Old Dutch Cleanser Mine & Cudahy Camp (Red Rock Canyon State Park)

 

The Old Dutch Cleanser Mine is worth a visit due to its pure uniqueness.

The Old Dutch Cleanser Mine is worth a visit due to its pure uniqueness.

 

The Old Dutch Cleanser Mine and Cudahy Camp are located within the El Paso Mountains in Last Chance Canyon. There are multiple ways to make your way to both the mine and camp, the most likely route would be to travel up Last Chance Canyon Road from Red Rock-Randsburg Road. Cudahy Camp is approximately 4.5 miles from when you make the turn on Last Chance Canyon Road. The Old Dutch Cleanser Mine is approximately 6.37 miles from the beginning of LCCR, and is located high above on the mountain ledge. You can get up to the mine, however I’m not going to go into every little detail. Just locate the mine from below the mountain and follow the routes that make the most sense. Please note that LCCR requires high clearance, and 4×4. I have both driven the route, and hiked it on several occasions.

The Old Dutch Cleanser Mine began operation under Cudahy Packing Company in 1923. The primary mineral that was mined was pumicite, which is a variety of pumice (highly pressurized rock that is violently ejected from a volcano, it is formed when lava and water are mixed). Cudahy Packing utilized this material for the manufacturing of Old Dutch Cleanser, a domestic kitchen and bathroom scouring powder that was highly popular and well know in the USA. Old Dutch Cleanser is still manufactured today, however the mining location for pumicite was relocated in 1947.

Twelve men were employed by Cudahy to oversee the mine and produce 100 tons of pumicite per week. The pumicite was lowered down the mountain ridge utilizing an inclined rail tramway. From the base of the mountain, it was trucked 7 miles down Last Chance Canyon and loaded on the Pacific Railroad at Saltdale, then was delivered to Los Angeles where it was processed and blended with other material to create the cleanser.

Cudahy Camp was a small company operated camp that was created to house the miners employed at the mine. Numerous structures had been built at the camp, however it’s unclear as to all of their uses.

 

The scattered ruins of Cudahy Camp

The scattered ruins of Cudahy Camp

 

So what is there to see at Old Dutch Cleanser Mine & Cudahy Camp today?

First be advised that when visiting the Old Dutch Cleanser Mine that it is on private property. When I spoke with a Park Ranger at Red Rock State Park he assured me of this, however he also let me know that for the time being the mine is open to the public for visiting.

For most people, The Old Dutch Cleanser Mine will be unlike any other mining operation that you’ve ever come across. The tunnels going into the mine are massive, to the point that you could probably drive a vehicle through it. The walls, ceiling, and floor are completely white and the substance feels as if you are walking through baby powder. The tunnel system is extensive, and many entrances can be found around the mountain. I only spent time poking around what would seem to be the main entrance, and tunnels. I do plan a return trip in the near future to do a much more extensive expedition.  I recommend that if you plan to venture into the mine that you come prepared with a dust mask, and if available even a respirator.

As for Cudahy Camp, all that remains is the foundations of a few of the buildings. A California Parks & Recreations report from 2007 states that the destruction of the historic buildings at Cudahy Camp is a direct result of off-roaders and campers destroying this historic location. Because of this, camping is no longer permitted in this portion of Last Chance Canyon. You can read the report on the California Parks & Recreations website.

Despite there not being much in the form of structures of any kind, this is a fun trip filled with beautiful scenery through Last Chance Canyon, and the Old Dutch Cleanser Mine is worth seeing due to its pure uniqueness.

 

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.