Contact Mine

Among the large artifacts found at Contact Mine you'll find this old water pump.
After Contact Mine was abandoned a lot of large equipment was left behind, including this water pump.

County: San Bernardino

Primary Mineral: Gold and Silver

Years of Operation: Reportedly a claim was filed for Contact and Contact 2 on July 1st of 1923. However one source disputed this claim and said the mine was active as early as 1910. At that time the notorious horse thief and cattle rustler Bill McHaney said it was called Sullivan's Contact Mine. The mine was active off and on through the 1920s, 1930s and even into the 1940s. By 1953 it was owned by E.M. Reimiller of Twentynine Palms, although it is not known whether the claim remained active during that time.

Nearest City or Landmark: Eastern Mojave Desert, Northern Joshua Tree in hills east of Queen Mountain.

Depth: Multiple gated shafts, depths are unknown

Contact Mine milled its own gold and silver ore. The mill is gone, but a small engine still remains.
It's not clear what this gas engine once powered or whether there was once some sort of mill on the site.

History of the Contact MIne

Information on the Contact Mine is scarce. Gold and silver were mined at the site, but the original owners are unknown. A historical resource study done back in the 1980’s reported that Contact and Contact 2 lode mining claims were first located on July 1st of 1923. However one of the local characters who lived in the area at that time stated that the mine was in operation by 1910. Bill McHaney, a cattle rustler and horse thief recalled the mine being called “Sullivan’s Contact Mine” at that time.

This winch would have been used to hoist ore out of Contact Mine's multiple shafts.
Next to three prominent shafts you'll find this old winch. There were probably headframes over each one.

Which story is correct is unknown, however the mine reportedly mined, shipped and milled ore at a good profit. The mine continued to operate off and on from the 1920’s through 1940. In 1953 the mine was owned by E.M. Reimiller of Twentynine Palms, though it is unknown whether or not he re-opened mining operations.

Contact Mine's old ore cart rails probably led to the tailing piles found below the shafts.
These are the old ore cart rails. There was probably a dump spot at the edge when the mine was in operation. 

A Brief History of Joshua Tree

In 1936, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a proclamation designating 794,000 acres of what is now Joshua Tree National Park as a national monument. It would later become a national park in 1994. This is a massive area, larger than the state of Rhode Island, and much of it is still pure wilderness.

This artifact, found near Contact Mine has yet to be identified, possibly part of a hoist.
I'm not exactly sure what this is. Just one more piece of the many large artifacts found at Contact Mine.

Mormon pioneers encountered the strange giant species of yucca, now known as the Joshua Tree in the mid-1800s. They only grow in a small swath of the Mojave Desert, southwest Utah, southern Nevada, western Arizona and into southeastern California at elevations from 1,300 to 5,900 feet above sea level. Most will say the Joshua tree got it’s name from Mormon settlers who said the tree’s unique shape reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. However it has been disputed whether Mormons ever traveled through this exact region. Most travelers of that day referred to this tree as a “yucca palm” or “Palmyra cactus”.

Joshua Tree's shafts range from well protected to wide open. These ones are all gated.
One of three gated shafts at the mine. Joshua Tree handles these hazards differently, according to location.

There are approximately 288 abandoned mining sites in Joshua Tree National Park with 747 known mine openings. Several minerals were mined here. but gold was the commodity of greatest interest. Mining in this region began back in the 1870s, but peaked in the 1920s and 1930s. There are eight mining districts in and adjacent to Joshua Tree, 1) Twentynine Palms, 2) Dale, 3) Rattler, 4 Monte Negras, 5) Eagle Mountains, 6) Cottonwood Spring, 7) Piñon, and 8) Gold Park.

This may have been a bunkhouse. Some of these pieces came from the top of a stove.
This appears to be the remnants of an old stove. There was probably a building here at one time.

