Pinyon Well (Joshua Tree National Park)

Two years and one day ago, I hiked the route from Pinyon Well Junction to Pinyon Well, and then the mines at Pushawalla Pass. For whatever reason these images have sat in my archives untouched and unpublished for all this time. For this particular article I will focus exclusively on Pinyon Well, and the activities that once had taken place there.

The hike to Pinyon Well begins at what is called Pinyon Well Junction, today better known as the #15 stop on the Geology Tour Road tour. The route follows the trail of the old Pushawalla Canyon Freight Road, and leads up the wash through the Little San Bernardino Mountains. Don’t let the idea that a road once led through here fool you, there are no traces of anything resembling a road until you are well past the Pinyon Well site. Being only a short half-mile hike to Pinyon Well, you will come upon it rather quickly.

 

Overlooking the site of Pinyon Well.

Overlooking the site of Pinyon Well.

 

Despise the sparse ruins, Pinyon Well was once a pretty happening place.  In the 1890s, Baker Iron Works constructed a steam-powered two-stamp mill (New Eldorado Mill) here. The mill served the Pinyon Mining District, but ore was also shipped in via the freight road from the Lost Horse, Desert Queen, and other nearby mines for processing. The freight road also served as the main route between Indio and the mines and ranches of the area.

In the early 1900s it was reported that several families had been living at Pinyon Well, an oddity for the time period in such a remote mining camp. During the 1920s a real estate tycoon had the notion of turning Pinyon Well into a resort community, similar to Palm Springs. He quickly retreated after finding that the well couldn’t sustain a large community.

 

Bone dry trough, now filled with stones.

Bone dry trough, now filled with stones.

 

The outline of what I perceive to have been a tent foundation.

The outline of what I perceive to have been a tent foundation.

 

In the early 1930s, Bill Keys purchased the New Eldorado Mill from the New Eldorado Company. He dismantled it, and transported it to a location near his Desert Queen Ranch. There he reassembled it, and operated it from 1932-1942. Today it is known as the Wall Street Mill.

Water from Pinyon Well would continue to be piped out for a considerable time to nearby mines, including some in the Pinto Basin.

The ruins of this once bustling little community are sparse, consisting of three concrete water tanks, a watering trough, stone walls, and a stone tent foundation. Broken glass bottles, and rusted cans can be found littering the landscape in abundance. Otherwise this old ghost has as much as disappeared.

 

Water and or cyanide storage tanks.

Water and or cyanide storage tanks.

 

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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