I was heading south on Pinto Basin Road (through Wilson Canyon), where the Hexie Mountains close in on both sides of the road for a short time. It's almost like they don't want you to go through. The Hexies are rugged and unforgiving, and they give up their riches grudgingly. As I was nearing my destination, I caught a quick glimpse of some tailings high up on a ridge; as I passed the rocky arm grazing the highway, I spotted another. Hmmm, I will have to check this out on my way back.
A couple hours later I pulled off onto the east side of the road, onto a wide sandy shoulder, directly opposite the picture above. There is a fairly large pile of tailings plainly visible, and an old roadbed that leads up to the mine. I checked both ways and then crossed the street to investigate.
I first stopped to check out this shallow prospect, it's right near the side of the road. It always amazes me to see holes dug, drilled, picked, or blasted through solid rock like this. I often wonder what prompted someone to begin the work at such places. There must have been something sparkly or shiny, or otherwise indicative of possible riches to be found to cause someone to go to all this work.
Here's the road that leads up to what I at first assumed to be the main shaft. There is a lot of waste material on the side of this hill, so I thought the shaft must be quite deep.
There's the pit, and the loose surface around the opening slopes down into the shaft. That could be a bit dangerous, so I made sure to keep my footing on firm ground.
There appears to be a bunch of sheet metal down in the hole. Maybe it was the siding, or roof, of a long-gone building.
Here's a zoomed-in closeup of the sheet metal down in the shaft. There's a lot of loose rock in the shaft as well. I'm surprised the park hasn't fully filled this one in. Even though it's not very deep, it would still be a nasty fall for someone who ventures too close to the edge.
I walked back down the road and then headed west after passing the last rock outcroppings at the south end of this little hill. As I didn't see anything of interest, I headed back to go around and check out the north side of this rocky hill, to investigate the other tailing pile I had seen earlier in the day. I found this cement foundation on the way, along with some additional evidence of cement work and possibly a small stone retaining wall.
Aha, and there it was, the tailing pile at the top of the ridge. As I walked along the base of the hill, I was looking for a way up there. I was hoping there would be an easier way than trying to climb up that scree-filled little gully on the right. But there was nothing on this side. So I headed back around and hiked back up the road that leads to the main shaft on the south side of this hill. From there, I saw the faint path of a trail that seemed to be going where I wanted to go, so I followed the path.
This grated shaft is near the top of the ridge. I wonder if the trail I followed up to this spot was once a wider road, I didn't see any other way to get here.
Looking north, there is a fairly large and level area down at the base of the hill which holds this mine. Although I couldn't find any evidence of it, I'd wager there was a small camp there at some point when this mine was being worked.
I poked around for a bit, but couldn't find much else of interest, so I headed back down the trail. There was still daylight left and other places to visit in J Tree. Walking back to my truck, I wondered if I would have any luck finding information about this mine. I didn't think I would, but as it turns out, I was mistaken.
The mine I had happened upon was known as the Gold Point Mine and is located in either the middle section of the Piñon Mining District, or in the Pinto Basin Mining District, depending on which source you are reading. It was located on January 1st of 1934 by Irene and David Workman and Frank and Otto Notterman. The following year, Leon Campbell and a crew of five men were working the mine. It's not known how long they worked the mine, but by 1944 the claim was declared null and void by the General Land Office. Bill Keys, gold mine collector, claimed ownership of the Gold Point in 1959 and filed notices of assessment work. He later turned over the mine to the monument.
The main shaft, which I believe is the one at the top of the ridge, was about 100 feet deep, with the shaft on the side of the hill facing the road being about 30 feet deep. The first, small prospect was just a shallow cut into the side of the hill. The big question is, how much gold came out of the mine? Well, according to one historic resource study, "The U.S. Bureau of Mines reported in 1935 that forty-six tons of ore had been processed and twenty-three ounces of gold and about nine ounces of silver recovered." The price of gold in 1935 was approximately $35/ounce, so, that doesn't seem to me like an awful lot of gold for all the work done.
Sometime after the monument gained control of the mine, the upper shaft was grated over and the lower workings were filled in. Being so close to the main road, the open shafts were a very real safety hazard.
This short stop along Pinto Basin Road turned out to be a kind of backwards double adventure. My first surprise was spotting the tailings and then checking out the mine; my second surprise was uncovering the name of the mine, and a little bit of background information when I returned home. It's usually the other way around: research turns up an interesting spot to visit, and then I go and explore. But the backwards way works too, I just enjoy getting out to see what I can find.