Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
Within the Mojave National Preserve
In the Eastern Mojave Desert off of Interstate 40, 56 miles west of Needles, 116 miles east of Barstow, and 16 miles northwest of the Essex Road exit
Starting April 26, 2021 - The park will be taking reservations by phone for tours of Mitchell Caverns. To make a reservation, call on Mondays only between 8:00 am and 5:00 pm. You must speak directly with park staff to make a reservation at 760-928-2586. Tours Friday through Sunday and on Holiday Mondays. State Parks continues to follow guidance provided by the California Department of Public Health: Fully Vaccinated Persons: Face coverings are not required in public outdoor settings. For indoor public settings, such as museums and visitor centers, all vaccinated individuals are to self-attest that they are in compliance prior to entry. Unvaccinated Persons: Face coverings are required in indoor public settings such as museums and visitor centers. Due to COVID-19 precautions, tours will have limited capacity and masks will be required for unvaccinated visitors while underground. Face shields alone will not be allowed.
Mitchell Caverns was created primarily by the dissolution of sedimentary limestone and metamorphised limestone (marble) by ground water high in carbonic acid content. Caverns were formed as the stone dissolved, then the continued dripping of highly mineralized ground water 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. He and his wife Ida ran a resort that included tours of the caves from 1934 to 1954. 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 Mitchell 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 years 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.
Providence Mountains SRA, including Mitchell Caverns, was closed in 2010 due to problems with the water source, its crumbling infrastructure and the California budgetary crisis. Vandals subsequently decimated the park, breaking into the Visitors Center, and the Caverns, shattering windows and display cases, destroying the lighting system, stealing generators and copper wire; and leaving graffitied walls. The long road to its reopening on Nov. 3, 2017 involved extensive repairs to the water system and the infrastructure. Buildings in the park were repaired. The Cavern was inspected. LED lighting was installed in the caves, which was a tremendous improvement. The park road was patched and the parking lot resealed. The access route to the visitor center was also improved. Likewise Mojave National Preserve, right next to the Caverns, patched and resealed the entire length of Essex Road from the freeway to the park gate.
What's open now?
- Day use.
- Hiking, bicycling, picnicking.
- Visitor Center at reduced capacity.
- Mitchell Caverns tours by reservation only and at reduced capacity.
- Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle - $9 for seniors (62+)/per vehicle
- Tours: Individuals: $10 per adult - $5 per child (16 and below) - $9 per senior (62+)
- Payment options: Credit card or cash. Note: Because of the remoteness of the park, CARD IS PREFERRED.
Open Year-Round: 8 am to 5 pm, Friday-Sunday and Mondays that fall on a holiday.
Closed: Tuesday-Thursday, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.
Tours of the Mitchell Caverns or the Providence Mountains SRA - Fridays through Sundays (including Mondays that fall on a holiday). Closed Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Entry is by guided tour only at 11 am and 2 pm. During the summer months June - September, there is only one tour at 10 am. Call 760-928-2586 for reservations. If there are spaces available you may be able to take a tour without calling ahead. Check at the Visitors Center.
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.
For a Book and Map of the area see our
Mohave Road guide
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