Posted by: ushistoryfiles | August 8, 2012

Unexpected History – Joshua Tree National Park

Back in 2005 I made my first trip to Joshua Tree National Park.  I really didn’t know what to expect.  Growing up in the suburbs (just about 35 miles outside of New York City) I certainly wasn’t familiar with the desert landscape.  In addition, it was only my second trip to California – growing up we visited places within a day’s driving distance on vacation.  (I’ve been posting some of the following pictures on Tumblr call them “You never know what you’ll find in the middle of the desert” which inspired this post).

I was attracted to the alien desert landscape, drawn into the giant rocks and strange trees.

You can imagine my surprise when I came upon this while hiking:

A little further on down the trail I discovered this:

Wall Street Mill


Wall Street Mill Office

What I had expected to be a nature hike turned into a “What the heck are these doing here?” hike.  Truthfully I’m not much for buying guidebooks as I like to be surprised when exploring new territories.  However, seeing these structures in such an unexpected place, I knew I needed to do some research and find out what the deal was.

It turns out that this is the Wall Street Mill.  Evidently there were several attempts at mining gold in the area that became Joshua Tree National Park and several of the structures have survived.  This one was built in 1929, produced little gold and abandoned within a few years.  Later, it was used by Bill Keys to process ore from other mines.  Bill Keys would get into a dispute with a fellow named Worth Bagley which I posted about here.  Keys also built the Desert Queen Ranch which I have not been to despite 2 more visits to Joshua Tree.  Oh well, someday.

In 2006 a friend and I visited the Lost Horse Mine.

Lost Horse Mine

More of the Lost Horse Mine

The Lost Horse was a profitable mine producing thousands of ounces of gold and silver over its time in operation.

There is plenty more history to be found in Joshua Tree.  Native American tribes such as the Serrano and Cahuilla, colorful characters such as Willie Boy, the already mentioned Bill Keys, and Johhny Lang all make the site an interesting visit.  I will leave you with a word of warning.  Stay clear of the Cholla Cactus (see below).

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