A few days ago our realtor Eric Meeks, (who, with his wife and fellow realtor Tracy Wrubeleski, helped us find our home in the desert) invited us to accompany him in touring some old mine sites out in the desert. These mines are located in areas accessible only by a 4X4. Naturally we accepted his generous offer and a couple of days later Eric, along with his son and another of his friends, picked us up at our home.
After about a half hour drive we stopped at the Cottonwood Visitor Center in Joshua Tree National Park where we picked up park maps. A few minutes later we were back on the road. Several miles past the visitor center we left the paved highway and started to bounce along the Old Dale Mine Road through the Pinto Basin.
Aside from being a realtor, Eric is also an author and just an all around interesting guy. Growing up in the Palm Springs area, Eric visited this part of the desert as a child with his father, and many times since. His stories about the area kept us entertained as we continued down a road that got progressively rougher and in some areas, virtually indistinguishable from the desert around us.
In doing some research after our trip I learned that the Dale Mining District dates back as early as 1881 when gold was discovered in the Pinto Mountains. Activity peaked in 1898 with 3000 miners in the area. In the early 1900’s mining activity tailed off and by the 1940’s all of the mines were closed. Now, pretty much all that remains are some building foundations, holes in the ground, and rusty tin cans.
As we bounced along Eric pointed out the types of things to look for that would identify a mining site. A concrete pad with a nearby bullet-hole-riddled remnant of a steel tank was the site of our first stop. From there we carried on to several other sites where we found tunnels or vertical shafts of various lengths and depths. However, it was not until our final stop of the day that we found the “motherlode” – a tunnel that went a couple hundred feet into the mountain.
It would be interesting to know a bit more about the story behind these mines. Were they just mining for gold or for other metals/gems as well. If so, what did the mines produce?
All too soon it was time to return to civilization. It was truly a fascinating trip out into the desert but one you could only attempt in a 4X4 (or on foot if you had the time to hike).