Twenty Mule Team Museum


Engineers use borax to make a wide variety of products, including Pyrex glass, antifreeze, and face creams. One of the world's largest and richest deposits of borax was discovered in Death Valley in 1881. William Coleman, who founded the Pacific Coast Borax Company (now U.S. Borax, Inc.), hired Chinese laborers for $1.50 a day to scrape the ore from the desert floor. To get the ore to the nearest railroad spur, 165 miles away, across 2,000-ft. high mountains, Coleman used specially designed wagons hauled by 20-mule teams. Between 1883 and 1889, the legendary 20-mule teams hauled more than 20 million lbs. of borax out of Death Valley.

Activity Details

Activity Type:Trips and Destinations
Discipline:Industrial & Manufacturing, Mechanical
Topic(s):Space/Transportation
Grade:K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-12
Time:Full day

Fun Fact:In the more than 5 years that Borax used 20-mule teams, not a single animal was lost or wagon broke down. Built in Mojave for $900 each, the wagons weighed 7,800 lbs. empty and could carry 10 tons, about 1/10 the capacity of a modern railroad freight car. Iron tires-8"" wide and 1"" thick-encased the 7'-high rear wheels and 5'-high front wheels.