Silver Bell Mine

One of two huge tipples found at Silver Bell Mine, looking out onto Pinto Basin.
This is one of two huge tipples found at the Silver Bell Mine looking out towards Pinto Basin Road.

County: Riverside
Primary Mineral: Gold Tertiary Minerals: Lead and Copper

Years of Operation: This mine was operational for more than 40 years. Known production occurred from 1934 to 1954. Mined mostly for gold in the 1930s, lead in the 1940s and copper in the 1950s. Despite the Silver Bell Mine's name, very little silver was found here. The last known ownership was the Farrington-Mann Company, which mined for copper between 1956-1962.

Nearest City or Landmark: Eastern Mojave Desert, Central Joshua Tree in the Hexie mountain range, near Pinto Basin Road.

Depth: This was a strip mining operation so there are no shafts or adits, however I did find one nearby incline shaft, which may or may not related to the Silver Bell.

The Silver Bell's huge tipples can be seen all the way from Pinto Basin Road.
Tipples were mostly used for coal mining. As far as I know these are the only ones in Joshua Tree.

History of the Silver Bell MIne

On the slopes to the south Pinto Basin Road in the center of Joshua Tree you can see the remains of the Silver Bell Mine in the Hexie Mountain range, with its tipples still standing. These gigantic ore bins held and fed rock to a stamp battery (mill) that crushed the ore into a sandy-watery pulp and pushed it onto an amalgamation table where precious metals were extracted. 

Though the mine operated more than 40 years, ownership and details about the mine’s riches are sketchy. This was a versatile mine that operated from 1934 to 1954: gold in the 1930s, lead in the 1940s, and copper in the 1950s. During WWII the Federal government closed gold mines in order to release miners for work directed at the war effort. At that time the Silver Bell became a lead mine. Despite the mine's name, little if any silver was found here. Reportedly the bulk of the riches obtained from this mine came from copper when prices shot up in value to $90 a ton in the late 1950s. From 1956 to 1962 it was operated by the Farrington-Mann Company as a copper property. 

Tipples were ore bins, but also sorters. Sorted ore was then transferred to a stamp mill and crushed.
Historical photo of the mine. Ore was hoisted up by the skip and dumped onto the grizzly, then sorted.

Mine Site Description  

At least one other website has described the Silver Bell Mine as being the same mine as the Golden Bell Mine aka the Blue Bell Mine. Although they are located close to each other they are completely separate mines. Possibly the same owners were involved in both operations, but I have no way of confirming that. You won't see any shafts or adits at this mine. This was a strip mining operation. In other words, tons of rock were scraped or blasted off the hillside, fed into the tipples where ore was sorted by size, then put through a stamp mill which crushed it into a watery pulp. Tipples were mainly used for coal mines, so it's unusual to find them in Joshua Tree. In fact these are probably the only ones found in the park, which is larger than the state of Rhode Island. It's easy to see why the owners of this mine chose this location to look for riches. I laid out a quick study of rocks I found in this area in the photo below. These hills are loaded with minerals.

A rock study of local minerals.  The Silver Bell Mine made most of its money from copper.
Rock study done at the mine site. Third from the left is copper ore, where the mine made most of its money.

An Unidentified Structure

Above the tipples there’s an odd dirt mound (pictured below), burying some heavy wooden beams from an old foundation or building. I’m not sure what this was. One website guessed that it was an old outhouse, but in my opinion the timbers are much too heavy for something that light weight. My guess is that this was either a mount for a stamp mill or possibly a third tipple. Without some vintage photos of the old mine site it’s hard to say for certain.

This odd dirt mound at the Silver Bell Mine is covering some sort of heavy timber foundation.
I'm not sure exactly what this is. It's an old structure covered with dirt, possibly a third tipple foundation.

An Unidentified Mine

After visiting two other nearby mines I was making my way back, via cross country, down a steep slope when I happened upon an old incline shaft (pictured below), with remnants of a partial ladder laying next to it. As you can see, this one is gated, however looking down inside I could see more remnants of the ladder. This one goes deep. I'd love to get in there, but apparently that's not going to happen. Whether or not this mine is related to the Silver Bell is hard to say. It's located on a hillside above what appears to be an old miner's camp Mines are numerous in this area, and not all of them are listed on maps. The gating would have been added long after the mining operation was abandoned. Not all of the shafts in this park are protected as well as this one.

This incline shaft can be found on a hillside near an old mining camp, below the Silver Bell Mine.
I discovered this gated incline tunnel on a hillside near the Silver Bell Mine, though it may not be related.

The Miners' Camp 

Near a sandy wash below the mine there's an old foundation with multiple rusty artifacts I was unable to identify. Was this a miner's camp? Or possibly an assay office? Was it even a part of the Silver Bell's mining operation?  It was late in the afternoon when I found this area, so it deserves a little more exploration. If you seek out the Silver Bell Mine you'll pass by it on the way to the tipples. It's next to an old mining road and fairly close to the incline shaft pictured above.

The colorful stones in this cabin foundation reflect the rich array of minerals found at the Silver Bell Mine.
Elaborate stonework from an unidentified structure. This may have been a miner's cabin, or an assay office.

Next to the miner's camp I found an old, narrow truck tire, off an early 1900s vehicle (pictured below). This is truly old. It looks like it may have come from a Model T truck or a similar vehicle and probably had the old style inner tube lining. The rubber is much darker than what you see on modern day cars and truck, and you won't find any steel belts here. Most people see these things as old discarded junk, I see them as historical relics.

The inner tube style truck tire came from a turn of the century auto, possibly a Model T.
An old, inner tube style tire from the early 1900s. Notice how dark the rubber is compared to modern tires.

Arch Rock

On the way to the Silver Bell Mine I made a quick stop to see the famous Arch Rock, near White Tank campground. While this is not near the mine it's a must see on the way to it. There are hundreds of named rocks within Joshua Tree, most of them were named by rock climbers. Arch rock is one of the most impressive. This arch was formed by both water erosion and wind. Water dissolved minerals on the surface, allowing it to seep into tiny cracks. Extreme temperatures then caused the cracks to expand and contract, and little by little, pieces of the rock fell away. Wind continued to wear it away until the arch was created. This temporary structure that will eventually collapse, only to be replaced by others.

Arch Rock is Joshua Tree is a temporary structure that will collapse one day, only to be replaced by others.
Arch Rock was formed by erosion and wind. One day this arch will collapse, but until then it's a must see.

Additional Photos - Silver Bell Mine 

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