Red White & Blue Mine

The Red White & Blue Mine dates back to at least 1871, possibly even earlier.
The Red White & Blue Mine is one of the least known, most well hidden mines of the Mt. Baldy region.

County: San Bernardino

Primary Mineral: Gold

Years of Operation: This mine is listed on a survey map from 1871. That makes it one of the oldest mines in the Mt. Baldy region. The exact duration of mining operations is unknown, but from 1933 to 1942 a Civilian Conservation Corp (C.C.C.) Camp stationed nearby used the mine for its water supply.

Nearest City or Landmark: San Antonio Creek, West Side of Spring Hill

Depth: The main adit is approximately 185 feet. About 32 feet into the mine there is a right fork, measuring an additional 143 feet.

Giant ferns and wild blackberries are abundant at the Red White and Bliue Mine portal.
Inside the portal there's an old dam wall. This mine was once used as a water tunnel

The Red White & Blue Mine is one of San Antonio Creek’s oldest, least known and most difficult to find. It’s not remote, just well concealed in heavy overgrowth of wild blackberries, on the western side of Spring Hill. In fact, at one time you could see it from Mt. Baldy Road, just after the Gran Prix fire of October 2003. But that was then, and this is now. You will have to suffer to find this one, bushwhacking up a steep hillside through yuccas, poison oak, stinging nettles and wild blackberries. It took me two hard tries to find it. Information on its whereabouts is out there, if you’re willing to do your homework.

Getting to the Red White & Blue Mine involves a lot a painful bushwhacking, through heavy blackberry bushes.
Welcome to the jungle. The portal is behind these overgrown blackberry bushes.

Inside The Mine

As previously mentioned, in order to reach this mine you will have to suffer.  And there’s no guarantee that you’ll find it on the first try, even if you know exactly where it is. It took me one scouting trip and two actual attempts to finally find it. Remember, this mine was used as a water tunnel after it was a gold mine, so there’s a dam wall built at the portal. That means you’ll have to wade into the mine through butt deep water. If you seek this one out, remember to empty out your pockets before you go in. I forgot I had a cell phone in my pants pocket before going in and ended up frying it. Submerged in the water you might see someone’s old deteriorated waders. Apparently he discarded them after exploring the mine.

The Red White & Blue mine is one of the oldest in the Mt. Baldy region, dating back to at least 1871.
I measured this mine's main adit at about 185 feet. A side fork goes in about 143 additional feet.

According to a local resident named Daven Gray, there was a Civilian Conservation Corp. camp somewhere near the mine that operated from 1933 to 1942. They used the abandoned mine for their water supply. Daven also located a virtually unknown mine in nearby Cascade Canyon back in 1983 that I am currently searching for. It has no known name, but he dubbed it the “Century Mine” because of its depth of 100 feet.

These colorful minerals are called calcium carbonate, common to caves and mines.
Red White & Blue Mine's main adit has heavy deposits of calcium carbonate on one wall.

On the way up to the Red White & Blue Mine you can still find old water pipes buried in the brush if you look hard enough. Hugh Blanchard estimated the total depth of the Red White and Blue Mine to be 200 feet, however I measured both the main adit and side fork at a total of 328 feet.

This is the first mine I've ever found Argonite in. They're tiny crystal structures formed from calcium carbonate.
These tiny crystal trees are called Aragonite. This was the first time I've seen them in a mine.

Once you get past the initial pond, most of the mine is semi dry. About 32 feet in there’s a side fork with a lower ceiling that goes in for about 143 feet. Theres’s a little wood rat living in this branch, who led me to an interesting artifact. The main adit is about 185 feet deep, and because of it’s angle you can walk in most of the way with no flashlight. Then it bends slightly and the light is lost. On the right wall there are heavy deposits of calcium carbonate, common to caves and mines. You can see a photo of that wall by scrolling up this page. I also found something I’ve never seen in a mine before. In a shallow pool there were small crystal trees called Shimmering Aragonite (cave calcite), made up of the same mineral forming on the wall. Other than that, there were a lot of old Michelob bottles, which seem to be a popular brand to drink in mines.

An old mining drill found partially buried near the back of the Red White & Blue Mine's side fork.

