Dalton Mine and the Frank Hill Mine: Two Obscure Mines in the Dale Mining District

I was supposed to be camping and hiking in the nearby Mojave National Preserve, but with several days of rain in the forecast, my friend Mike and I decided to cancel our trip. Instead we opted to spend a day in the Dale Mining District before the bulk of the weather arrived. The Dale Mining District is located in the Pinto Mountains, just east of Twentynine Palms. The district was most active in the late 1800s into the early 1900s, with some activity extending well into the 1970s and 1980s. Small scale mining is still known to take place in the district by weekend warriors with a gold fetish.

A few months ago I located via Google Earth a couple of areas of land that looked to be disturbed in the southwest section of the range. From the satellite imagery there appeared to be very faint roads and trails throughout the region, and possibly structures at the sites. For whatever reason I had never ventured into this part of the mountain range, and it appeared that very few people do. With a little research I was able to find out that these disturbed places were the Dalton Mine, and the Frank Hill Mine. Both are obscure mines, with little to no historic documentation.

On an overcast and dreary morning, Mike and I set off to find what, if anything remained at these mines. We turned south on Gold Crown Road from Highway 62, and after several miles turned off on a west bound dirt track that would then connect to another series of bumpy, rocky, and dusty trails. We were in route to our first stop of the day, the Dalton Mine.

As we neared the mine the road abruptly came to an end at a roundabout that had signs of recent use as a camp and target range. Not exactly the signs that you want to see when you are hoping to find an old settlement in good order. I knew that there was a road that connected to the mine, somehow I just managed to miss it. We got out of the Jeep and scouted the area. It didn’t take long to find, it just wasn’t obvious. The desert had begun to take back the shelf road that left the floor of the canyon, and climbed up the mountain. There was no evidence that anyone had driven the road in a long time. There were no tire tracks, and no footprints. We walked a tenth of a mile up the road to make sure that it was passable in a vehicle. It had its questionable spots, where the road was deeply rutted from washouts, and lots of narrow ledges. We decided to go for it, and surprisingly with little effort my Jeep climbed up the shelf road. I can admit that I was a little nervous, I’m not the biggest fan of shelf roads, but I managed this one without a nervous breakdown.

 

At the peak of the road, a large pile of tailing is visible across the wash.

At the peak of the road, a large pile of tailing is visible across the wash.

 

At the peak of the road, a large pile of tailing were visible across the wash. The road continued down an embankment and into the wash, but we decided to hoof in from here.

Below the tailings there was a substantial amount of weathered plywood from a small mill that appears to have exploded during a flash flood. On the adjacent hill we located where two structure once stood, there were two flattened surfaces that once served as building plots. Old broken glass, pottery sherds (planting pots), and cans were in an abundance around these plots, as well as a rusty folding bed frame. We found the site of the outhouse along the banks of the wash, completely collapsed on itself. Behind where the structures once stood a trail and steps made of rock led up to an adit that extended approximately fifty feet before coming to an end.

 

Destroyed mill site.

Destroyed mill site.

 

Pieces of the mill are scattered through the wash.

Pieces of the mill are scattered through the wash.

 

Cozy folding bed frame.

Cozy folding bed frame.

 

The steps leading up to a short shaft.

The steps leading up to a short shaft.

 

Come on inside!

Come on inside!

 

To reach the mines across the wash we climbed the steep slope to nearly a hundred feet above the wash. At the top we found a vertical shaft estimated to be two-hundred feet deep. An adit was also near by, obscured in the brush. This adit extends roughly one-hundred feet, half way through it surfaces at a large cut that was made from above, then continues further into the mountain.

A substantial amount of uncrushed ore sits above the trailings near where an ore chute once stood, extending down into the wash to the mill.

While the Dalton Mine is by no means in pristine, or even good condition, it was very obvious to us that much of its deterioration was natural. There were no signs that the site has been vandalized, let alone visited in a very long time. There were no foot prints anywhere, and the most recent trash that we found was a Coke can from the 1980s.

 

The ruins of the outhouse. May I recommend a bush nearby?

