|This mine has not been positively identified as of yet. It can be found in an obscure side canyon.|
|The mine is approximately 60 feet deep, with a low ceiling in the middle and animal bones at the end.|
An Unidentified Mine
When I first came to the East Fork a few years back, I came to see the famous Bridge to Nowhere. Little did I know this would become one of my favorite hiking areas, and a never ending source of new discoveries. The mine above has yet to be positively identified. In my travels I have searched many side canyons in the East Fork area, but this mine is in an area I never would have thought to search. It was only with the help of "Pharroah" of YouTube fame that I was able to located it. Thanks very much for this one Alan. Originally there was an animal skull in the back of the mine, which is now Alan's trophy. The pelvis is still in there for the taking. To see more photos of this mine and unnamed canyon click here.
|Happy Day Placer is visible from the East Fork Road, if you don't blink. This is a very shallow mine.|
|Looking out from the mine's cavernous portal. The land across the stream bed is private property.|
Happy Day Mine
I first noticed this mine while driving back from the East Fork trailhead. The cavernous Happy Day Mine portal is visible from the East Fork Road, but only for a split second. It is located a few hundred feet below Shoemaker Road, also known as the Road to Nowhere. But before you go out searching for it, be aware that this mine may be on private property. The area across the stream bed is absolutely private, however the ownership of the stream bed itself is unknown. This was probably a short lived mining operation and is a very shallow dig, about 15 feet deep. To see more photos of this mine and the surrounding area click here.
|The Holly Mine is located near Heaton Flats. When I first found it, there was an Indian smudge stick inside.|
|This mine took quite a while to find. Nearby there is what looks to be another sealed portal.|
Like the Heaton / Queenie Mine, the Holly Mine (seen above) is located very close to Heaton Flats. This is a shallow mine, probably about 12 feet deep, but there may be more than meets the eye. Nearby is what appears to be a purposely caved in portal. The dirt pile covering it looks fresh and unnatural. I've seen these same sort of intentional fill-ins out in Acton. Normally I would bring in a shovel and try to dig it out, but in this case the excavation would take too long. This "may be" the main portal of the Holly Mine, or it could be nothing at all. When I first found this mine there was a Native American smudge stick inside. Out of respect I left it where it was, but it has since been looted. Smudge sticks are usually bundled sage that are later burned in rituals. From the brightness of the binding to do not think it was very old. To see a photo of the smudge stick click here.
There are many other mines in or near the East Fork, including Heaton / Queenie Mine, Horseshoe Mine, Horseshoe Annex / Elvira Veuhoff Mine and Allison Mine. I have also added an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Stanley-Miller Mine. Further north, the East Fork splits into three separate tributaries. Big Horn Mine and the Big Horn (Midway Tunnel) can be found near Mine Gulch. I hope to add Big Horn Mine's ultra difficult to reach Fenner Tunnel in the spring.
|This is a debris gate built on the outside of a tunnel that runs under the East Fork Road, built in 1946.|
Mystery Tunnel #1
Did you know that there’s a tunnel that runs directly under the East Fork Road? It’s actually a drainage tunnel used to channel flood waters from a side canyon into the East Fork basin, built back in 1943. The photo above is the northern side of the tunnel, located in a brushy canyon. The elaborate cage structure keeps large debris from clogging the tunnel during storms. When I first found this tunnel, California was in its fourth straight year of drought, and I had to climb up about 25 feet from the dry riverbed on the other side to get to it. Now, less than one year later you could actually float into the south entrance with a boat. That’s how much rain accumulated in one season. The inside of this tunnel is pristine, not one speck of graffiti, and for that reason I will not give up it’s location. But those who are familiar with the East Fork Road will probably be able to locate it by looking at these additional photos.
|Here's what the south side of the tunnel looked like when I first found it. Scroll down to see how it looks today.|
I have not measured the inside of this tunnel, but I'd estimate that it's between 500 feet from one side to the other. On the south side there is a worn down placard posted above the tunnel entrance giving the date below a three letter abbreviation. The first two letters read B C. The last one is impossible to read, but the first two are all you need to know to find this tunnel. The date below reads 1946. Inside the south entrance swifts have built their mud nests into the ceiling. Both sides begin with beautiful stonework which soon give way to bare rock walls. There are no cave ins, and the inside is free of debris and graffiti. To see more photos of this tunnel click here.
