Tag Archives: fossil fuels

A Tunnel Over The Highway

Black Mesa, Arizona

I have been driving back and forth annually along US 160 on my way to/from the Phoenix area for at least twenty years.

As an avid photographer, one of my favorite scenic locations is Monument Valley Navajo Trial Park located near in Kayenta, AZ. Not far from Kayenta I would pass by an unusual structure that crosses over the highway.

I was curious about this tunnel-like bridge in the area known as Black Mesa and did a search to see if I could find out the purpose of the structure. Here’s a little history about the two photographs below known as the Kayenta Mine.

Peabody Mining

Going back to 1964, Peabody Western Coal contracted with the Navajo and Hopi Tribes for the mineral rights on the mesa and use of its large underground aquifer. The company constructed two coal strip mines – one higher up on the mesa and a second in Kayenta.

The two operations regularly pumped 3 million gallons of water from the aquifer daily to wash and then transport a slurry of coal. Peabody constructed a 275-mile pipeline that carried the coal slurry to Laughlin, NV to generate electricity.

The coal mined in Kayenta was transported on a long conveyor belt (I called it an elevated tunnel) to a large silo. This coal was later shipped by train to the Navajo Generation Station in nearby Page, AZ.

The elevated conveyor carries coal across US Highway 160

The coal is stored in this silo awaiting transport by train to Page, AZ

Controversey Over Water Usage

The two tribes soon claimed that the use of so much water from the aquifer was causing a decline in the amount potable water for their personal, farming and livestock operations. Additionally, this volume of water was not in keeping with the tribes’ cultural and religious need for clean water.

By the end of the 1990s, opposition to Peabody’s strip mining of the mesa had taken hold and the Black Mesa Mine’s last day of operation was December 2008.

Operations at the Kayenta Mine ended in late 2019 as the Navajo Generation Station closed.

The overhead conveyor and silo are no longer in use but the Navajos and Hopis in Black Mesa are hoping for environmental mitigation to their sacred lands.

For more information about Black Mesa click here.

Riding The Rails

A 70 Mile Journey in Minnesota

I grew up the the New York City area and would regularly take 45-minute long ride on the passenger train from New Rochelle to Grand Central Station. Did this qualify me as a rider of the rails? Let’s see.

Some 20 years ago I was involved developing software for personal computers. One of our projects was to make simulations for trains. We found an interesting and unique train route that delivered raw materials from a mining area in Minnesota to the awaiting freighters along Lake Superior – known as the Erie Mining Corp route.

My task was to research the terrain and surroundings along the route so that we could reproduce the journey in a simulation. After arranging the “special” trip with the LTV Corporation (which owned the EMC route), I drove to Hoyt Lakes to meet with two members of the staff.

When I arrived, I was escorted to the rail head where we climbed aboard a vehicle that was outfitted to travel on the rails. I was seated in the front with a video camera where I would record all 3-1/2 hours of trip through the hills, mountains and flatlands to Taconite Harbor on north shore of Lake Superior.

This modified Ford pickup truck was specially fitted to ride and self-propel on the standard tracks.

On the right is one of the diesel freight locomotives that pulled the taconite pellets from Hoyt Lakes to Lake Superior.

It was an interesting ride – the tracks took us through forests, into narrow canyons, along open and hilly fields, passing rocky mountains, traversing bridges, through a tunnel and over rural road crossings.

For me the highlight of the trip was the 30 seconds or so that are illustrated below.

Erie Mining Corporation Route
Here we slowed down as we came upon a local resident as we were riding the tracks from Hoyt Lake to Taconite Harbor, MN

Towards the end of the route we arrived at Taconite Harbor. Below is the large unloading area where the taconite pellets are unloaded onto large lake freighters.

Approaching Taconite Harbor
Quadruple speed arrival into Taconite Harbor

This journey in 2001 was the only time where I actually felt that I was riding the rails. An interesting and memorable ride.

Wamsutter, WY

Places that you may never have heard of

Due to my love of traveling I’ve make countless cross country trips by car.

Our amazing Interstate Highway system takes us to so many destinations. But along the way I might see a sign with a name that I don’t recognize. These places with unfamiliar names get my attention and when I return home I may take the time to find out more about this locality.

Towards the middle of Wyoming there’s a small town called Wamsutter. I learned that Wamsutter is located in a geologic area known as the Great Divide Basin. This is an area in which rain does not drain into any of the oceans. Instead to the north and east the North Platte watershed flows to the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico while to the south and west, the Green River watershed drains to the Pacific or Gulf of California.

Interstate 80, exit 173
Historically this area has been home to the Shoshone and Ute native American tribes. During the 1860’s other settlers moved to the area to help build and manage the transcontinental railroad. While its population is small, sheep and horse ranching has been an important activity for many years.

an industrial building on east side of town
Today the area is noted as a natural resource community with a small industry based on oil and natural gas extraction. The BP Corporation has been operating there since about 2000.

parking area with loads of semis

If you’re ever in the area – stop in Wamsutter to look around and to refuel your car.

Still Interested

More of my places that you may never have heard of are in

Argenta, Nevada
Aragonite, Utah
Dunphy, Nevada