammoth

Before Mammoth was a hub for outdoor recreation, the community was a mining outpost, with its modern history dating back to 1858. Read more to discover the town’s extended history as well as to learn about its remaining historic monuments. Read More

  • Before Mammoth was the hub for outdoor recreation in the eastern Sierra’s, the town got its start as a mining camp.
  • Hayden Cabin is a historic cabin dating back to 1927. Highlights include period artifacts, photographs, and an idyllic creek side setting.

Mammoth as a Mining Village

Mammoth’s isolated geography kept the area obscured from westward expansionists until relatively late in California’s history.  Until 1858, the area was only occupied by the native Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe settlements. This changed when a group of gold prospectors discovered the Comstock Lode Silver ore.  Overnight the area was flooded with prospectors. The gold rush fire continued to be fueled by additional ore discoveries at the nearby towns of Bodie and Aurora.

In 1877, four prospectors looking for the Lost Cement Mine organized the Lakes Mining District, near Lake Mary, on Mineral Hill. The next year General George Dodge bought the group of claims from the prospectors and organized the Mammoth Mining Company.  This company proved to be the main catalyst for future growth.

Convinced there were untapped veins in Mineral Hill, Dodge set to work on constructing a large scale mining operation, including four tunnels, a tramway, and a 20-stamp mill. Rumor quickly spread of the activity and area potential, sparking a fervent, yet short lived gold rush to the area. It is estimated that over 1,000 people came to Mammoth City in the summer of 1878, and about 1,500 people in 1879. Unfortunately for the miners, no riches were found, and the Mammoth Mining Company shuttered the mill in 1880.

Mammoth’s Beginnings in Outdoor Recreation

Beginning in the 1890’s Mammoth began its transformation from mining outpost to outdoor recreation hub. People began flocking to the eastern Sierra’s for the abundant fishing, hunting, photography, camping, and horseback riding. Businesses soon followed suit. During the summer a hotel, store, garage, bakery, and post office operated. During the winter, only a few caretakers stayed on to manage the properties, and all mail and supplies were brought in on dog sled. The area remained quiet and remote until the completion of a modern highway in 1937.

Historic Buildings

For a chance to explore Mammoth’s early years, head to Hayden Cabin, a historic cabin dating back to 1927. Highlights include period artifacts, photographs, and an idyllic creek side setting.