|In less than a year, the water level rose over 25 feet, after a very rainy winter. Photo taken May 2017.|
Mystery Tunnel #2
This tunnel has intrigued me since the first time I saw it. I have no idea why a tunnel like this would be built into a cliff wall 50 feet above the streambed, or what it was used for. It’s definitely not a mine, and if it’s a drainage tunnel it’s a very strange one. It could have something to do with Shoemaker Road (the Road to Nowhere) a few hundred feet above, but without getting inside it would be hard to determine. Be aware that this tunnel IS on private property, and that several people have reportedly been hurt while trying to get to it. I tried it myself one day, but about halfway up I dropped my camera, which was smashed on the rocks below. That was the end of that. I wasn’t about to risk my life if I couldn’t get photos. And so, this tunnel remains a mystery, for now.
|This tunnel can be seen from the East Fork Road, across the streambed from Camp Williams Cafe.|
The Miner's Cabins
The East Fork has been mined for gold since the 1850’s by Americans, and probably long before that by Mexicans. The first documented gold discovery in this area made by Captain Harrigan and his party back in 1854. By 1859 a large group of miners had arrived, prospecting nearly the entire length of the East Fork. They formed the canyon’s first settlement, called Prospect Bar, a boom town located four miles up the East Fork. This settlement included a boarding house, two or three stores, a blacksmith shop and a butcher shop.
|One of many cabin ruins found along the way to the Bridge To Nowhere. Some are located in side canyons.|
The makeshift settlement of Prospect Bend was short lived. One night in 1858 a flood ravaged the canyon, destroying the settlement. But this was not the end of attempts to settle the East Fork, just four months later an unruly mining district called Eldoradoville was established. This more permanent settlement featured six saloons, gambling and dancing. But like its predecessor, Eldoradoville was wiped out by a flood in 1862. I have searched extensively for remains of this town, and have found nothing. However I have found nearly a dozen ruins of miner’s cabins further upstream. To see more miner's cabin ruins click here.
|This old ore cart can be found in Allison Gulch, washed miles down by flash floods from the Allison Mine.|
The Road To Nowhere
Most people who visit the East Fork come here to see the legendary Bridge To Nowhere, but are unaware of the lesser known Road To Nowhere aka Tunnels To Nowhere. During the Cold War days with the U.S.S.R. the U.S. government decided that Los Angeles needed an escape route to the desert in the event of a nuclear strike. Shoemaker Road was the planned solution. Traversing high above the East Fork, this 2.5 mile road features two abandoned tunnels, both of which were once fenced off, but are now open to the public. This ill-fated project ends abruptly at the southern edge of Rattlesnake Peak. Construction began in the 1950’s and was abandoned in the 1960’s due to a combination of rockslides, environmental concerns and cost over-runs. Shoemaker Road was originally intended to connect to the Angeles Crest Highway, but even if this road had been completed it is highly doubtful it could have accommodated the heavy traffic that would have come here.
|This is the first of two tunnels, originally intended to be an escape route in the event of a nuclear strike.|
Shoemaker Road is an offshoot of the East Fork Road. Some people have mistakenly taken it, thinking it will lead them to the Bridge To Nowhere. It does not go there. If you take this hike, know that you will probably be the only one on the road. The paved road will lead you up a hill to a wide parking area where you will reach a locked gate, beyond which the road becomes dirt. Supposedly an adventure pass is required, though I have never seen this rule enforced. It is best to avoid this hike in the summer. There is no shade along the way, other than inside the tunnels. Along the way you’ll pass two bee farms on short side roads. You’ll know you’re near them when you see stacks of boxes and hear a loud humming sound. Sometimes on hot days the bees will stray into the tunnels and you may get stung inside. Also be aware that when you enter the tunnels you should look for rattlesnakes as your eyes adjust to the darkness. A flashlight is not required. After the second tunnel the road narrows to a trail and eventually fades away into a hillside. DO NOT try to climb down to the East Fork river. Although it is possible you’ll wind up in a miserable tangle of brush and dry waterfalls with no way back to your car. To see more photos of the Road To Nowhere click here.
