Tin Mine Canyon

Getting to this mine requires a steep climb. All of the mines in this canyon are gated.
The north side of the Santa Anas was mined for tin, while the south was mined for silver.

County: Riverside
Primary Mineral Virtually all mines on the northeastern side of the Santa Ana Mountain Range were tin mines. There were many of these small claims. None of them were deemed commercially viable.

Years of Operation: Tin Mining began as early as 1859 near Corona, however these mines were probably dug much later, during a brief flurry of exploratory mining in the late 1800's or even the early 1900's. Exact dates are unknown, but within three years the boom was over, with a few exceptions.

Nearest City or Landmark:  Corona
Depth: As of yet, all of the mines I have located in this canyon are shallow exploratory ones which are all gated. I am sure there are others, especially in one particular side canyon. Depths are unknown.

Apparently tin miners look for ore along faults, but the fractures were too irregular to recover ore from.
I don't know the names of these mines, but this is the most well known one.

Corona's Tin Mining Boom

Tin Mine Canyon takes it’s name from the tin mines that once operated in the area. While the opposite side of the Santa Ana Mountain Range was mined mainly for silver and coal, a brief tin mining boom started in 1877 in the northeastern part of the range, when tin was discovered near Trabuco Canyon. Small exploratory mines can still be found in numerous nearby canyons, including Tin Mine Canyon and Hagador Canyon (both shown on this page).

All of the mines in this canyon were exploratory, meaning less than 50 feet deep.
It's hard to say how deep these adits go. All the mines I've found so far are gated.

Borden's Legendary Failure

In nearby Trabuco Canyon there was a well known mine, run by the Santa Ana Tin Mining Company which was incorporated in 1901. The Santa Ana Tin Mine was partially owned by New York dairy magnate Gail Borden III of the Borden Milk Company who lost millions sinking thousands of feet of shafts and tunnels near Trabuco Canyon, none of which yielded a single ounce of tin. In all, there were 54 claims filed in the canyon by Borden's partner, L.C. Comer. Because of a new decree by the U.S. Health Agency that required all milk containers to be covered and sterilized, wooden buckets, which were commonly used to transport milk suddenly became unlawful. 

The Santa Ana Tin Mine was partially owned by the famous owner of the Borden Milk Company.
Santa Ana Tin Mine near Trabuco Canyon in 1903. Photo courtesy of U.S.C. Library 

Borden wanted to use the tin to replace wooden buckets. The same eagle that appeared on cans of Borden’s Milk was used as the mining company’s logo. About one half mile below the mine there was a cluster of miner's cabins, known as Surprise City, but they all washed away in the flood of 1916. Before the mine closed there was a small amount of an extremely rare mineral found in Tunnel #1, called arcanite. Ironically the mineral was not found in the mine itself, but embedded in a pine railroad tie. Other than this, the Santa Ana Tin Mine was a complete bust.

Santa Ana Tin Mine in the early 1900's and what remained in the mid 1970's.
Left: Santa Ana Tin Mine early 1900's. Right: Same buildings in 1975, before demolition.

In 1969 the Orange County Historical Landmarks Project panel, in reference to the Santa Ana Tin Mine proclaimed that, "Of the many mines and mill sites that have existed in Orange County, this is one of the best preserved. Not only are the old shafts and cut tunnels preserved, but the old mill, laboratory, blacksmith shop and a few other old buildings still stand." The Orange County Planning Commission called the mine "a historical site worthy of preservation", but unfortunately supervisors decided the mine was not worth keeping. The forest service deemed these historical structures as "attractive nuisances" and slowly destroyed them. The last remaining building was reportedly torn down in the late 1990's. Today all that remains is a rock wall.

Of the three mines I located in this canyon, this one is the hardest to get to, high up on a steep hillside.
The second mine is up on a steep hillside. Getting up there is kind of sketchy

The Cajalco Mine 

There was only one truly successful tin mine near the Corona area, the Cajalco Tin Mine, located about 5 miles southeast of Corona, which operated from 1859 through 1929, briefly reopening during WWII to meet the demands of the military under the name of Tinco Corp from 1942-1945. It is said that of the 150 tons of tin produced in California by 1945, 113 tons came from the Cajalco Mine. This was a huge commercial operation, with seven levels mined to 690 feet deep and more than 5,800 feet of shafts.

