The Champion Spark Plug mine is quite a place. The deposit was initially found in 1916 by a dentist, Dr. Joseph Jeffery, who was looking for better minerals to build dentures from but the minerals found fame as insulators for spark plugs. The Champion Spark Plug Company successfully worked the mine from 1919 to 1945. It is currently maintained by volunteers.
Unfortunately for the miners, the deposit is up on cliff (around 9,000’) high up on the mountain side. The terrain was too steep for a road so all the ore was hauled out by mule. This also means everything hauled in was by mules as well. There is a camp up at the mine (appropriately called the Upper Camp) but the main camp is the Black Eagle, a few thousand feet below the mine. Even from the lower Black Eagle Camp, it is a long way down to the canyon bottom where the road ends at around 5,900’ in elevation. From there the ore was loaded onto a truck and then hauled to the railroad siding where it was shipped to Detroit for processing at Champion’s factory.
The camp has half a dozen furnished cabins, a cookhouse, three outhouses, a workshop and even a museum! It has running water piped to the cookhouse and wash house but sometimes the water line is in disrepair. The cabins are free to use and stay at. No reservations are required. The cabins are on a first come, first served basis.
Please enjoy and care for this incredible place.
Roger Mitchell has a great guide on the history and getting there: Inyo-Mono SUV Trails
Videos at bottom.
Champion Sparkplug Hilton video:
Black Eagle Mining Camp Museum video:
Wash house video: