DARWIN, CA was a mistake. Hoping to find Darwin Falls, we instead unearthed an unanticipated and bucolic Land That Time Forgot blunder.
Squeezed between Death Valley and Sequoia National Forest in the foothills of the Sierra-Nevada Mountains, Darwin resembled a ghost town. About 50 people who still lived there never got the memo. Established in 1874 near the silver mine which loomed above, it was hard to tell when the town stopped in its tracks. Just as much of Detroit seemed to have stopped growing in the 1970s, Darwin’s heyday may have been the turn of the 20th century. As we entered, the town sign read “POP 50” and the 2010 Census thought it to be 36 persons.
It was a Thursday, midday. Nothing moved. The Darwin (service) Station didn’t look like it held gas in over 50 years. The post office/outpost was boarded up. The dance hall was the most alive-looking building yet it also sat dormant.
Astounded, we wanted to find someone and find the dang waterfall. A woman in her 60s came out of a home and was delighted to offer insight to the Darwin Falls Road. Our mistaken turn down Darwin Road was 25 miles and 47 minutes too west.
I loved Darwin and its quirkiness. I want to believe that the town was a picturesque dichotomy named after Charles – all the while never evolving. But some credit the town name for early explorer Dr. Darwin French.
We left the town of Darwin for the falls at the western edge of Death Valley. I wish we had stayed in the town. The Darwin Falls access road resembled 1980s Beirut. Grenade-sized divots on the dirt and stone road make for a terrible drive of about a mile. The sign at the trailhead showed a beautiful waterfall with a wishbone bottom. The mile from the trailhead to the falls was a change from the unvarying brown and arid landscape. A trickle of water ran most of the trail. There was vegetation and greenery that wasn’t readily available elsewhere in the desert.
The falls were a 24’ epic failure. I’m sure in July in triple digit temperatures it was a beautiful oasis and splendor. But I just left a real live unicorn for a school fair.
I found some info on Darwin, CA. Enjoy…
From a magazine in 1979