Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
Located within the Mojave National Preserve
After being closed for nearly seven years due to major infrastructure upgrades, Providence Mountains State Recreation Area is now open.
Buildings in the park have been repaired. The Cavern has been inspected. They have installed new LED lighting in the caves (shown in photos). This should be a big improvement. The park road has been patched and the parking lot resealed. The access route to the visitor center has also been improved. Likewise Mojave National Preserve, right next to the Caverns, has patched and resealed the entire length of Essex Road from the freeway to the park gate.
Tours of the Mitchell Caverns or the Providence Mountains SRA - Fridays through Sundays (including Mondays that fall on a holiday)
Mitchell Caverns consists of 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' creation was primarily due to 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.
Share this page on Facebook:
DesertUSA Newsletter -- We send articles on hiking, camping and places to explore, as well as animals, wildflower reports, plant information and much more. Sign up below or read more about the DesertUSA newsletter here. (It's Free.)