|This looks like an old ore chute. It's about 100 feet from the first shaft, and probably had a hopper attached.|
Golden Bell / Blue Bell Mine
Primary Mineral: Gold and Silver, apparently most of the silver was unrecoverable.
Years of Operation: Originally known as the Blue Bell Mine this operation was active from 1934 to 1937, then again from 1939 to 1941.
Nearest City or Landmark: Eastern Mojave Desert, Central Joshua Tree in the Hexie Mountain Range, Near Pinto Basin Road
Depth: Multiple shafts and adits, depths are unknown
|This is an old cyanide tank for processing silver ore. Some Joshua Tree mines still contain cyanide powder.|
History of the Golden Bell / Blue Bell Mine
Information on the Golden Bell Mine is somewhat scarce. Some websites have reported that the Golden Bell Mine is just another name for the Silver Bell Mine, however this is incorrect. Although they are close in proximity they are completely different entities. The Golden Bell was mined for Gold and Silver, and was originally known as the Blue Bell Mine. It was active from 1934 to 1937, and then again from 1939 to 1941. During those years a man by the name of Rogers owned the property.
|This structure wreckage sits next to hundreds of discarded tin cans. It may have been a bunkhouse.|
Supposedly there was a small mill on the site near the main shaft, which has since been removed. According to mining records this was a successful gold mine, and would have been viable even if that were the only commodity mined. The silver found at this site was economically interesting but most was not recoverable.
|Remnants of the miner's camp. Hundreds of tin cans indicate there was a large crew working here.|
The Golden Bell Mine is located in the Hexie Mountains, one of six distinct mountain ranges within Joshua Tree. This mine is surrounded by several others, including the Silver Bell and Eldorado and a mine simply known as the Unnamed Gold Prospect, which was apparently mined only for gold, but was fairly successful. Joshua Tree is spread out over two counties, and these mines are on the Riverside County side.
|This is the only shaft that is truly well protected. All of these vertical mines are hundreds of feet deep.|
Unlike the Silver Bell, which is a strip mine located on the opposite side of a hill, this mine has extensive hard rock tunneling, with three prominent shafts with adits above them. The shafts go deep, my guess would be several hundred feet, although I had no way of confirming this, other than by throwing rocks inside and listening for a report. One shaft is well protected, a second has a large gap opening up on the left hand side due to earthquake activity. A third shaft is wide open, protected only by a few strands of thin wire.
|Looking down into the first shaft. I threw rocks down this one and never heard them hit the bottom.|
This mine has an interesting pattern of tunnels. A horizontal adit always appears directly above a deep shaft. It is unknown whether there are additional side adits down deep within these shafts, but apparently this was an extensive mining operation. The hundreds of tin cans found on the site would seem to suggest that a large crew worked here at one time.
|The earth is continuously shifting in this area. You can see what's beneath this grating in the photo below.|
Also found on site are an old cyanide tank, a wooden ore chute which was probably attached to a hopper at one time, a fallen wooden structure that may have been a bunkhouse and the scarce remains of a stone building, almost completely gone. Another item of interest is a very large toppled structure in a small gully below the third shaft. It looks to me like part of a conveyor system, but I’ve never seen one of these before, so I could be wrong.
|This shaft is loosely gated. Earthquakes have opened a gap on the left side, making it somewhat dangerous.|
Mines In And Around Joshua Tree
Sometime in the 1870s, mining began in the area now known as Joshua Tree. Gold was the main commodity, but several others were mined as well. Peak activity happened in the 1920s and 1930s. Today there are numerous abandoned mines, covering eight specific mining districts in and adjacent to Joshua Tree National Park, 1) Twentynine Palms, 2) Dale, 3) Rattler, 4) Monte Negras, 5) Cottonwood Springs, 7) Piñon, and 8) Gold Park.
|Another mine portal on the hillside. I'll probably go back and explore a few of these in the future.|
As of 1998 there were a total of eight claimants who still held mining claims within the park. Two of the claimants held eleven patented claims, meaning they still hold titles to the properties. These can all be found within the old Monument boundary. Another six claimants held 49 unpatented claims, which are all on land that was added to the park through the California Desert Protection Act.
|This mine had a pattern of digging adits directly over shafts. A fall from the upper portal will end your life.|
There are a total of 288 abandoned mine sites within the park boundaries, with a reported 747 mine openings. Just outside the park, in the Pinto Mountains there are two mining districts with numerous other abandoned mines. Some of the mines are easy to get to, such as the Mastodon, Lost Horse, Gold Coin, Silver Bell and Desert Queen. Others are truly remote, requiring either 4 wheel drive or extensive navigation skills to reach. This park is larger than the state of Rhode Island, encompassing two deserts, the Mojave and the Colorado. Most of it is complete wilderness.
|This shaft is wide open. The only thing standing between you and death is three strands of thin wire.|
22 abandoned mines are currently scheduled to be closed and gated, due to safety concerns. This includes 40 openings of horizontal adits and vertical shafts. 11 openings will be closed by the park staff and twenty nine more by park contractors. When these mines were abandoned, some left behind hazardous chemicals like cyanide powder, not to mention unexploded dynamite. Gates added to mine openings are designed to allow bats to enter but keep out humans. In the past, other sites have been closed because of theft. People were stealing mine carts and other artifacts in the middle of the night, or vandalizing the mine openings. These projects require a lot of money, which is why you’ll still find many open mines within the park.
|I'm not sure what this large piece of equipment was. It looks like part of a conveyor system turned on its side.|
Unnamed Gold Prospect
Traversing down a steep hill between the Silver Bell and Golden Bell Mines, I noticed a mining road and tailings in an adjacent canyon to the right. From a distance it appeared that there were open mines above and below the road. All of the portals had narrowed greatly over time, as most mines do, but peering inside I could see that the tunnels within were all between 5 and 6 feet tall and went fairly deep. Normally I would have explored at least one of them, but it was late in the day and I decided to leave that for a future trip.
|This mine looks small, but upon closer inspection it opens up wide enough to walk through on the inside.|
I did a little research on this mine, and apparently it has no name. It was mined strictly for gold. The success or failure of the mine is unknown, however most mines in this mountain range were only marginally successful, if at all. There are two tunnels below the old mining road and one above it, possibly more. I also found a possible caved in portal in a carved out area. Take a look at the photo below and you be the judge. If you look carefully you can see an upright beam sticking up through the dirt towards the right side of the horizontal board.
|Is this a caved in portal? If you look carefully you'll see an upright beam sticking out of the rock debris.|
Additional Photos - Golden Bell / Blue Bell Mine
All watermarked photos are copyrighted and cannot be used without my consent.