Desert Queen / McHaney Mine

The Desert Queen Mine has 10 remaining adits, 5 incline tunnels and 4 shafts.
One of 10 remaining adits of the Desert Queen Mine. There are also 4 vertical shafts and 5 incline tunnels.

Desert Queen Mine

County: Riverside
Primary Minerals: Gold Tertiary Minerals: Silver

Years of Operation: 1895 through 1961. The Desert Queen Mine was one of the most productive mines in the area producing a total of 3,845 ounces of gold. Silver was also mined here on a lesser scale. 

Nearest City or Landmark:  Joshua Tree, Eastern Mojave Desert
Depth: Of the remaining tunnels there are four large vertical shafts, ranging from 65 to 75 feet in depth. In addition there are five incline shafts of about 35 to 45 degrees and ten adits, five of which have suffered considerable decay and three of which are almost entirely sealed off. Depths of the incline tunnels and adits are unknown.

With a little difficulty some of the Desert Queen Mines gated mines can be bypassed.
Most of the deeper adits are sealed off with gating, however a few of these gates can be bypassed.

History of the Desert Queen Mine

The history of the Desert Queen Mine reads like a western adventure novel. Frank L. James discovered gold here in 1894. Over the years ownership of the mine would be transferred from his hands to others by way of murder, robbery, bank foreclosure, sale and payment for back wages. The Desert Queen Mine, also known as the McHaney Mine was one of the more productive and longer lived mines in the Joshua Tree area. Operations were sporadic, but it occasionally offered up a pocket of gold ore sufficiently rich enough to maintain interest for nearly three quarters of a century. The United States Bureau of Mines recorded a total production of 3,845 ounces of gold. Silver production details are unknown.

The may or may not have been the Desert Queen Mine's assayer's office, or part of the mining camp.
This may have been the old assaying office. It seems a little large for a typical miner's cabin.

The ore processed initially was quite rich, and a notorious local outlaw named Jim McHaney wanted a piece of the action.  He sent two of his cronies, Charley Martin and a man named Myers, to force James to sign over the mine. James refused, so Martin borrowed a gun from Myers, and forced James to sign over his claim, then shot him. Martin was later tried for murder, but claimed self defense, and was acquitted.  

A vandalized ore bin found near the Desert Queen Mine. Thankfully it has not been stolen yet.
A vandalized ore bin found in Gold Dust Gulch. Seems that nothing is safe in this vast desert region.

McHaney’s first ore shipments reportedly netted him $27,000, but he spent it quickly and then borrowed from a local bank against future production. When subsequent ore shipments proved unable to keep up with his borrowing, the mine passed into ownership of the bank. The mine would eventually pass into the hands of William F. Keys around 1917.

A well preserved Chicago Pneumatic compressor found near one of the Desert Queen's adits.

Keys gained ownership as payment for back wages he had not received while working at the mine. He had left home at the age of 15 and worked at mills, mines and cattle ranches. During the time he was employed at the Desert Queen Mine he worked as a custodian, miner and assayer. Keys would soon become a rich and powerful man in the area, building a ranch, mill, corral, dam and cemetery. He was also the owner for a time of the nearby Eagle Cliff Mine, known at that time as the Black Eagle. This was a lead mine that, like the Desert Queen would mill its ore at the Wall Street Mill, also owned by Keys. He operated the Desert Queen intermittently until 1961.

65 foot tall tailings from two of the Desert Queen Mine's four vertical shafts.
Tailings below two of the four main shafts. In addition there are 10 adits and 5 incline tunnels.

In the 1940s Keys was involved in a dispute over water and land right with an ex-Sherff from Los Angeles named Worth Bagley. Bagley reportedly left the police force because of repeated abuses of power and mental instability. After moving to Joshua Tree in 1938, Bagley gained a reputation as a trouble maker. He owned a piece of property which bordered Keys’ Desert Queen Ranch, and Keys would often find his cattle shot dead near their common boundary.

The Desert Queen Mine has two upper vertical shafts. Both of them are gated.
One of two upper shafts, near Power Shopping Rock. There are several gated adits nearby.

Keys could never prove that Bagley was the shooter, and the bad blood between the two got worse when Bagley began blocking the road leading to the Wall Street Mill. One day Bagley posted a sign that read, “Keys, this is my last warning. Stay off my property.” A gunfight arose, and Keys killed Bagley. Keys would later be convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to nine years at San Quentin State Prison. Thanks to the help of Earle Stanley Gardner (the creator of Perry Mason) Keys would later win parole, who championed his cause. In 1946 the California Adult Authority concluded that Keys had been wrongfully convicted. He received a full pardon.

Ore samples from one of the Desert Queen Mine's four main shafts.
Ore samples from one of the Desert Queen Mine's tailings piles. The largest pile is 65 feet high.

What Remains

In 1976, the National Park Service entered the Desert Queen Mine in the National Register of Historic Places. The last mining operations here were back in 1961, and since then several adits have collapsed, but many of the artifacts still remain. There are four large vertical shafts ranging from 65 to 75 feet in depth, five inclined shafts of about 35 to 45 degree and ten adits to horizontal tunnels, five of which have suffered considerable decay, three being nearly entirely sealed off. Tailing piles adjacent to these workings are generally small, indicating removal of little ore, except for the tailings from the main adit which constitute a mound 65 feet high spilling into the wash below. One-half mile northwest of the main mining site six additional tailings piles indicate additional workings. There are also two remaining tanks from the cyanide plant built by two men named Phelp and Saunders between 1935 and 1937.

NPS covers most of the mine shafts, but some of the adits and incline tunnels are left alone.
NPS uses many forms of gating to close off mines they feel are dangerous. Some have been broken into.

The mine area is littered with historic debris, including timbers, scrap metal and rusted pipe. Additional scrap equipment includes cable, an undetermined length of mine tramway track in the main tunnel, railroad ties with rail removed, a twelve-foot piece of tramway track in the wash; metal screen, concrete debris, a rusted oil drum in the wash, an air pump and reservoir mounted on two large ten-foot wooden beams, labeled "Chicago Pneumatic", but missing its engine, an iron container one by one by four feet. an 4 1/2 foot tall iron container on four legs, an iron wheel (perhaps a flywheel) 2 1/2 feet in diameter, mounted on a shaft on wooden beams anchored in rock. On the opposite hillside is a winch with some cable. 

Early morning landscape in northwestern Joshua Tree. Some days they are spectacular.
I like to get an early start on my visits to Joshua Tree. Sunrises and sunsets can sometimes be spectacular.

Additional Photos - Desert Queen Mine

All watermarked photos are copyrighted and cannot be used without my consent.