Mystery Mine (Joshua Tree National Park)

An assortment of historic treasures.

The name Mystery Mine is not an attempt to disguise the name of some sacred location in Joshua Tree National Park, it is in fact the actual given name of the mine. The Mystery Mine is located in the Eagle Mountains, and bordered by the bake oven, known as the Pinto Basin. Access to the Mystery Mine is limited to foot traffic, due to its location in a wilderness area of the National Park.

The hike begins at the wilderness boundary in Grubstake Canyon, the same location that would be utilized to access the Lucky Turkey #2 Mine.  Follow Grubstake Canyon canyon north, passing the Lucky Turkey #2 and enter the Pinto Basin. Hug the Eagle Mountains to the east until you reach the first major drainage, the Mystery Mine is located a short distance up the unnamed canyon.  This can be a difficult hike, the terrain once entering the basin is rocky and very uneven, and shade is nonexistent.

 

This canyon gorge holds the secrets of the Mystery Mine.

This canyon gorge holds the secrets of the Mystery Mine.

 

Like many of these smaller mines in this region, very little is actually known about the history of the Mystery Mine. What we do know is that it was a gold placer claim, and was operated from 1933 to 1936 by L.L. Benthall of Indio, CA.

Newspapers from the period come up empty when searching for Benthall, as well as any form of internet search. However there still appears to be a number of people living in the Indio area with the name Benthall, whether there is any relation is unknown.

Placer mining is the mining of current or ancient stream beds, or washes, looking for gold or gemstones in sand or gravel. In the case of the Mystery Mine, a short adit was dug out from inside of the wash. A second short adit is located on the hillside above the wash. Production values for the mine are unknown.

 

The adit in the wash, and stone retaining walls.

The adit in the wash, and stone retaining walls.

 

A quick look inside of the short adit.

A quick look inside of the short adit.

 

 

Despite what appears to have been a rather small operation, the mine’s camp appears out of proportion. In the wash near the adit there is a tent site, and the ruins of what was probably a small stone building. On the ledge above the wash there are two stone-stacked tent foundations, and a collapsed tin building. Along with these ruins there is of course the obligatory discarded trash in the form of tin cans, car parts, broken glass, nails, bolts and various other odds and ends.

Due to its isolation and level of difficulty to reach, the Mystery Mine remains a good example of a small early 1900s desert mining camp.

 

Stone wall tent foundations.

Stone wall tent foundations.

 

Stone wall and a collection of historic trash. The collapsed tin cabin is in the distance (see featured image at top of page).

Stone wall and a collection of historic trash. The collapsed tin cabin is in the distance (see featured image at top of page).

 

An assortment of historic treasures.

An assortment of historic treasures.

 

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.

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