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
- Tour reservations for Mitchell Caverns, will be taken online via ReserveCalifornia.com only starting on April 25, 2023.
- Use California State Parks - Tours (reservecalifornia.com) and use "Providence Mountains SRA" in Place category, and use only a day when the park is open for Choose Date category.
- As alternative to the website above, call Reserve California at 1-800-444-7275.
- Tour Details: The tour involves a 1.5 mile strenuous roundtrip hike to/from Mitchell Caverns and a 2 hour guided tour of the cave.
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.
- Available Tours:
- October-May: 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Fridays through Sundays (and Holiday Mondays).
- June & September: 10 a.m. Fridays through Sundays (and Holiday Mondays).
- Park is closed July & August, as well as Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
- Arrival Instructions:
- Make sure to arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time to journey to the park as road conditions are primitive and subject to delays.
- Reservation holders should arrive and check in for their tours at 30 minutes before they are scheduled to depart.
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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