My working as a guide, and sometimes as a consultant can provide an interesting array of experiences. I’d call it “work,” but lets face it, I enjoy what I do, and when you enjoy what you do, you never work a day in your life. Recently I was called to consult on the historical ruins of the patented Red Cloud Claims and Mill sites, by a potential purchaser. The mine is located in picturesque Red Cloud Canyon; roughly over nine miles of dirt road from the I-10 freeway, between the towns of Indio and Desert Center. Along that stretch of dirt is a desert forest of teddy-bear cholla, ocotillo, smoke trees, and mesquite. The setting is nothing short of breathtaking.
Several claims make up the Red Cloud Mine, they include the Red Head, White Wings, Great Western, and Dottie Welborn. Mining began in this remote region in the 1880’s. Records of the earliest workings is scarce. The first records don’t begin until 1898, when the Red Cloud Mining Company began to operate, sinking the White Wings shaft to a depth of 267 feet, the Great Western to a depth of 480 feet, and a tunnel driven 250 feet on the Red Head claim. The ore was trucked to Corn Springs, where it was milled at a five-stamp mill – producing roughly $12 per ton in gold.
After 1900, the Red Cloud claims went silent for thirty-one years. In 1931, the claims were leased by Charles Craig, and his associates. They installed a cyanide amalgamation plant, milling ore from the Red Head claim, averaging $20 per ton in gold. The remaining concentrates were shipped to U.S. Smelting Company in Utah, producing $100 per ton in gold. They ceased operation in 1933.
In 1934, S&W Mining Company began operating on the property, but only until 1936. They managed to produce $30,000 in bullion and concentrates. From 1937 to 1940, a few others took their turns at working the mines.
In 1970, the Red Cloud Mine was purchased by the Figueroa Family. The Figueroa’s have deeply embedded mining roots in the Colorado River Basin, dating back to 1862. Danuario Figueroa, the father of the three sons who purchased the mine, worked the Red Cloud from 1931 until he died in 1966 of silicosis, a lung disease stemming from inhaling quartz particles (He and his wife Carmen are buried on site).
Alfredo Figueroa, one of the sons of the late Danuario Figueroa, and owner of the Red Cloud, stopped mining in 2002. It was probably at that time that the Red Cloud Mine ceased operation completely. The mines however have remained the property of the Figueroa Family. Since the mine shutting down, the area has become a popular recreation area for mining enthusiasts, off-roaders, and people just looking to just get away from it all.
The gaping holes in the earth, where men once searched for gold-bearing rock remain wide open, at least those that haven’t collapsed from rotting timber. The site of the Red Head Mill is now quiet, the cyanide leaching tanks are empty, and potentially toxic sludge covers the soil. A couple of hardy plants have managed to pop up through the hardened pink sludge, but otherwise is void of life. Other than the leaching tanks, what is left of the Read Head Mill is in shambles – nothing more than scattered trash.
The runs of the Great Western Mill is something to see however. Standing roughly 30-feet high, and built into a granite boulder outcropping, it is a masterpiece of stone masonry. While a significant portion of the structure is missing, what remains stands proudly. There has also been some obvious restoration work performed, with new layers of cement holding the stone casing together, as well as new lumber around the door and window frames. The stone casings for what was two blast furnaces sit crumbling beside the mill columns.
In the mile and a half between The Great Western Mill, and the Great Western claim there are a significant number of dilapidated stone building structures. Each having a unique personality, but all in a state of neglected decay. These primitive structures likely date to the earliest workings of the mines, to sometime in the 1920’s or 30’s.
Overall the Red Cloud Mine sites offer a unique look at a by-gone era. There is indeed a historical significance to the remaining structures, however one does have to take into consideration the state in which the ruins are currently found.