Tag Archives: Rand Mining District
The Steam Wells Petroglyphs are located within the Golden Valley Wilderness boundaries near the Rand Mining District. From highway 395 take Trona Road for 1.3 miles. Turn right on RM1444, and follow for 4 miles. At the 4 mile mark you will see the trail head on the left. There is a small parking area to the right. It is recommended that you have at the minimum a high clearance 2WD to make the drive.
From the trail head the hike to the petroglyphs is roughly 1 mile. Most of the hike will be up hill, but not at a drastic incline. There are no specific markers on the trail that point out the exact location of the petroglyphs, but once you reach a wooden fence guard continue to your right. You will see a basaltic outcropping. Climb to the top of the outcropping (roughly 100 feet), here is where you will find the Steam Wells Petroglyphs.
Sadly a number of the petroglyphs have been chipped out by vandals and thieves. Others have had modern people deface them by scratching in the rocks directly beside them. If you are a regular visitor to my site I would hope that I don’t need to remind you to leave everything as you found it, but I’ll mention it anyway just in case! These early man pieces of art can never be replaced, please respect them so that future generations may enjoy them as well.
The petroglyphs at Steam Wells are believed to date back close to 1,000 years when the Kawaiisu occupied this territory. It is known that the Kawaiisu made these particular style of petroglyphs near permanent water sources.
Once you’ve visited the petroglyphs head back down to the fence guard, and continue up the small canyon. Here you will find the ruins from an old stone cabin, a collapsed mine, and one of many steam wells in the area. This area was mined in the 1930′s, the steam wells had been made to help power these activities. The steam wells have all been sealed off, however they are known to leak a bit, releasing a rather pungent stench.
All and all, this is a worthy trip. You can expect to spend a couple of hours at the minimum exploring the area. Once you are finished here, head back to the highway and visit Randsburg, Johannesburg, or Red Mountain. These three semi-ghosts towns offer much to explore.
Red Mountain, CA is located within the Rand Mining District in San Bernadino County. The town site is located directly along Route 395, roughly 26 miles from Kramer Junction. The mining ruins around Red Mountain are found in the mountains behind the town, and can be accessed via Osdick Road and Red Mountain Road.
Before becoming Red Mountain, the town was known as Osdick (I will refer to the town as Osdick up until the name was changed). Osdick came to be in the summer of 1919, this was during the near-by town of Randsburg’s third big mining boom. Pete Osdick was one of the original miners in the area and he felt the town should be named after himself since he had lived in this area longer than anyone else. W.H. Williams, another miner in the area (discovered California Rand Silver Mine) contested that the town should be named Hampton, which was his middle name. Both parties would end up laying out a townsite, and both applied for a Post Office. Pete Osdick won the Post Office in February of 1922, and the area officially became known as Osdick.
The California Rand Silver Mine (also known as The Kelly Mine) would produce over $7 million in its first four years of production, it would be one of the richest mines in California. For many years it was also the largest producing silver mine in the United States. It was said by Charles Moroney (General Manager) regarding the mine, ”Drifts 104 feet, raises thirty-two, and cross cuts 111. Values across and along the vein for a distance of twenty feet or more will average about $2.40 in gold and 60 ounces of silver”. It would continue production until 1929 when the price of silver dropped significantly. It is estimated that the mine’s total production was over $12 million dollars. Other mines in the are included the Big Four, Silver Kings and Silver Glance.
By 1929 Osdick had acquired many names, “Sin City”, “Inn City”, “Never In”, etc.. Finally the postal service decided to put an end to the naming dispute and dubbed the town Red Mountain, which it has remained ever since.
Despite having one of the most impressive silver mines in the country, some might say that Red Mountain was even more well-known for it’s “sins”. During prohibition you could get a drink at any business in town with the exception of the Post Office. The only time Red Mountain was ever “dry” was when they had been tipped off about an upcoming raid. The Ku Klux Klan actively protested the drinking atmosphere in Red Mountain by offering up free dances in nearby Johannesburg, the KKK may have been about the only ones to oppose the party atmosphere that Red Mountain became famous for.
As well as the drinking Red Mountain became well know for its prostitution. It was said that the prostitutes that worked the many brothels were high-class and beautiful, kept themselves clean and made for good company. The Annex, Little Eva’s, The Monkey House, The Northern, The Owl, The Pacific, The Red Onion and the Silver Dollar are just a few of the more well know houses of ill repute.
Gambling was another of the many past times celebrated at Red Mountain. Just about anywhere you could get a drink you could find a game as well. Overall the advertising slogan “Where every night is Saturday night and Saturday night is the 4th of July”, was pretty accurate.
Today Red Mountain is a skeleton of its former self, the 2010 census lists Red Mountain with a population of 125 persons. All of the mines, bars, hotels, casinos, and of course brothels have all long ago closed their doors. Most of the buildings and homes at the town site are original structures and make for an interesting walk through including the Silver Dollar Bar, church, school-house, market and many more. The California Rand Silver Mine sits above the town, fenced in to preserve its history and keep unsuspecting victims from the dangers of arsenic poison. There are also many additional mining sites that are free to explore in the surrounding mountains, and if you do decide to explore please be aware that there are many unmarked shafts through the area.
Red Mountain is a fascinating place to explore. Sadly everything from about 1933 to current that has happened or hasn’t happened here is extremely difficult to track down. Next time you’re driving 395, and find yourself driving through Red Mountain, slow down and imagine the once bustling streets.
*UPDATE 2/7/12 – I added additional pictures to the gallery.
Randsburg, CA is located in Kern County, roughly 17 miles south of Ridgecrest. The camp known as Rand Camp was founded in 1895 when gold was discovered at Rand Mine, in 1896 the first post office was opened and the town of Randsburg was official. The Yellow Aster Mine in Randsburg became one of the largest gold mines in California, by 1899 the mine employed over 150 men with payroll exceeding $13,000 per month.By the turn of the century Randsburg was the home of over 3,500 people, with well over 300 buildings (not including dugouts, stone houses, and shacks). It is estimated that by the close of 1900, that well over $3,000,000 worth of gold had been removed from the mining district.
Unlike most ghost towns you will find Randsburg to still be an active community. Randsburg currently has 69 residents (as of the 2010 census) still living within the town, numerous small businesses selling antiques, as well as a motel, two churches, two saloons and restaurants. A majority of the store fronts, and homes in the community are original structures. Numerous mines can be viewed on the mountains surrounding the town, sadly the Yellow Aster Mine mentioned above is off limits to the public.
In recent years the town as welcomed in the off road community, which can make the weekends from September – May a bit undesirable to folks who want to explore and enrich themselves in the history in the area.
A few of the must see sites include the original White House Saloon (pictured above), on the weekends they are still serving up hot food and cold beverages. The original town jail complete with it’s two comfy jail cells. The General Store, which serves up beverages from their old fashion soda fountain. A walk through the residential area is also highly encouraged, as it’s just as interesting as the business district. Most of the town’s business district is filled with antique shops, most of which is junk. You also have to watch carefully as I’ve spotted a number of these stores selling replicas without mentioning the fact. This is especially true with the glassware being sold, so watch yourself and don’t get swindled into buying something that you expect to be antique which in fact isn’t. With all of this said, Randsburg is the most preserved ghost town in Kern County. It is a must see for any ghost town enthusiast.