Trek Date: May 23rd, 2014
I was heading north on the Old Dale Road, into the hotter, drier Colorado desert portion of J Tree. There are no Joshua Trees here, nor Pinyon Pines but the Old Dale Road leads to an abundance of mining history in both the Dale and Monte Negras mining districts. My goal for the afternoon was to try to find three wells - once important water sources for the mines and the people who traveled the area.
The road took me deep into Pinto Basin, and after about ten miles of bumping along the dirt road, I was at the spot where Pinto Wash crosses the Old Dale Road. Right where I wanted to be.
I pulled off onto a wide shoulder on the right side of the road and gathered up my gear, ready to do a little exploring to see what I could find.
I had a hunch I was in the right spot when I saw this sign. In the late 1930s, the well was reported to be owned by C.W. Ake, who worked at the nearby Mission Mine, also known as the Huff and Lane Mine. Previous to his ownership, the well provided the only water available to the public in Pinto Basin and was a well-known watering spot. Ake apparently was not inclined to provide water to the public, rather keeping it solely for use for his various mining claims. He closed the well to public use.
The well was 449 feet deep and at one time had a corrugated-metal pump house and machinery over the well. The pump was reportedly capable of lifting about 400 gallons of water every twenty-four hours. The pumphouse has long since blown away, and what remains of the complex today is located about 50 yards off the road.
There is mention made of an old stone arrastra located in this general area. It could be that this twenty-five-foot diameter structure is that arrastra. The small metal pipe in the center could have been the pivot point for the arms which would drag the stones or wheels over the ore.
There are a few other cement slab foundations and some bits and pieces of desert gold scattered about, all in all, an interesting place to visit. I wonder if any photographs were taken of this spot back when it was in operation, it would be great to see what it looked like.
The Sunrise Well is less than 300 yards east of the Mission Well, so that was my next objective. I thought that band of denser vegetation stretching across the desert was interesting, and probably an indicator of water somewhere. As there were three wells located almost on top of that demarcation, I think it's a good bet.
After just a few minutes walking, I caught my first glimpse of the remains of the Sunrise Well. There's not much there. A cement platform, some embedded timbers, and machinery mounts.
The Sunrise Well was measured in 1973 and found to be 480 feet deep. That's it in the photo above, the round casing measures 16 inches in diameter and is covered with a thin metal plate. The cover is easily removed and the hole goes down a very long way. I wasn't able to find any information regarding when it was drilled, who owned it, or how long it was in operation. My hunch is that it was connected with the nearby Sunrise Mill and that it was probably drilled to provide water for the milling operations and the men who worked there.
I had noticed some ruins roughly 100 yards north of the Sunrise Well when I was researching satellite images of this area. They appeared much more extensive than the remains of the Sunrise Well, so of course that was my next stop.
Backtracking a bit towards my truck, I passed this small pile or rocks. Perhaps a claim marker of some kind? Or building blocks?
This appears to be the main foundation for some heavy machinery. Was there a mill here at one time, or was this perhaps another well? The outer foundation makes it look like there may have been an enclosing structure here at one time, to protect whatever was inside.
I've no real clue as to what these cement curbs were for. Maybe a building sat on top of them, or perhaps a water tank? Support for some kind of machinery? They are located adjacent to the main foundations. As these ruins are quite near the Mission Mill located on the other side of Old Dale Road, perhaps the two were connected. At this point, all I can say is they are another desert enigma.
Two wells down, one to go. I started heading east. The Gold Rose Well was out there, somewhere, about a mile away. Luckily, I had the GPS coords loaded into my Garmin so I was confident I was heading in the right direction. It's amazingly easy to wander off course while hiking across open desert, even when you think you're walking in a straight line. But after walking for about fifteen minutes, with a few looks at the GPS, I saw what is left of the Gold Rose Well in the distance and made my way there.
The Gold Rose Well was probably developed in the late 1930s or early 1940s. A house stood nearby at one time, occupied by the caretaker, Walt Rose. The well was 450 feet deep and the water was used domestically on the property and also by other residents in the area. It was most likely also used by the Gold Rose Mill which was located nearby.
There is a lot of stuff scattered about the Gold Rose Well area, and in looking at some aerial views recently, I see that I may have missed some interesting things a little farther south. Which means a return trip one day. I can live with that.
While I was wandering about the well site, my eyes kept drifting a bit northwest. There was something there, and as it wasn't too far way, I decided to head on over and check it out while I was in the neighborhood. I'm glad I did, as when I got home a little bit of research revealed that it was the site of the Gold Rose Mill.
As it turns out, along with the Gold Rose Well, there was a Gold Rose Mine, thus the need for the Gold Rose Mill. As the mine was located nearly five miles north, in one of the canyons of the Pinto Mountains, it must have been quite a task getting the ore to the mill.
The Gold Rose Mine was located and owned by Tom Holmes. When he passed away, the property went to his heirs, Dale Holmes and Herbert Oehls. Those two men reportedly built the Gold Rose Mill in 1949. The mill was a flotation concentration mill which could treat 25 tons of ore per day.
Most of the mill was torn down in the 1960s but what remains today is still quite interesting to visit. A truck ramp leads up to the spot where the ore was unloaded into hoppers, and there are a number of shallow metal vats that must have been some part of the flotation concentration process. There is a huge metal funnel-thing, which might be a cone tank, and two settling tanks. Along with cement foundations and a lot of scattered desert gold. This was a very interesting place to poke about.
I'm going to say this is the largest funnel in J Tree. I challenge anyone to find a bigger one.
As the afternoon was winding down, and so was I, it was time to start heading back to the truck. I followed remnants of the Gold Rose Mill road. It was only about a mile to go, but it looked (and felt) a lot farther. I need to remember to take more than one bottle of water with me on these "short" hikes, as there always seems to be one more interesting thing to find, just a little farther across the desert. I had set out to find three wells, but my final tally was three wells and two mills, a full house. Not a bad hand. I'm looking forward to future visits to places along the Old Dale Road, but they will have to wait for cooler weather and new tires on old Blue.