Gated mines are designed to keep people out, while allowing access to bats and other small wildlife.
Mine No. 3 is apparently available for claim. The gate appears to be easily removable.

Tin Mine Canyon

Lately I’ve been exploring a mountain range just outside of L.A. County, the Santa Anas. It’s a surprisingly large area, over 65 miles, and runs all the way from Orange County on the south side to Riverside county in the northeastern reaches. Tin Mine Canyon is located in Corona, on the opposite side of the range from Black Star Canyon. While the southern slopes were mainly mined for silver, canyons of the northeast were mined mostly for tin. Tin discoveries were reported in this area as early as 1859, though no substantial mining was done until 1877. Virtually all of the mines in this canyon were failures, and of the three I’ve found, all were shallow exploratory mines, which are now gated.

These closure signs are posted on the smaller mines throughout local canyons.
Gates allow bats and small wildlife access. This one is removable for research.


On this page you’ll see three of the mines in Tin Mine Canyon, as well as a possible side vent to a shaft I found buried in leaves (pictured below) and another small mine found in nearby Hagador Canyon. Both canyons are brushy, making the search for others a challenge, but I believe I have spotted another one in a side gully of Tin Mine Canyon, as well as huge tailings piles visible from Black Star Canyon Road in another impossibly overgrown side canyon. In Hagador Canyon I have also spotted what may be another mine, high on a hillside, once again covered with brush. No wonder I’ve been infected by Poison Oak so many times. 

Possible ventilation shaft for a vertical shaft on the mountainside above.
Possible vent to what may be a vertical shaft above. It's hard to tell without digging it out.

All of the mines I’ve located so far are gated, so I cannot get inside. But they appear to be fairly shallow, about 30-40 feet deep. The mines with the circular gating are the smallest, but probably the most interesting. It appears that the gates can be easily removed, in fact the warning signs posted state that they can be removed for research or minerals development upon request, meaning almost anyone who is willing to pay a fee is able to claim these mines as their own. There’s a little more to it than that, but some abandoned mines in more remote areas of this range have already been claimed. The gates are supposedly bat friendly, although in all the mines I’ve explored I have never seen a single bat. Tin Mine Canyon is fairly deep, and gets progressively more overgrown the further in you go. At one point I found a fairly fresh deer kill and decided it was best to turn around. But as always, I have made notes for further exploration of both Tin Mine and Hagador Canyons.

Part of a mule deer carcass, probably left behind by a bear or mountain lion.
Partial leg of a mule deer, probably killed by a bear. Other parts were found nearby.

Hagador Canyon

Hagador Canyon, like its next door neighbor Tin Mine Canyon was once the home of tin mining. Though just minutes from the suburbs of Corona, it has a feeling a true isolation. Both of the canyons drain into the same basin, and like Tin Mine Canyon this one is brushy, making the search for mines difficult. As of yet I have only located one small mine, and another possible one far up on the mountainside that I have only viewed from the distance. The second one looks promising, but getting up to it would be a challenge through dense brush and steep slopes. And it may turn out to be nothing, but I’ve made a note of it for possible further exploration. Most of these turn out to be wild goose chases, but every now and then I get lucky. There's a similar one in Tin Mine Canyon that I will definitely climb up to sometime in the future.

I found this small mine in Hagador Canyon. It appeared to be leaking toxic chemicals.
This small tin mine in Hagador Canyon appears to be leaking toxic chemicals.


I’ve only visited this canyon once, but along the way there were numerous clues of mines, water tunnels and structures that may have once existed here. Smarter miners did not locate their mines directly next to stream beds, knowing that they would become flooding during the rainy season, so I general look on hillsides for old trails, ancient tailings, stone ruins or old artifacts. I found several of these, but the mines may have been buried over time. This canyon is on a long list of areas warranting further exploration in the future.