|This tunnel was built in 1961, the second in 1962. The ill fated Road To Nowhere ends 2.5 miles in.|
The Secret Waterfall
Did you know that there’s a huge waterfall downstream from the Bridge To Nowhere? Not many people know about it, because it’s in an area hikers don’t usually go. It’s located in a small canyon off the west side of the East Fork, south of Horseshoe Mine, called Devil’s Gulch. In order to get there you’ll have to do a little bushwhacking through rattlesnake infested terrain. The first thing you’ll notice when you reach the canyon are the remains of three miner’s cabins. Two have been completely washed away, except for the cement foundations. The third one is also gone, with the exception of an unusual chimney, built into the canyon wall. This is a very lush canyon, with tall trees, some of which are Mission Figs, originally brought to California by Spanish missionaries. Less than a minute’s hike up the canyon you’ll see the magnificent falls. As far as I know they have no name. Photographing the entire falls was difficult because of all the tall trees in the gulch, so it’s hard to appreciate how large this waterfall actually is from the photo below.
|Hidden away in a narrow side canyon, is a nameless, beautiful waterfall, approximately 50 feet tall.|
This waterfall seems to be a favorite eating spot for a large predator. When I was last there, piles of bones were scattered along to left bank. I kept looking around to see if he was out there while I was taking photos. Most likely it’s a mountain lion, which are hardly ever seen during the day. On the right side of the falls there are two old sets of ropes, which may or may not lead all the way to the top. I don’t put much trust in other people’s equipment, but I climbed about half way up to get a look. The rope is full of cactus spines, and my hands were taking a beating, so I eventually turned back. I don’t recommend climbing this, but if you do, bring gloves. Click here to see more photos of the falls.
|Even mountain lions like ambience. This canyon provides perfect cover for predators to devour their kills.|
The Bridge To Nowhere
Last, but not least is the famous Bridge To Nowhere. It's not exactly a secret, virtually everyone who comes to the East Fork comes to see the bridge (or to jump off of it). On weekends Bungee America hosts jumps for those with adventurous spirits. A mere two hour walk with multiple river crossings will get you there, worth seeing at least once in your life. The bridge is technically on private property, but you are allowed to pass through as long as you agree to adhere to a list of rules, posted on a sign next to the trail. The land is owned by descendants of one of the original miners of the East Fork who patented the Horseshoe Mine. It is currently leased to Bungee America to conduct their business. They have overseen nearly 180,000 jumps here since 1989.
|Located in the middle of nowhere, this spectacular bridge was originally intended to connect to Wrightwood.|
History of the Bridge
The Bridge to Nowhere was built in 1936. It spans what is what is reportedly the deepest gorge in the San Gabriel Mountains. The bridge was part of a long road intended to connect the San Gabriel Valley with Wrightwood. While the East Fork Road was still under construction it was almost completely washed out during the great flood of March 1 and 2 of 1938. Stranded forever in the middle of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness the project was soon abandoned. One segment of the original roadbed can still be seen close to a wooden foot bridge called the John Seals Bridge, where a sign announces the beginning of the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.
|The East Fork is one of the few places where you can still find Bighorn Sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains.|
In 1984 the United States Congress set aside approximately 44,000 acres of wilderness in the San Gabriels to preserve Bighorn Sheep. Elevations range from 2,400 feet to 10,000 within this area, which has recently become a part of the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument. Sheep Wilderness includes Vincent Gulch/Mine Gulch, East Fork Trail to The Narrows, East Fork Trail to Iron Fork/Fish Fork, Allison Mine, Fish Forks, Dawson Peak, Mt. Baldy, Heaton Flats to Iron Mountain and Big Horn Mine. Since 1976 the California Department of Fish and Game has been monitoring the sheep who live within this area. In 1980 it was estimated that there were 780, the largest population of mountain sheep in California. However there have been drastic declines in the last few decades. It is thought that declining numbers of mule deer caused mountain lions to begin preying on bighorn sheep. The most recent estimate I’ve seen is that there are close to 500 still roaming Sheep Wilderness. To see more photos of Bighorn in the East Fork, click here.
|Remains of a Bighorn found near the Iron Fork. There are about 500 of them living in Sheep Wilderness.|
Additional Photos - East Fork of the San Gabriel River
All watermarked photos are copyrighted and cannot be used without my consent.