A Hidden Artifact in the Right Fork

The Red White & Blue Mine's right fork has a much lower ceiling than the main adit, but there’s no crawling involved to reach the end. Somehow a little wood rat was able to swim into the mine and built a nest in this tunnel. I was trying to take a photo of him, but he kept  moving further and further in, hiding in the cracks. Eventually he went all the way to the back of the tunnel, which led me to something I never would have found without his help. Mostly buried in the dirt there was an old miner's drill, used for boring blasting holes in the rock. You can see a photo of it above. 

These drills were originally sold in sets of five, in varying lengths from short to long. This one would have been the second shortest drill, measuring 24 inches. Starting with the shortest, miners would gradually pound a hole deep enough to pack with dynamite and would then finish it off with a drill hole cleaning rod. A good miner could bore five blasting holes a day. This is not the only one I've found. There's another one in the bottom level of the Kelsey Mine that I left where it was. And a third one stuck in the rock of a side gully in Las Flores Canyon. Normally I leave artifacts where they lie, but after the beating I took reaching this particular mine I thought I deserved a trophy. If you ever go to Calico Ghost Town you can see an original set of these in a display room just outside Maggie Mine.

Similar to the East Fork Road, Old Baldy Road was washed away by flooding.
Remnant of the Old Baldy Road. Most of it was washed away in the great flood of 1938.

Remnants of Old Baldy Road

San Antonio Creek is 20.7 miles long. It begins at the San Antonio Dam, authorized by the Flood Control Acts of 1936 and 1938, and built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It took four years to build and was completed in 1956. From the dam the creek meanders north, all the way to the bottom of Baldy Bowl, the barren area after which Mt. San Antonio coined it’s Baldy nickname.

Photo of a bridge washout taken back in 1966. This canyon is constantly ravaged by flooding.
A washed out bridge in San Antonio Creek (circa 1966), part of Old Baldy Road.

Old Baldy Road once traversed the creek, but was largely destroyed by flooding. Today large sections of the asphalt road still exist, and can be found between the Lower San Antonio Fire Station and Barrett Stoddard Road, near Baldy Village. Gold mining in this creek began in the 1870s, making the Red White & Blue Mine one of Mt. Baldy’s oldest. By the 1880’s placer mining gave way to hydraulic mining, which continued into the 1890s until it was outlawed in a court case against two mines in the upper section of the creek, the Banks (Hocumac) Mine and the Gold Ridge (Agamemnon) Mine. Both mines were initially successful, but due to the uncertain water supply, the low amount of gold in the ore, and a water-pollution lawsuit filed by downslope farmers, both mines failed.

There are a number of wrecked car found throughout the wash on the way up San Antonio Creek.
Multiple wrecked cars can found in the creek, probably stolen and pushed off the highway.

I have walked the entire length of what remains of Old Baldy Rd, which was replaced by the current Mt. Baldy Road, much higher up on the mountainside. The lower creek is not a popular hiking area, but to me it was fascinating. Road remnants, wrecked cars, artifacts from old mines and the San Antonio Water Company are scattered everywhere. Along the way one of several power plants can be found, and a mile long water tunnel which is connected to it. Cascade, Barrett and Stoddard Canyons are all offshoots of the main creek, and mines may be located in any of them, but because of heavy brush and steep terrain the search is tough. There is one other known mine, supposedly somewhere in lower Cascade Canyon, which as of yet I have not found.

I was surprised to find this old cyanide tank in the creek. These were used to process gold in the old mines.
A surprising find. This is an old cyanide tank, washed down from one of the gold mines.

A Drainage Tunnel Under Mt. Baldy Road

While surveying Spring Hill from Mt. Baldy Road, I discovered a drainage tunnel that runs underneath the highway. It's covered wall with wall with graffiti, which is the main reason I don't give the locations of mines on this site. Most people wouldn't want to walk through it, but I was curious to see what was on the other side. Part way through there's a ventilation shaft that leads up to the road. And at the end there's a sheer drop-off with trash, broken bottles and empty spray paint cans far below. I guess I'll never understand why people come to the mountains to tag rocks and destroy other people's property.

Under Mt. Baldy Road there's a greffiti filled tunnel that looks out directly on Spring Hill.
Under Mt. Baldy Road there's a graffiti filled drainage tunnel, that passes under beneath the highway.

