Gypsum Mines of the Mojave Desert
On March 22, 2003 a group of mine enthusiasts from southern California ventured out into the Mojave desert to the gypsum mine region, somewhere between Ludlow and Needles, by the Devils Playground . I will give GPS Co-ordinates but please don't use these as your source for navigation. I took these on the first days of the Iraq war and have no confidence as to their accuracy. If you want to get real directions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Our group was led by a dedicated and enthusiastic Dave Williamson associated with the California Mine Explorers, or he just might be the California Mine Explorers. He is also known as Dezrat.
Our first day started in Ehrenberg Az., just outside of Blyth. We headed out back into California after getting some cheap gas and arrived at the Sanctuary mine at about 11 am. This mine is quite extensive, as could be expected by the sheer amount of tailings and workings. There were several access adits that lead into the mine. They were basically haulage points that dropped at a 30 degree angle into the main adit that traversed the length of the mine workings. There were several levels, each with a 36" ore car rail system along the length. Here is the entrance we went down.
GPS Cord. 34.84150 D north 115.83086 D West
This is my favorite picture of my brother and I before we ventured down into our 6 hour adventure down under.
Here is a view of these entrances from the main adit looking out. I call this picture pumpkin eyes, but if you look closely you can see a couple of folks climbing out. From the inside, each of the columns are numbered for orientation.
We found a rather interesting system for hauling the gypsum up out of the main adit. It appears that at one time, scoops mounted on trolleys were lowered into the mine along these haulage points to pull the gypsum to the surface. This is a platform used for this system.
It also appears that another system was used later on. A conveyer belt was used to move the ore to a series of chutes that went to a lower level. This appears to be what's left of a control panel for that equipment.
The trucks would be loaded up from overhead chutes pictured below. There were three or four loading areas that were back-in stalls set at a 90 degree angle to the main adit. The ore went down the closest chute to the main adit conveyer belt and was carried to one of the four trucks loading chutes. From there it went by truck out the back of the mine. You can still see the ruts from all of the truck traffic. Gravity is always a preferable method of moving large volumes of heavy material.
The primary mineral was gypsum in crystalline form that looked like caked sugar. The country rock was a combination of limestone and half baked marble. This made for a rather soft head wall which could be seen in the fallen debris in the mine.
The miners would follow veins of this material until it pinched out and then go down the line to look for another vein. Some of the stopes were rather long and large. They would lay track down along the path to follow the vein until it ran out and then pull it up and go elsewhere. This spot seems to be the end of the vein and track as viewed from an upper level.
This mine is so large that it was once outfitted to be a Civil Defense Shelter. There are rows and rows of emergency provisions stored here. A lot of the material has been vandalized and even burnt but a lot is still intact. There is just tons of the stuff. It seems that the government figured that people only needed two things to survive, biscuits and water, because that's all there is here. I think that after a week or two I might prefer radiation.
The water was in 6 or 7 gallon steel drums with a plastic bag liner. I think it might have been drinkable. The biscuits were in 5lb 14 oz square tins with a 1962 date. That was a very scary time for the world. After the Cuban missile crisis, we were all fearful of a nuclear attack.
Here were some of the stopes where supplies were stacked and stored on pallets.
The camera caught a couple of looters in the biscuit pantry.
And one of many water storage areas.
After several hours of exploring the mine we broke for lunch. No one tried the biscuits...I think.
Someone was having too much fun with her Girl Scout cookies, or was it see-food.
We spent almost 6 hours in the mine wandering through the countless tunnels, adits and stopes. It was a great day and time to leave. All but one of us walked out that day. One went the spider man route.
About half of our party went to a nearby campground for the night. We lit a big fire, had a cold one and cooked a thick steak . I don't know what I enjoyed the most, the food cooked by the fire or the great stories that were told around it.
I borrowed this pic from Doug A.
We came to what seems to be a common mine configuration. There was a open trench where the ore came to the surface that might have been 50 ft. wide and a quarter of a mile or less long. At each end of this trench were mine openings. This one is in the shape of a P. I named it the P hole.
GPS Cord. 34.86462 D north 115,82627 west
As a Carbide lamp collector I immediately noticed these Calcium Carbide cans underneath the ties. They were full but with the lids removed the carbide was spent.
Here are 2 pictures of a safety fuse box that I found here and turned it into a map holder. It was made by the Coast Manufacturing and Supply Co. out of Livermore California. It bears the "Bear Brand" logo and was made between 1940 to 1960.
We were off again as this mine was not too extensive. The next stop was a small mine with a stope that was converted into an office. It had a concrete floor and cinder block. There was a window and door to another room that had collapsed. The door was jammed and behind the window were a set of caterpillar tracks buried in rubble.
Our last mine for the day looked much like the rest with a trench and adits on both sides. We didn't really expect to find much but were quite surprised at what we did find. The night before we had talked about the illusive ladder rise that was supposed to be in this area and Wild Bill had found it, and the access to the upper level.
GPS cord. 34.85875 north 115.83549 west
There was also an ore chute with an old ore car jammed into it.
We collected the group and went up together. Here I am coming out the top of the rise.
And then Jim
This is a view of the ore chute and ore car from the top level.
The day was done and we packed up for the ride home. We ran into another desert friend at the mine entrance. He was friendly and quite fearless.
A great end to a great weekend down under.