China Ranch Date Farm, NV

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About 12 million years before the present, the area in and around China Ranch was a landlocked basin, much like one of today’s dry lakes. For the next three million years it was intermittently dry then filled, catching the run-off and sediment for the surrounding mountains. Over the eons more than one thousand vertical feet of sediment collected in the basin. Camel-like creatures and other large mammals browsed at its marshy edges, where thick reeds and grasses grew.
Like much of North America, today’s Mojave Desert was influenced by the forward movement and retreat of successive ice ages over the next several million years. Although the ice sheets and glaciers did not come this far south, their run-off during the warming periods filled many of today’s dry lakes and basins. Run-off channels connected some of these basins together. Lake Tecopa probably began drying and receding by 100,000 years ago, but Lake Manly still filled Death Valley only 10,000 years ago.
The Shoshone and Paiute Indians migrated into the great basin sometime after 1000 A.D. Nomadic hunters and gatherers, they undoubtedly used the various resources of the canyon for food and shelter. During the cooler months they frequented the hot springs in Tecopa, hunting small game and gathering mesquite beans and other plants. Like today’s snow birds, most left for the summer and spent the hot months in the higher elevations of the local mountains.
Little is known about activities or people here at China Ranch from 1850 until the turn of the century. According to available sources, a Chinese man named either Quon Sing or Ah Foo came to this canyon after many years of work in the Death Valley borax mines. He developed the water, planted fruits and vegetables, and raised meat for the local mining camps. It became known as Chinaman’s Ranch. Sometime in 1900, a man named Morrison appeared, and, as the story goes, he ran the Chinese farmer off at gun point and claimed the Ranch for his own. Morrison eventually sold out, but the name had stuck. Since then the canyon has had many owners and worn many different faces, including a fig farm, cattle ranch, hog farm, alfalfa farm, and others. In 1970, the property was purchased by Charles Brown Jr. and Bernice Sorrells, the son and daughter of area pioneer and long time State Senator Charles Brown of Shoshone. It remains in these families today.
The date grove was planted from seed in the early 1920’s by Vonola Modine, youngest daughter of Death valley area pioneer RJ Fairbanks. Approximately half of the trees are male and produce only pollen. The females bear in the fall, yielding from 100 to 300 pounds of dates in a season.
The adobe house was completed in 1991 after 5 years of work. It is built from over 18,000 hand made adobe bricks, manufactured from native materials here in the ranch. It has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, and encompasses about 4500 square feet. It is reinforced, completely up to building code standards, and did not suffer any damage during the string of earthquakes in June of 1992.
From Las Vegas
Take Interstate 15 South to highway 160. Go west (toward Pahrump) to Old Spanish Trail Highway. Go west on Old Spanish Trail Highway to Furnace Creek Road, turn left. Follow the signs to China Ranch.
About 12 million years before the present, the area in and around China Ranch was a landlocked basin, much like one of today’s dry lakes. For the next three million years it was intermittently dry then filled, catching the run-off and sediment for the surrounding mountains. Over the eons more than one thousand vertical feet of sediment collected in the basin. Camel-like creatures and other large mammals browsed at its marshy edges, where thick reeds and grasses grew.
Like much of North America, today’s Mojave Desert was influenced by the forward movement and retreat of successive ice ages over the next several million years. Although the ice sheets and glaciers did not come this far south, their run-off during the warming periods filled many of today’s dry lakes and basins. Run-off channels connected some of these basins together. Lake Tecopa probably began drying and receding by 100,000 years ago, but Lake Manly still filled Death Valley only 10,000 years ago.
The Shoshone and Paiute Indians migrated into the great basin sometime after 1000 A.D. Nomadic hunters and gatherers, they undoubtedly used the various resources of the canyon for food and shelter. During the cooler months they frequented the hot springs in Tecopa, hunting small game and gathering mesquite beans and other plants. Like today’s snow birds, most left for the summer and spent the hot months in the higher elevations of the local mountains.
Little is known about activities or people at the China Ranch from 1850 until the turn of the century. According to available sources, a Chinese man named either Quon Sing or Ah Foo came to this canyon after many years of work in the Death Valley borax mines. He developed the water, planted fruits and vegetables, and raised meat for the local mining camps. It became known as Chinaman’s Ranch. Sometime in 1900, a man named Morrison appeared, and, as the story goes, he ran the Chinese farmer off at gun point and claimed the Ranch for his own. Morrison eventually sold out, but the name had stuck. Since then the canyon has had many owners and worn many different faces, including a fig farm, cattle ranch, hog farm, alfalfa farm, and others. In 1970, the property was purchased by Charles Brown Jr. and Bernice Sorrells, the son and daughter of area pioneer and long time State Senator Charles Brown of Shoshone. It remains in these families today.
The date grove was planted from seed in the early 1920’s by Vonola Modine, youngest daughter of Death valley area pioneer RJ Fairbanks. Approximately half of the trees are male and produce only pollen. The females bear in the fall, yielding from 100 to 300 pounds of dates in a season.
The adobe house was completed in 1991 after 5 years of work. It is built from over 18,000 hand made adobe bricks, manufactured from native materials here in the ranch. It has four bedrooms and three bathrooms, and encompasses about 4500 square feet. It is reinforced, completely up to building code standards, and did not suffer any damage during the string of earthquakes in June of 1992.
From Las Vegas
Take Interstate 15 South to highway 160. Go west (toward Pahrump) to Old Spanish Trail Highway. Go west on Old Spanish Trail Highway to Furnace Creek Road, turn left. Follow the signs to China Ranch.
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Published in: on October 5, 2009 at 5:50 PM  Comments Off on China Ranch Date Farm, NV  
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