A Mile Long Water Tunnel & Secret Trail

While hiking this creek for a second time, I discovered the water tunnel pictured below. There's a huge pipe that runs through it, connected to the south side of a power plant upstream. Water tunnels are the same as any other mine, just a different precious commodity. And in the late 1800s water tunnels were often more profitable than gold mines. This one is still in use. At one time the tunnel was probably tall enough to walk through, but after the pipe was placed the ceiling was reduced to about two feet. I thought about doing a long belly crawl to see if it opened up, but decided it was unlikely. Where does the tunnel lead? I found out on my way back.

This water tunnel is over one mile long. There are six locked shafts used to maintain the water pipe.
This is an old water tunnel.. There's a secret trail that follows it from the top, for over a mile.

The barrel you see in the photo above is actually a locked shaft, leading down into the water pipe. Presumably these are used when the water company shuts off the flow, to maintain the pipe. Following the mine from above, along a secret trail, I found six of these shafts, all locked, and a very old wooden cover at the back side of the mine (pictured below). Below the wooden cover I could hear free flowing water. Where it goes from there I don't know. The trail is roughly a mile long, and the wooden cover could easily be pried open, but for what purpose?

This is the back side of a mile long water tunnel. From here I lost the path of the water.
I found six locked maintenance shafts over the tunnel, in addition to this wooden cover.

The Miner's Camp

While searching for an unnamed mine near Cascade Canyon, I happened upon what may or may not have been the ruins an old miner's camp. Man-made rock walls on a flat were present, along with corrugated metal roofing materials and what appeared to be the cement foundation of a small single stamp mill. I've seen these before, and this one looked similar. A few hand cut boards were also nearby.

This rock wall was probably part of a miner's camp or cabin, possibly related to a nearby mine.
Ruins near the mouth of Cascade Canyon. This may have been an old miner's camp.

Whether or not this was actually a miner's camp I may never know, but it led me to believe I might be getting close to what I was searching for. This is an obscure, unrecorded mine that was discovered back in 1983, by a gentleman named Daven Gray. He dubbed it the Century Mine, for its 100 foot depth. I have only seen this mine on one website, and by now it may be covered over by a landslide that occurred fairly recently, but I'll probably attempt to find it at least one more time.

These wooden planks and a cement block were possible part of an old single stamp mill.
Possible remnants of an old single stamp (coffee pot) mill. 

Gems of Cascade Canyon

Cascade Canyon is a steep offshoot of lower San Antonio Creek, long known to rockhounds for rubies, sapphires and other gems. The upper part of the canyon was once known for a lapis-lazuli mine, known as Big Horn Mine (not to be confused with the gold mine on Mt. Baden Powell), which was shut down by the forest service in the early 1980s, after it was determined that the claim was never valid. Rubies and sapphires occur in a mineral called corundum (aluminum oxide), and are abundant in the lower part of the canyon, though most a very small. 

The first known mention of this canyon was in a book published in London back in 1867, called “The Natural History of Gems or Decorative Stones” by C.W. King. The photo below is a specimen I picked up on Barrett Stoddard Road, near the midpoint of Cascade Canyon. The purplish gems are small rubies. Rubies and sapphires aren’t really worth much if they’re under one carat, and their value depends on a multitude of factors, including color, size and clarity. Virtually all modern rubies are manipulated with heat and chemicals to enhance their appearance before sale. In 2012 Robert Housley wrote a very detailed report on the history of gem mining in Cascade Canyon. 

Cascade Canyon is known to rockhounds a a hunting ground for rubies and lapis lazuli.
These purplish specks are tiny rubies inside corundum (aluminum oxide)

The Hidden Falls 

Near Barrett-Stoddard Road, off of Mt. Baldy Road, there’s a beautiful hidden waterfall, in an area I would describe as Stoddard Canyon’s narrows. The photo below was taken at the end of the summer season, so water was low. However at other times of the year, when the pool below is deep enough, people slide off the top of it. Below the falls is a cliff wall, popular with rock climbers. At least 50 anchors are still hanging from the rock. And yet another wrecked vehicle below that, as well as a wrecked motorcycle downstream. The falls are hidden from view by a deep chasm, so the falls are still somewhat secret, and amazingly there is no graffiti on the rocks.

When water is higher ast Stoddard Canyon Falls you can safely slide off the top of it.
Falls in the dry season. When the pool is deeper you can slide off the top..