Big Horn Mine (Mojave National Preserve)

The Big Horn Mine is located on the east side of the Providence Mountain Range in the Mojave National Preserve.  Gold was first discovered here in 1894, a dozen or so claims were filed.  The mine was named after the Mable, Contention, and Investment mines. Thomas Gannon and his partner Barker, were the first to develop any of the claims. In 1898, they sunk a 200 foot shaft at the Contention claim. They managed to expose a wide ore bearing ledge that got richer the further down in-depth they went.

Gannon worked the mines here for nearly 30 years. Estimates have been made based on reports from outside sources that from late 1918 – early 1919, he managed to produce $100,000 worth of ore.  Apparently enough money for Gannon to stop production from 1920-1924. When he returned in 1924 he worked the Contention and Subway shafts. It is not known how much ore was processed, but in the tailings alone there was 6,000 tons worth an estimated $30,000.


Big Horn Mine - Mining ruins and tailings at the Big Horn.

Big Horn Mine – Mining ruins and tailings at the Big Horn.


In the 1930s the mine was sold, but laid idle until the late 1930s. The Big Horn Exploration Company purchased and renamed the mine, and began working it again. Big Horn Exploration meant business, and sunk deeper shafts in the already present Contention and Subways shafts. They also built an 80-foot headframe, with ore bins and a hoist.  The Big Horn Exploration Company operated the mine until 1943, when the mine was closed for good.

The Hilltop House was built prior to 1933, it is an impressive site that is still standing today. The building served as the residence of W.E. Wilson, the Bighorn Mine operator as well as primary investors Herbert and Anna von Wagenheim. The house was also a welcoming place to area miners, ranchers and homesteaders during the holidays for celebrations.

The house was in poor shape leading up to 2008, high winds eventually caused the building to collapse. The Park Service restored the building that same year thanks to a grant from the Vanishing Treasures fund. Today the building stands proudly as a piece of early mining history.

The old mining site is filled with other treasures, including numerous water tanks, stone structure ruins, and old rusted cars and equipment.  The mines have been sealed, so underground exploring is not possible.

Interested in visiting this site?

BOOK OPTION: Providence, CA and The Bonanza King Mine is featured in Secret Places in the Mojave Desert Vol. IV. Detailed maps, and GPS coordinates are included.  Order your copy now.

About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.