The Mystery Fireplace and mines of Queen Valley (Joshua Tree National Park)

The mystery fireplace and flowerbed.
Queen Valley - Can you spot the fireplace?

Queen Valley – Can you spot the fireplace?

 

I enjoy wandering, I prefer it over walking the same old trail that thousands of people have walked before me. The reward in not taking the beaten path sometimes comes in finding interesting places or things that are not common knowledge.

I’ve scoured around Queen Mountain and Valley at various times over the past year. The area has kind of become my go to place when I’m feeling too lazy to plan anything else. Don’t take that the wrong way, I do thoroughly enjoy the area. Along the base of Queen Mountain there are stacks of boulders, a variety of flora and fauna, and even some Native American archaeological sites.

On this particular “wander” I parked at the loop on Queen Valley Road, and hiked west toward the Wall Street Mill. I had yet to meander through the boulder stacks west of the loop, and had wanted to check them for any rock shelters. 

I came up empty-handed in the rock shelter department – but was surprised when I came upon a fireplace, can dump, and several mines with tailing piles along the base of Queen Mountain. There are no mention of these mines on any modern-day maps, it took going back to a topographic map pre-National Park status to even find an acknowledgement of their existence; which only showed an “x” at their general location, but no camp or mine names.

The mystery fireplace and flowerbed.

The mystery fireplace and flowerbed.

 

One of several can dumps - the cans date to around the 1920s.

One of several can dumps – the cans date to around the 1920s.

 

Sherds of old decorative glass.

Sherds of old decorative glass.

The fireplace was peculiar, there is literally just a fireplace – no foundation, no fallen stone walls or additional ruins. An outline of what appears to have been a flower bed sits a few feet away, but that is all. My only thought is that there may have been a wooden structure, but that is very uncharacteristic of this area. There are several can dumps in the vicinity of both the mines and the fireplace, inspection of the rusty cans reveal that they date to around 1920.

The mines have decent tailing piles, suggesting that the workings are more significant than just a hole that goes no further than 20 feet. Unfortunately one will never know, despite being unmarked on maps, the NPS has bat caged them closed; which possibly wasn’t a bad idea considering they appear very unstable, and have already succumb to collapse near the entrances. 

While not the discovery of the century, this was a cool little find.

Never be afraid to wander.

Decent amount of tailings - suggesting a decent amount of mine workings.

Decent amount of tailings – suggesting a decent amount of mine workings.

 

"Hello in there!" The entrance to one of the shafts. It is sealed off by a bat cage, just a few feet past the entrance.

“Hello in there!” The entrance to one of the shafts. It is sealed off by a bat cage, just a few feet past the entrance.

 

Old rusty oil cans.

Old rusty oil cans.

 

More tailings at another shaft, located up a nearby side wash.

More tailings at another shaft, located up a nearby side wash.

 

Mine entrance, this one appears to very unstable, as has already been partially collapsed.

Mine entrance, this one appears to very unstable, as has already been partially collapsed.

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.

  • David Taylor

    I think this is really cool. The fancy glass and the flower bed would suggest to me the presence of a woman. Hope that isn’t sexist, but the 1920’s were somewhat sexist. The lack of a foundation for the fireplace would suggest it wasn’t supposed to be a permanent home sight, but someone wanted a fireplace. The fact that bat cages have been put in means someone at the park knew about this sight. Aren’t records kept about such expenditures?

    • Joshua Tree has a complete mine inventory on file at park headquarters with a list of which mines have been bat caged and which mines remain to be caged. There is no secret about what they do (i.e., inventory and seal mines), but they may not know the names or histories of these mines either — there’s been several cases where the Park Service just has the GPS coordinates of a mine with no other information.

  • pat

    That is a cool find! Seeing something like that, fills my head with questions about the who, what and when of it.

  • Desert Slueth

    Monstead Mine and home site