On December 14, 1961 there was an airplane crash in this area. As of yet, I have not located the wreckage, but I have read reports that some of it still exists, near the ridge. The plane was a USAF C-47 that went down in bad weather on the upper slopes of Hagador Canyon. Three service men reportedly perished in the crash.

Early Lawson family cabin in Hagador Canyon, near Tin Mine Canyon, taken in 1886.
An 1886 photo of the Lawson family, residents of Hagador Canyon

Red Diamond Rattlesnakes 

There's a snake that lives in the canyons of the Santa Ana's called the Red Diamond Rattlesnake. They're common to this range, but new to me. In 2017, the end of a long drought led to a boom in the birth of rodents, which meant more food for snakes. Many of these rattlers ended up in the backyards of local residents. OC Snake Removal of Anaheim Hills reported a record number of calls (over 200 a month), up 44 percent from the year before. All of the captured snakes were released near the base of the Santa Ana range, so there’s a good chance of seeing them when the summer rolls around.

Since I've only hiked this area during the winter months they've all been underground hibernating, but Ken Pitts took a great video of one he encountered in Hagador Canyon back in 2012. I'm not sure why it never rattled, but I was once bit on the boot in the San Gabriel Mountains by a Southern Pacific Rattler that never made a sound. Ken believed that this one may have had a broken back, but it looks very healthy to me.


Beek's Place

Beek’s Place was once a summer cabin owned by Joseph “Joe” Beek, who, for a short time was the Newport Harbor Master. He also ran the Balboa Island Ferry from 1919, which remains in the family to this day. Later in his life he served as secretary to the California State Senate, until his death in 1968.

Beek's Place was a summer cabin built on the top of the divide between Corona and Silverado.
There are two cabins. Theft and vandalism made both cabins impossible to maintain.

The ruins of the cabin can be reached from either side of the Santa Ana Mountain range via the Black Star Canyon Road, and rests at the divide, offering spectacular view of Corona on one side and beach cities on the other. From the Black Star Canyon parking area in Silverado, it approximately 16 miles round trip, while from the Corona side, at the base of Tin Mine Canyon it is a slightly shorter hike, about 12 miles, round trip. I have heard that it is possible to climb all the way up Tin Mine Canyon to get to it, but this would be an extremely hard and brushy way to get there.

This in all that remains of the main cabin. It was finally abandoned because of theft and vandalism.
Joe Beek ran the Balboa Island Ferry from 1919. Beek's Place was his summer home.

The cabin was built in the 1930’s, and a smaller caretaker’s cabin was built was built as well. Both cabins had one room. There were also four cisterns built, which made it possible to grow pine trees on the site. One of them doubled as a small swimming pool. Over the years the cabins were badly vandalized and became impossible to maintain. There’s a lot more to the history of Beek’s Place and the man who owned it which you can read by clicking here …. Beek’s Place.

The Beek family only visited the cabin occasionally, while a caretaker came up more often.
Joe Beek's main cabin in the 1930's. There was also a caretaker's cabin nearby.

The KSOX Doppler Radar Tower

As you approach Beek’s Place from either side of the divide you’ll notice a fallen metal tower and another one that’s still standing. Supposedly these were built to be used as gun turrets during WWII in the event that the United States was invaded by Germany or Japan. Further up the hill there’s a monstrous doppler radar tower owned by KSOX to track weather throughout Southern California. 

From this vantage point you can see 100 miles in any direction on a clear day. You can easily see the Pacific Ocean (and all of the southern islands), Ventura County, Downtown L.A., Orange County, Newport Beach, Riverside, Temecula and even the snow capped mountains near Big Bear and San Jacinto. While doppler towers do a great job tracking weather. they are not without controversy. The government will tell your they’re safe (same thing they claimed about asbestos and DDT), but continued exposure to the low-level radiation has been said to cause detrimental health problems. For hikers the risk is probably minimal.

Doppler towers are used to track weather. This one is used by KSOX, and is located behind Beek's Place.
Above Beek's Place you can find the KSOX doppler radar tower, used to track weather.