|Location:||Western Grand Canyon, above Lake Mead.|
Billingsley et al. (1997):
Quest for the Pillar of Gold: The Mines and Miners of the Grand Canyon,
Grand Canyon Association, ISBN 0938216562.
Chapter 3 part 1
Chapter 3 part 2
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|1930s||discovered by a passing boater.|
|1957||bought by the U.S. Guano Corporation.|
The Bat Cave Mine is located in the western Grand Canyon of Arizona at river mile 266 on the northern rim, 300m above the Colorado river. The difficult to access cave contained rich layers of bat guano, which was an important fertilizer before the discovery of artificial fertilizers. The land was purchsed by the U.S. Guano Corporation around 1957. A reputable mining engineer explored the cave and estimated 100,000 tons of guano. As a result they decided to invest further and started to develop the mining. There is no road into the canyon, so all supplies and machinery had to be flown in. For this purpose a small airstrip was built on a nearby sandbar in the Colorado River.
The next step was the construction of an aerial tramway or cable car from Guano Point on the south rim to the cave entrance across Grand Canyon. The land at Guano Point was leased from the Hualapai Indian Tribe. This worked rather well, but the tramway proved to be far more expensive than planned. An accident resulted in the loss of the main cable, which had to replaced. And after only a few months, the haul cable was frayed beyond repair and had to replaced. The total cost of the mining had reached USD 3,500,000. But then they discovered, that the cave contained only 1,000 tons of guano, at a price of USD 100 per ton. The venture was a financial desaster and closed in the same year it was opened.
A funny story happened soon after, when a pilot from nearby Nellis Air Force Base illegally flew through the canyon. He hit the cable, lost 15cm of wingtip, capped the operating cable, and clipped one of the cable strands. The plane and pilot survived, but the tramway was destroyed. That was luck for U.S. Guano, who successfully sued the Air Force for damaging their property, offsetting some of their losses.
Today there are two ways to visit the cave. One is to drive to Guano Point, have a coffee in the Guano Cafe and use binoculars. There are some remains of the southern rim station of the tramway. The second way is a flight with helicopter, which stops at the Bat Cave Mine for a short visit. This is rather expensive, but with the view definitely worth the money.