Black Eagle Mine Road
Joshua Tree National Park
Black Eagle Mine Road runs through an old mining district. It passes by Barry Storm's Jade Mine, the Black Eagle Gold Mine, and Kaiser's Eagle Mountain Mine which was at one time being considered as a possible dump location for Los Angeles' trash. This difficult, 4-wheel drive only, rocky road passes by many side roads to other old, abandoned gold mines as well. Driving it gives you an idea of what mining was like for the old timers in the rugged foothills of Black Eagle Mountain.
Beginning 6.5 miles north of the Cottonwood Visitor Center, this dead-end dirt road runs along the edge of Pinto Basin, crosses several dry washes, and then winds up through canyons in the Eagle Mountains. The first 9+ miles of the road are within the park boundary. Beyond that point is BLM land. Several old mines are located near this road.
We made a round trip journey on Black Eagle Road, with stops at Barry Storm's Jade Mine, Black Eagle Mine, and Eagle Mountain Mine. Below is a map of the area that shows the road's location.
Sign marks the start of the 4x4 road.
It starts off as an easy drive on a sandy road, on a slight downgrade. If you don't have 4 wheel drive it will be difficult on the return trip. At the far end of the road you must have good clearance and 4 wheel drive.
Big Wash will stop most people, and we don't recommend you try to cross it unless you are an experienced 4x4 driver. There is no cell phone reception here, so never go down this trail unless you are sure you can get back up. It's about a three mile hike from the wash to the edge of the park and the Jade mine claim.
The Barry Storm Jade Mine
Barry Storm had been hunting lost mines since the 1930s. In the late 1940s, while looking for Henry Brant's lost gold mine, he stumbled upon a jade deposit. Storm built a tiny cabin for $150 and lived at the mine from 1956 until at least 1967. He was convinced his mine was the source of the Mayan jade. (It wasn't.) The biggest "nugget" of jade from his mines weighed 450 pounds; he broke it up and sold it in small pieces in the Twentynine Palms area. The claim is right on the park boundary and the above fence marks the start of the trail on the south side of Black Eagle Road. Video on Barry Storm.
This is the trail that leads back to the jade area; it's now in the park and still under a claim. You will have to walk to the mine area, and no material can be removed.
There used to be a cave here but it's gone now. You can see green minerals in the stone, however this is not a jade location.
We found this piece of jade on the road that leads to an old house site. The Coke can is there to show the relative size of the rock. The can was returned to the car; the jade is still on the road. There is no rock collecting in the park.
You can see that it's hard to find jade - it looks just like the rest of the rocks in the area.
Black Eagle Gold Mine
You will need to drive slowly near the Black Eagle Mine, there are a lot of rocks in the road which should keep you on your guard.
The rain and wind over the last 50 years has taken its toll on this tailing pile at the Black Eagle Gold Mine. It can be a very dangerous area, so stay on the road and don't try to enter any of the tunnels. The Black Eagle Mine was in production from 1923 until the latter part of 1928, producing about $30,000 from 1,050 tons of ore.
Water for the camp had to be brought in from Cottonwood Springs. A mill was constructed in the late 1920s, but it was unsuitable, and the mine and mill shut down. Between 1935 and 1940, some $200,000 were produced from the mine. In early 1939, a 100 ton concentration and flotation plant was installed. Operating from July of 1939, to January of 1940, it yielded $53,706 worth of concentrates which were shipped to Midvale, Utah. Operations were suspended in December 1940, and all the mine and mill equipment was removed. This mine is still under claim and there may yet be some production.
The Eagle Mountain Mine was by far the largest iron mine of the western U.S. from 1948 to 1982, feeding Kaiser Steel Corporation's Fontana steel mill and the associated shipyards and auto plants. This operation was a significant factor in the economy of the region.
In 1991, the Mine Reclamation Corporation proposed a giant landfill, capable of holding a quarter of all the waste generated in Southern California. It would occupy the site of an abandoned Kaiser Steel-operated iron mine. One of the first major California projects to pay major attention to air pollution resulting from solid waste handling, the proposal featured an ambitious transportation scheme that would deliver trash from six counties via covered railway cars. This proposal was not well received, and after many lawsuits, was finally abandoned in 2013. More...
If you take this trip it's best not to do it in the summer as it gets very hot. Two cars would be safer then one if any problems come up. For a PDF map of the Black Eagle mine area click here.
Old Dale Road: This 23-mile road starts at the same point as Black Eagle Mine Road.
Text and photos by Jim Bremner
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