In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Joshua Tree National Park must have looked much different from what it does today. The landscape would have looked the same, but this was a time when cowboys, miners and ranchers had the freedom to build homesteads, and placer mining claims just about anywhere that they pleased. Those days came to end with the creation of Joshua Tree National Monument in the 1930s. Today we are left with scattered memories of these places of yesteryear, in the form of abandoned structures, foundations, rusty machinery, and mine shafts. The Ryan Ranch in Queen Valley, is a fine example of these memories.
The Ryan brothers, Thomas and J.D. “Jep”, came here in 1895 from Montana, with the intent of managing the Lost Horse Mine, which they would rather quickly acquire ownership of, by buying out shares from Johnny Lang. The Ryan’s chose the land that they built their ranch, because of its viable water source at the time. The spring providing for their needs on the ranch, as well as at the Lost Horse.
The ranch originally consisted of three adobe buildings, the three-room main ranch house, a two-room bunk house, and a third unknown structure. Wood and metal buildings would be added at a later time, most likely for storage purposes. Up to fifty people lived at the ranch at any given time during the Lost Horse Mine’s heyday, which ended in 1905 (despite some operations through 1931).
Today we are left with the adobe walls of the main ranch house, prior to 1978 when an arsonist set fire to the structure the building was still intact. Very little remains of the bunk house, just a couple of short walls; and the third unknown abode structure has completely melted, returning to the gravel that it originally was. The National Park service is now going regular preservation on the remaining structures to “stop the hands of time”, and preserve what remains for future generations to be able to experience.
A walk around the ranch will give you further insight into the lives of the Ryan brothers, and the many other people who once called Ryan Ranch home. Various pieces of mining equipment (including the stamps from a stamp mill), a toppled windmill, rusty cans, and multiple water tanks dot the landscape.
Search along the base of the granite boulder piles, and discover the unmarked grave sites of at least eight pioneers whose names and stories have long been forgotten. Do a little further searching and you may stumble upon a Native American habitation area that contains rock art, cave shelters, and mortars.