Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
Located within the Mojave National Preserve
Updates For Mitchell Caverns Update 09/7/2017
09/07/17 Providence Mountains/ Mitchell Caverns to Reopen Nov. 3!
The Committee to Reopen Mitchell Caverns is very, very pleased to announce that the Tehachapi District of California State Parks has shared with us that Providence Mountain State Recreation Area, the home of Mitchell Caverns, will reopen to the public on November 3, 2017.
Park will be open Friday through Sunday and on holidays. Day use and cavern tours will be available. Reservations for cave tours will be available after November 1. (Some slots for cave tours will be first come, first serve.) Phone number for reservations will be announced sometime before that – number will be listed on this page on or before November 1.
Campground will not be available until sometime in 2018. (Hole in the Wall campground in the Mojave Preserve is approximately 30 minutes away.) All visitors are reminded that this park is in a remote location. Gas, food and lodging are not readily available. Please plan ahead!
Our group, a committee which operates under the umbrella of the Poppy Reserve Mojave Desert Interpretive Association, appreciates the patience and support of the many people who, like us, love this special place.
6/13/17 Mitchell Caverns’ reopening has been delayed until October due to an ailing septic tank and trail work that’s on hold until summer’s over in the eastern Mojave Desert’s Providence Mountains. Now the septic tank serving the visitor center and staff housing, which is getting plugged up due to broken ballasts, must be replaced. An environmental review must be completed and more funding won’t come until the new fiscal year starts July 1, said Russ Dingman, acting superintendent of the state parks’ Tehachapi District. More from Press Enterprise
5/18/17 The California Department of Parks and Recreation understands the concerns about the length of time it has taken to reopened Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. As a Department we are committed to reopen the Park to the public and to repair the failing infrastructure needs of the Park.
As a Department we continue to make public safety and resource protection our number one priority in allowing park visitors to safety use the Park. A new recent event and issue beyond the Department’s control has resulted in another infrastructure problem that is preventing us from opening to the Park to public.
Our goal remains the same and we continue to strive, work and challenge the process to get to this wonderful jewel of the State Park system reopened so all can enjoy the wonders of Mitchell Caverns and Providence Mountains State Recreation Area.
We once again thank you for your support. We share not only a passion for parks, but also the goal of making sure we continue to provide high quality outdoor recreational opportunities to our park visitors.
We will provide additional updates on the reopening of the Park as they become available.
For further discussion or concerns and future updates on the Park, please contact me directly at (661) 724-2380 or by email (Russ.Dingman@parks.ca.gov)
District Superintendent I (OOC)
CA State Parks – Tehachapi District
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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