Prospectors who came to California found the claims in the Sierras were crowded, with limited potential. In their search for the next bonanza many moved into the Mojave Desert, some moving as far east as what is now known as Joshua Tree. Mining began here in the mid-1800s and continued all the way into the late 20th century. The vast majority of these mines produced only minimal gains, but there were some exceptions. The Desert Queen and Lost Horse Mines were two of them.


This is the old wagon road, found near Contact Mine. Over the years it has narrowed and eroded.
The old mining road has narrowed over the years, but overall the rock walls have survived the elements.

One of the more successful mines was the Desert Queen, not far from Contact Mine, which was owned by Bill Keys. According to Bill's son Willis, most of Key’s money was made from leasing out the mine to other operators. The terms of the lease would be for one year, but most of the operators walked away from the mine before the lease expired. Key’s also owned the Wall Street Mill, which processed ore for nearby mines. I’ll be adding several mines in the Joshua Tree area to this site soon, so stay tuned.


Despite the hostile desert terrain, there's an abundance of life near Contact Mine.
Despite the harsh environment there's a lot of flora and fauna in this desert, like this Globemallow.

The Oasis of Mara

Within the boundaries of Joshua Tree, five oases exist. This one is located roughly six miles from Contact Mine, near the northern park entrance. The presence of water is the rarest of all desert commodities. Serrano Indians called this place Mara, meaning “the place of little springs and much grass.” Legend holds that they came here because a medicine man told them it was a good place to live, and that they would have many boy babies. Within the first year the Serrano planted 29 palm trees. And to this day the town surrounding it is known as Twentynine Palms. Palms provided the Indians with food, clothing, cooking implements and housing.  

The Oasis of Mara was once home to Serrano and Chemehuevi Indians.
Hard to believe this oasis exists just six miles from Contact Mine. There are five of them within Joshua Tree.

When early American survey parties arrived here in the 1850s they found the area under cultivation by the Serrano. Corn pumpkins, beans and squash were all being grown here. By 1867 the Chemehuevi Indians settled here, and coexisted peacefully with the Serrano. By 1870 miners had arrived. The Anaconda Mine began operations south of the Oasis in 1874, soon followed by the Lost Horse, Desert Queen and many others. Unfortunately this is not the oasis it once was. Miners siphoned off much of the water for their mining operations and they began to cut the trees down. 

Vintage photo of the Oasis of Mara, circa 1889. Among other things it served as a stage line stop
The Oasis of Mara in 1889. Not visible is this photo is the "Old Adobe", a structure that stood for 40 years.

Bill McHaney was the first non-Indian to live at the Oasis. He moved here in 1879. Later Jack Rankin and Bill Leaves built an adobe house at the east end, known as the "Old Adobe" It served as a residence, stage line stop and meeting place for over 40 years. Barker and Shays Cattle Company dug a 600-gallon well around 1900 as the population began to grow.  By 1902 there were only 37 Serrano and Chemehuevi Indians still living at the Oasis. As more whites moved in the Indian families drifted away, and by 1913 they were completely gone. Sadly in 2018 an arsonist started a fire at the oasis, which did heavy damage to the palms and some of the site's archeological items. The suspect was caught, and charged with "unlawfully setting timber afire".

Two tribes of Indians inhabited the Oasis of Mara. The Serranos called it "the place of little springs and much grass".
The Oasis of Mara was named by the Serrano Indians, meaning the place of little springs and much grass.

Spirit of the Desert

Spirit of the Desert is a large mural painted in acrylics on the eastern wall of the Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms. It measures 24 by 6 feet and was painted by Corey Ench in honor of the late Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, who led the effort to get Joshua Tree protected as a national monument. The mural was unveiled on the 10th anniversary of the California Desert Preservation Act, legislation that would lead to the eventual establishment of Joshua Tree as a national park. This beautiful painting is worth stopping to see if you're entering the park from the northern side. To see more of Corey Ench's artwork click here.

A mural honoring Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, who was largely responsible for making Joshua Tree a national monument.
This mural honors Minerva Hamilton Hoyt, who led the effort to make Joshua Tree a national monument.

Additional Photos - Contact Mine

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