Black Star Canyon Mine

A worm's eye view of the mine portal and waterfall in Black Star Canyon.
Carved into a limestone cliff, this mine requires a tricky climb that's difficult in the wet season.


County: Orange

Primary Minerals: Unknown, but there is a high probability this was a silver mine.

Years of Operation: Unknown

Nearest City or Landmark: Located in Black Star Canyon, in the Silverado region of the Cleveland National Forest.

Depth: Approx. 30 feet deep. There is a small side tunnel that intersects with Black Star Falls, which sometimes flow through the mine during the spring. 

During the rainy season the mine becomes flooded and water pours from the portal.
Most of the year the falls are dry, but occasionally water flows into the mine, and out the portal.

Every now and then I venture outside of L.A. County, when a spectacular mine presents itself. An unidentified mine in Black Star Canyon fits that category. Located on the eastern edge of Orange County there is a unique island of wilderness, a 65 square mile swath of land known as Silverado-Modjeska. 85% of this area lies within the Cleveland National Forest, with the remainder of open space permanently dedicated as the Irvine Ranch Land Reserve. Silverado was the site of an old silver mining town in the late 1800’s. 

A view from inside the mine. To the left there is a small side tunnel.
This was probably a silver mine. The canyon is part of a greater region, known as Silverado

Unlike the San Gabriels, the Santa Ana mountain range is largely made up of limestone, easily carved by water and time. In fact, this entire area was once deep beneath the sea. Evidence of this can be found throughout the canyons in the eroded sea walls and exposed fossils of ancient sea worms and shellfish. If you look carefully, you can find old Indian mortar rocks (metates) in the canyon, and more of them further up the Black Star Canyon Road, at the site of an old Indian village. If you follow the road for approximately eight miles you'll reach the Santa Ana Divide, where you'll find Beek's Place, the ruins of an old summer home once owned by a former Newport harbor master named Joe Beek. You'll also find a doppler radar tower used by KSOX to track weather. You can also approach this location from the other side of the range, starting at Tin Mine Canyon in Corona, which cuts two miles off your hike, each way.

I wish I could tell you the actual name of this mine, but I could find no records of it.
Most people think this is a natural cave, but inside it's very apparent that it was man made.

Reaching this mine involves an easy walk down a dirt road which leads into Cleveland National Forest. I don’t usually give away the locations of these mines, but this one is well known. At one point there is a well marked cutoff which leads you into Black Star Canyon. It’s a dry canyon most of the year, but occasionally the creek will swell and the falls will re-appear. Getting to the falls involves a lot of bouldering, so be prepared. The best time to see them is after a heavy rain storm, but this makes climbing up to the mine nearly impossible. The climb is only about 15 feet, but it's tricky even when the falls are dry. Some people call it a cave, but it’s definitely a mine. The name is unknown, but it was almost certainly a silver mine.

A wide angle shot of the main adit and a short fork intersecting with the waterfall.
This mine was developed to intersect with the falls, allowing a steady water source.

Although the falls look impassable, there is a way to get to the top via a side gully on the right side. I don’t want to get anyone killed, so I won’t say any more than that. Someone has recently hung a rope down from the top of the falls, which drops directly into the mine. I don’t put much trust in other people’s equipment, and it would be a long drop if the rope were to break, so I would not recommend climbing it.

These megalodus fossils in Black Star Canyon are over 215 million years old
These megalodus fossils are over 215 million years old. This canyon was once beneath the sea.

History of Black Star Canyon and Silverado

The first historical mention of canyons in this area appeared as far back as 1769, when the Governor of Lower California named the area “Canyon de la Madera” or “Canyon of Timber” At that time the Spanish had received land grants in the canyons to graze cattle and cut trees to build homes and missions. Much of the wood used to build the San Juan Capistrano Mission came from this area. The area which lies at the fork of Madera and Pine Canyons would later become a mining settlement known as Silverado. 

Lately these peacocks have disappeared, but they used to be abundant on the county road
 There used to be peacocks living along the county road, but lately they have disappeared.

