Most people that drive up Highway 247, also known as Old Woman Springs Road, between Yucca Valley and Apple Valley have said “I Have Always Driven By And Wondered What Is Up There” as they look to the southwest and see what looks like a few trees in the distance and a sign that says Old Woman Springs Ranch.
The springs at Old Woman Springs Ranch have most likely been there for eons, but its recent discovery by the white man was in the mid 1850’s by a surveyor, Colonel Henry Washington, who was the nephew of our first president George Washington. Two years after California became a state he was hired by the government to lay out the grid that all land parcels are tied too in Southern California, this grid system is still being used today. Being the first white man into this mostly uninhabited area he was responsible for penning the names of many of the landmarks in the Mojave Desert as he conducted his survey. As the story goes there was one or possibly a few old Native American women living at the spring when he passed through conducting his survey, thus the name Old Woman Springs. At that time they there were several springs bubbling up out of the ground. Later as the springs were purchased and sold each owner made improvements which included creating lakes to store the water, this water could then be used to raise alfalfa that would feed cattle that would be raised for beef. The cattle would graze in the summer near Big Bear then in the winter at Old Woman Springs. At one time, in 1957, there was even a train that was brought to the Springs, the Cottonwood and Southern Railroad and there was also a landing strip.
This blog is not intended to be a complete history of the site, that may be covered in a future blog. What I will say is that as most business ventures go in the desert Old Woman Springs Ranch was no different. At times it was successful and others it was not, lawsuits were filed, railroad tracks were laid and pulled up, buildings got vandalized and of course murder was involved, Old Woman Springs had all of these aspects in its last 150 years, some are fact and some may be heresay. The fact is that in the end the property was abandoned until the year 2004 when it would get a second chance. Bert and Donna Barber purchased the Ranch and they began the long process of rebuilding with the hopes of eventually giving the public limited access.
I was lucky enough to visit the Ranch with the Morongo Basin Historical Society on a field trip. The Ranch is a beautiful location with much water, all of the original springs still exist. Some of their water is used to fill several large man made lakes, one with an island. One special place is called the Grotto, this is a spot where the water comes out of the ground and fills a natural pool before it is piped into one of the lakes. There is another area similar to the Grotto without being quite as spectacular but awesome none the less. There is a main house, a train depot, water tank and many outbuildings including a barn and of course the landing strip is still there.
Hopefully someday you can visit the Ranch but for now here are a few, well maybe alot of pictures. As for the purpose of todays blog, now you will know “What Is Up There” when you drive by Old Woman Springs Ranch.
Take It Easy – Mojave
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