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.

  • shirley

    My dad went to work at the Old Dutch Cleanser mine in the spring of 1946 through 1947. We lived (my mother, me and in Nov. 1946 my little brother was born) at the Cudahy Camp. My dad, being the newest employee, was assigned to driving and taking care of “Jack” the mule. Jack pulled the “product” loaded cart from the mine to the area where it was transferred to another “cart” for the descent to the bottom of the mountain where it was dumped into a dump truck to be transported down the canyon to a railroad siding near Saltdale. The dump-truck driver, Percy (Shorty) Wegman, had many duties in addition to making several trips transporting “product” each day to the railroad loading site. On his first trip of the day, he drove me to the little Garlock Elementry School at Saltdale, where he also picked up mail for the Cudahy Camp. Several times each week, Mr. Wegman drove the “water” truck to the same railroad siding where our camp water was delivered. All employees lived in Cudahy Camp, in housing provided by the Company. The houses were considered “nice” for that day-and-age. Because of the “water” problem, the houses did not have bathrooms, but we did have electricity provided by the Camp generator plant. Most families had propane refrigerators, however a couple had “desert” coolers (a wood framework covered with burlap, with a drip-tray affair on top, usually attached to a window frame on the shady side of the house. It was adequate; just). We all shared a “community bathroom/shower facility,” as well as a “wash-house.” I don’t remember any paicular problem with the arrangement. Most were young families, with me being the only school-age (8 yr.) child. The canyon road was rough, but graded periodically (another task for Mr. Wegman). There were several water crossings on the canyon road (a small spring originated just above the Camp), but not a problem either. Each Saturday we would drive to either Randsburg, or Mojave for our groceries. We looked forwarded to our trips to “town.” Today, the road is largely non-existent….4-Wheel Drive to be sure, and very uncomfortable. So….that’s my story. I have only a few photos left today.

    • ghosttownsofcalifornia

      Shirley, thank you so much for sharing this bit of history! If you have any photos that you can scan and email to me it would be appreciated. Email: jim@deathvalleyjim.com

      • shirley

        I’ll gather up my photos…but, will then need to get one ofthe kids to scan them into the computer. Might take a few days, but will not forget.

  • kevin Wolff

    Shirley, do you remember the Wolff brothers Kevin and Pete who visited their uncle Percy and aunt Julia in last chance in 1946 ? We were there about a week and had rounded up some wild burros and late in the afternoon some of the miners had a burro race. I fondly remember the experience and dimly remember a young girl but not clearly. My uncle and aunt moved to northern California where he passed away from silicosis as a result from exposure to the pumicite that he failed to protect himself from.He was in the Wiemar sanitarium and died in 1949 at the age of 49. I was delighted to see your commentary. I never returned to last chance but always wanted to.

  • While Cudahy Camp was greatly impacted by target shooters and vandals and was in very bad shape in its last years, it was not the target shooters and vandals who removed the buildings. That was the BLM, just as with the White Swan Camp, the Ruth Mine mill, and numerous other historic sites, in order to “insure public safety”.

  • Randy Brown

    Just visited the Old Dutch Cleanser mine this weekend.. you are right, it’s unlike any mine i’ve ever seen! it’s amazing..

  • Harry Weekley

    Jim, Thank you so much for this article. My dad started taking me to the Last Chance/Red Rock Cyn. area when I was 8 or 9 years old. I’ve explored these mining caves several times and your article brings back memories of the “good old days”. Again, thank you for passing along the history.

  • Evan Thomas

    Rode by there several times on my dirt bike and did not know about this mine. Going back in the car with my camera and tripod soon to check out this gem so close to my home! You sure know how to find ’em Death Valley Jim!