Black Star Canyon, originally known as "Cañada de los Indios" first gained notoriety in 1831, where the last Southern California Native American massacre took place. Local ranchers had reportedly been terrorized by a band of Shoshone horse thieves. Unable to resolve the problem on their own, they enlisted the help of a well-known mountain man named William Wolfskill, who tracked the bandits into the canyon. They were reportedly found chewing on horse meat, and on what some thought to be "human remains". The ranchers overwhelmed the Indians, massacring them and desecrating their bodies out of spite. In 1857, a posse chasing a highwayman who had killed a sheriff stumbled upon a cluster of Indian caves outside of nearby Modjeska Canyon. Inside they found stunning baskets, which now reside at the Bowers Museum. Stone mortar holes (metates) can still be found in and around Black Star Canyon.

The rain seems to bring out California Newts, common to these mountains.
During the rain California Newts are everywhere. In the summer you might see Rosy Boas.

One day in 1877, while Santa Ana residents Hank Smith and William Curry were hunting in the mountains they spotted a rock that looked like silver ore. After having the rock tested, the silver content was confirmed, assaying for $60 a ton. They staked a claim and dug a tunnel. Within weeks a newspaper got wind of their find and soon 250 to 300 men rushed into Silverado, filing 500 claims. One year later, coal was found near the entrance to Black Star Canyon, very near to the current day parking area. The name Black Star comes from the Black Star Coal Mining Company, which operated until the early 1900’s. The mine consisted of one 900 foot shaft, called the Carbondale Mine, which yielded six to ten tons daily.

Reaching Black Star Canyon Falls requires climbing up and over a number of boulder fields.
Getting to Black Star Falls requires quite a bit of bouldering, but the destination is well worth it.

Two boom towns arose - Silverado and Carbondale, one centered on silver, the other on coal. The population skyrocketed to more than 1,500 and included three hotels, three stores, two blacksmiths, two meat markets and seven saloons. Black Star and Silverado Canyons each had a post office. Three stagecoaches traveled daily to Santa Ana, and two to Los Angeles. Both booms were short lived. By 1881 Carbondale closed. Two years later Silverado faded as well.

There are two known mountain lions that roam the area leading to Black Star Canyon.
On Black Star Canyon Road you'll see mountain lion warnings. Two of them that roam this area.


From 1920 until the mid 1950’s, silver mining resumed at the Blue Light Mine, located at the end of Silverado Canyon. Originally called the Dunlap Mine, the Blue Light Mine produced $47,000 worth of zinc, lead, gold and silver from 1942 to 1946. In 2002 there was a tragic accident there, when brothers Nicholas and Glenn Anderson both died from bad air while exploring the mine. This is a mine I am currently searching for, but it is not easy to find.

Although the county road is open to hikers, property on both sides is protected by electric fencing.
Edwards Ranch is located on both sides of the county road and gives fair warning to trespassers.

Is Black Star Canyon Haunted?

This canyon has had its share of bloodshed and violence throughout the years, starting with an Indian massacre in 1831, the savage murder of James M. Gregg in 1899, an overturned school bus which killed the teacher, driver and all of the children on board and the horrific rape of two girls in 2001. This, combined with a resident who alledgedly used to shoot at hikers and reported Satanic rituals within the canyon have made this “reportedly” one of the most haunted canyons in Southern California. 

Black Star Canyon has long been rumored to be haunted, because of its bloody history.
This canyon is rumored to be haunted, but crime that once plagued the area has been wiped out.

I’m not a believer in the paranormal, but those who are have reported sudden temperature changes, knocking sounds coming from trees and shadowy figures at night. The parking area used to be known for car break-ins, but that problem seems to have been remedied. At least two mountain lions still roam this area. I have not heard of any attacks on humans, but several animals have been killed by one of them in nearby Silverado Canyon.

The ruins of Beek's Place, and old harbormaster's cabin lie further up the county road.
The county road beyond Black Star Canyon leads to the ruins of an old cabin called Beek's Place.