The ruins of the outhouse. May I recommend a bush nearby?

 

 

The one-hundred foot adit.

The one-hundred foot adit.

 

Inside of the double shaft.

Inside of the double shaft.

 

The cut where the shaft emerges before extending further.

The cut where the shaft emerges before extending further.

 

The Dalton was a gold producer, but there are no records of how much gold or other precious metals were removed.  Mine ownership and dates of operation are not even readily available. For now the Dalton has a mystery behind it that will continue to be untold.

After a quick-lunch we headed to the Frank Hill Mine. By the way the crow flies the Dalton and the Frank Hill are less than a mile apart, but by vehicle that isn’t the case. There were four bumpy miles of dirt road between the two mines.

About half way to our destination I thought that I heard a rattlesnake along the road. Don’t ask me how I heard it over the road noise, and Mike and I’s constant bantering. But sure enough, I backed up, and there it was, a Speckled Rattlesnake. He was pissed off and ornery, shaking his rattle steadily. We both jumped out of the vehicle, keeping our distance from our speckled friend. Mike shot some video while I snapped photographs.

 

Pissed off, speckled rattlesnake.

Pissed off, speckled rattlesnake.

 

 

Close-up.

Close-up.

 

The little bastard then decided to slither under the driver’s side door, and curl up. Now I wasn’t impressed with our little friend. Under my door was the last place that I ever expected him to go. We tried to get him to move by throwing sand on him, which he ignored. I poked him with a stick, which he again ignored. Stubborn bastard, I tell you! After repeatedly trying to get him to move I just went for it, busting out my superhero moves to maneuver myself into the driver’s seat. Despite that the snake was being a jerk, I had no interest in harming him, so Mike stayed out of the vehicle and guided me around the devilish creature.

Leaving the snake in the dust, we soon arrived at the Frank Hill Mine. This mine was discovered by Frank Hill in April of 1933. It is considered one of few actual gold producing mines in the Dale Mining District. The only records recorded were from 1936, when five tons of ore yielded two ounces of gold, and one ounce of silver.

The first thing that we came to was the location of an old camp. It was situated on a hill about a quarter of a mile from the mine. Like the Dalton Mine, very little remains of the Frank Hill camp. Nothing more than a couple of wood foundations from what were likely tent sites, and your typical rusty trash heap. (side note: While it may be tempting to pick up and take home a rusty souvenir, it is illegal. Anything that is on public land that is fifty years or older is considering an archeological resource. Furthermore if everyone was to take home something, there would soon be nothing left over for others to enjoy.)

 

Wood tent foundation at the Frank Hill Mine.

Wood tent foundation at the Frank Hill Mine.

 

Scattered structural ruins.

Scattered structural ruins.

 

We could see the mine in the distance, the headframe standing over the shaft giving away its precise location. The headframe appeared small and fragile, its age showing in the weathered wood. Definitely not something that I would trust today. The beautifully timbered, 225 feet shaft below was covered by a piece of flimsy pressed wood. As tempting as it maybe sometimes, I refuse to enter vertical shafts. There are far too many things that could go wrong.  Records indicate that the shaft has three drifts, one at the 50, 100, and 200 foot levels. Several other shafts and adits in the vicinity make up the group of mines.

Despite the sparse remains both of these mines have more remaining on the surface than a majority of the others in the district. Their settings being located off of the regularly beaten path has probably helped in that sense. If you manage to find them, please respect them by leaving them in the same condition that you found them.

 

Headframe above a shaft at the Frank Hill Mine.

Headframe above a shaft at the Frank Hill Mine.

 

Well preserved timbering in the shaft.

Well preserved timbering in the shaft.

 

An adit at the Frank Hill Mine, along with a pile of unprocessed ore.

An adit at the Frank Hill Mine, along with a pile of unprocessed ore.

 

Secret Places in the Mojave Desert Vol. 7

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.

2 Comments

  • Hey Jim, great well expressed journey! So, can you define your interpretation of ‘sketchy’ driving? To be more specific, would this be a do-able trip for mediocre off-roaders?

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