“Fox Hole” Prospect (Dale Mining District)

One of the many problems that can be run into when researching and documenting the mines of yesterday are that many of the smaller prospects and mines were not well documented during the time of their operation. They may not have been big producers, or were possible overshadowed by larger operations in the same general vicinity. Whatever the case, there are numerous mines enshrouded in mystery. In a sizable mining district such as the Dale Mining District, there are far fewer mines with recorded histories, than those with. In fact there are so many holes in the ground in the Dale District that many don’t even have a name. That would be the case with the prospect that I have dubbed the “Fox Hole.”

The “Fox Hole” prospect is located roughly a mile and a half southwest of the Iron Age Mine. A narrow shelf road leaves the canyon below and climbs 800+ feet up the side of the mountain. The road is passable, yet offers some pucker factor due to the sheer cliff along the driver’s side of the vehicle.  There is also minimal space to turn your vehicle around before the road washes out near the lower prospect. Some people would understandably prefer to hike rather drive this route.

 

Framed adit at the lower prospect.

Framed adit at the lower prospect.

 

I deemed the lower adit unsafe, and did not enter it.

I deemed the lower adit unsafe, and did not enter it.

 

A room blasted into the side of the mountain.

A room blasted into the side of the mountain.

 

The lower prospect has a framed adit, however due to the condition of the lumber and a partial collapse I did not enter it, and I highly encourage you to not do so either. Along with the lower prospect, there is a room that had been blasted into the side of the mountain. The small room could have been used for any number of things, possibly as a living quarters, explosives storage, or just general material storage. Either way the room is an interesting feature.

The upper adit is reached by continuing to follow the old shelf road up the mountain, but because of a washout this portion has to be hiked, it isn’t far, so for you non-hikers don’t fret. Pay close attention to the embankment on the right of the road or you will likely miss it, it is well hidden. This adit is in better condition than the lower, with a sturdy door and frame. Upon close inspection I felt comfortable exploring the inner-workings.

 

If you don't pay close attention you will likely miss the upper adit.

If you don’t pay close attention you will likely miss the upper adit.

 

The doorway into the upper adit.

The doorway into the upper adit.

 

Several dozen feet into the shaft I discovered a desert tortoise that was using it as his burrow. He appeared unfazed by my presence as I stopped to take a few photographs of him. When the flash went off for the last photo that I took of him, I noticed a pair of eyes glowing just a short distance ahead of me. I froze for a moment as all the possibilities went rushing through my head. I shinned my flashlight down the shaft and watched the eyes that were watching me. The last thing that I wanted to do was turn and walk away, because that would just scream prey to whatever this was watching me. I took baby steps toward the eyes, with my flashlight glued to the hungry beast in front me. When I was finally able to make out the critter, I was relived to find that it was a fox that had also taken up shelter in the shaft. The fox allowed me to approach it, walking up to just a few feet in front of him when he made a mad dash down the tunnel and into the light of the day. At this point I was really relieved that it wasn’t a mountain lion.

 

A desert tortoise has been using this mine as a burrow, along with something else... This mine has eyes!

A desert tortoise has been using this mine as a burrow, along with something else… This mine has eyes!

 

Eyes in the darkness...

Eyes in the darkness…

 

Thankfully, not a mountain lion! Just this foxy little guy.

Thankfully, not a mountain lion! Just this foxy little guy.

 

Finally relaxed I took some time to inspect the inner workings. I was delighted to find the rail tracks to still be in place, and the wood work not rotten. A vertical shaft with extensive timbering and a ladder leads down to a lower level in the mine.  As a personal preference I don’t go down vertical shafts, ladder in good condition or not. Maybe one day I’ll go take a repelling course, but until then, no thank you.

The “Fox Hole” overall is very interesting location. While surface artifacts are scarce, the upper adit is worth the trip alone. This prospect was a gold producer, but exactly when, and by whom is not recorded in the history books.

 

Going down?

Going down?

 

 

Yeah, not today.

Yeah, not today.

 

Rail tracks are still down in part of this adit.

Rail tracks are still down in part of this adit.

 

Double your pleasure.

Double your pleasure.

 

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.

  • Mary Sojourner

    Wow. Thank you for this. Did the fox look back over his shoulder as he walked away? Foxes and coyotes will often do that.