Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
Located within the Mojave National Preserve
Updates For Mitchell Caverns
Update 11/24/2016 -- Not Open -- see below.
Committee to Reopen Mitchell Caverns reports: "California State Parks has been working aggressively to reopen Providence Mountain State Recreation Area, the home of Mitchell Caverns.
Tehachapi District Superintendent, Russ Dingman, announced at our November PRMDIA meeting that the Department has completed a series of capital outlay projects and major improvements to the Park, including the installation of a new and safe water system that is delivering water to the park’s infrastructure and to the campground.
The Department is continuing to make additional improvements to the infrastructure of the park. They are currently in the process of replacing and installing a new pedestrian bridge to the Caverns that will allow park visitors to access the caverns safely. In addition, the Department is making improvements to the main trail that leads to the Caverns. The Department’s Statewide Trails Crew, in conjunction with the California Conservation Corps, are working hard to make sure the trail is safe and accessible.
Superintendent Dingman expects that Providence Mountains State Recreation Area and Mitchell Caverns should reopen by February or March at the latest. Keep your fingers crossed!
We once again thank you for your support. For further discussion, questions or concerns and future updates on the Providence Mountain State Recreation Area, please contact District Superintendent Russ Dingman at (661) 369-1141 or by email at Russ.Dingman@parks.ca.gov." End of update
More.... Buildings in the park have been repaired. The Cavern has been inspected. They have installed a new LED lighting in the caves (shown in photos), should be a big improvement, when it is open. The park road has been patched and parking lot resealed. The access route to the visitor center has also been improved. Likewise our neighbor, Mojave National Preserve has patched and resealed the entire length of Essex Road from the freeway to the park gate.
Well drilling is finally complete! Water test passed. In addition, new electrical infrastructure to support the new generator has been approved. Work now ongoing to upgrade pipeline and replace old connections between new well and new storage tank. The remote location of the park continues to make progress move more slowly than we would like. In the meantime, the Committee to Reopen Mitchell Caverns continues to do what it can. Thanks to generous (and patient!) support from the public, we have been able to finance purchases necessary to upgrade trail signage. In addition, we are working on designing and purchasing reusable water bottles that will be available to sell to the public so that when the park reopens we will have a "green" alternative available for providing drinking water. It is still closed and there is no firm reopen date yet.
There have been no tours of the Mitchell Caverns or the Providence Mountains SRA since 2011. Mitchell Caverns are now closed
Mitchell Caverns are limestone caves that feature a wide variety of formations. Trips through the caverns are conducted by guided tours only and last about 1 1/2 hours. Although the tour is not strenuous, there is a half-mile walk to the cave entrance from the visitor center and another half-mile walk through the caverns on uneven ground. The area became a California State Park in 1956 and still contains the only limestone caves in the California State Park system.
Mitchell Caverns are primarily the result of sedimentary limestone and metamorphised limestone (marble) being dissolved by ground water high in carbonic acid content. After the dissolution, caverns were formed; the continued dripping of highly mineralized ground water into the caverns produced stalactites (dripstone deposits extending downward from the ceiling) and stalagmites (dripstone deposits building upward in mound-form from the floor).
Jack Mitchell was the first owner and promoter of Mitchell Caverns. The Caverns were hard to reach and there were little funds available to improve the roads. Jack had to improve the roads and build the rock facilities that are now used by the Park Service.
Even after opening the Caverns to the public, Jack Mitchell retained his interest in attempting to locate silver and other valuable deposits. The location of prospect holes and tunnels that he dug in this search, many along the Caverns' trail, can still be seen but have been blocked off as a safety precaution.
Mitchell Caverns consists of three basic caves that he called "El Pakiva," or the Devil's House; "Tecopa, " named for one of the last chiefs of the Shoshone Indians; and the deep and vertical "Winding Stair Cave," a dangerous cavern that is off-limits to the general public.
For many years it was thought that the Caverns were no longer "living," which means stalactites and stalagmites were not "growing." But heavy rains in some recent years have brought back some signs of life. Mitchell Caverns have been the subject of a number of scientific studies because they contain unusual formations not found in most other limestone caves.
Book Keeper of the Caves - Mitchell Caverns originally titled Jack Mitchell Caveman, this expanded second edition (2003) features many new photographs, restores the missing chapter on famous botanist Mary Beal and includes a foreword by renowned Mojave Desert historian, Dennis Casebier.
Continued on page 2 -- More photo and map. The tour information has been left on this site for reference purposes only as Mitchell Caverns is currently closed.
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