The search for gold has driven men to do great (and terrible) things for longer than there has been written history to record the deeds. It's one of those pursuits that truly separates the men from the boys. When most people think about the California gold rush, images of miners in Northern California typically comes to mind – but there was gold in the Southern California Deserts too! While the original miners relied on foot and mule to reach their claims, we were armed with modern trucks, radios, and GPS coordinates to guide us.
We were also able to start our journey off with some gold of our own thanks to Shell and the Fuel Rewards® program. Our Gold Status saved us $0.05 cents per gallon on each fill-up (up to 20 gallons per visit). Unfortunately, going off road and climbing mountains isn't the most fuel-efficient activity so it's important that we fill all the way up before going out. So, we started our day by filling up the trucks. All three of the guys had signed up as Fuel Rewards® members before our trip, so that saved us a bunch of money. You can sign up for a Fuel Rewards® account and get Instant Gold Status, too, before the end of the year. It's free!
Plus, once you're signed up, you can send your referral link to friends so they can join. The first time your friend signs up and uses the program by earning a reward or using their card at a participating Shell station, you will instantly earn 25¢/gal. And there's no limit to how many friends you invite or how many times you earn.
History of Gold Mines in Joshua Tree
Prospectors who came to California quickly discovered that the early claims in the Sierras were crowded and had limited potential. This search for the "next big thing" inspired the most adventurous men to explore the mountains of Southern California including those around where Joshua Tree National Park is today. This started in the mid-1800s and continued into the late 20th century. Unfortunately, for most prospectors, these mines produced only minimal gains. The exception though were mines such as Desert Queen Mine operated until 1942, while Lost Horse Mine produced more than 10,000 ounces of gold and 16,000 ounces of silver between 1894 and 1931!
Today, there are an estimated 300 abandoned mine sites, including 21 "mill sites" where ore was processed to extract gold. Of these abandoned mining sites, 120 still have substantial access to shafts, tunnels, and sinkholes that have formed due to collapsed structures deep below the earth.
This is an area that while is exciting to explore you should NEVER enter the shafts or tunnels as the beams bracing the walls are fragile and area is subject to periodic earthquakes. However, you can still have fun exploring outside.
Exploring the Old Dale Road and Brooklyn Mine Road Gold Mines
With dreams of walking in the footsteps of gold miners we set off to explore Joshua Tree National Park and the adjacent Bureau of Land Management lands for some of these sites in the "Old Dale Mining District". While several of the mine sites in other parts of the park (such as the Lost Horse Mine) are only accessible by a hike, here they are easily accessible if you have a good high-clearance 4x4 vehicle and the skill to traverse narrow roads with jagged rocks and sharp drop-offs. In our case we were also braving the 100+ degree August heat.
The trail begins just north of the Cottonwood Visit Center on Old Dale Road. Follow this 4x4 only road through the sandy Pinto Basin to the base of the mountains. Here, you will see a series of wells that were used for human and livestock use but also to supply the processing efforts in the mills.
While you can continue up the Old Dale Road and see some mine sites directly adjacent to the road, you can also split off and visit Brooklyn Mine Road where there is a cluster of eight mines. Compared to Old Dale Road which is well established, this road is significantly more challenging.
Yes, You Can Still Find Gold!
A new generation of prospectors driven by adventure, stories told by their fathers, and the lure of riches has returned to these mine sites and in some cases re-activated them such as the case with Brooklyn Mine which had a claim made a few years ago.
You might even get lucky and find ore in rocks on the surface that were left after the mines were abandoned. Many of these claims were abandoned not because they ran out of gold – but because of price fluctuations and geo-political situations such as the Great Depression and WWII.
Realistically though, without investing in making a claim and bringing in heavy machinery to extract and process the ore, the most you couple hope to find is a few flakes from tailings. Still though, it is exciting to know that the hunt for gold is still alive in California and that you can explore its history.
*Restrictions apply. To qualify for the Gold/Silver Status offers, you must be a Fuel Rewards® member and swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID when you fuel at a participating Shell station. With Gold Status, you will receive 5¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings on every fill-up. The 5¢/gal reward for Gold Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. If you are an existing Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status from 6/5/2017 through 12/31/17, the "Existing Member Introductory Period". If you are a new Fuel Rewards® member, you will receive Gold Status for the initial month you join through the last day of the month, 6 full calendar months later, the "New Member Introductory Period". The last 3 months of the Existing Member Introductory Period or the New Member Introductory Period (collectively the "Introductory Period") is the "Qualification Period". You will retain your Gold Status during the Qualification Period, but you must make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to qualify for Gold Status for the next 3 months, the "Benefit Period". During the Benefit Period, you must continue to make 6 qualifying fuel purchases to maintain your Gold Status for the next 3-month Benefit Period. A qualifying fuel purchase is any fuel purchase at a participating Shell station in which you swipe your Fuel Rewards® card or enter your Alt ID and fill up with at least 5-gallons of any grade of fuel. For example, if you are a new Fuel Rewards® member and register on 6/15/2017, you will receive Gold Status through the New Member Introductory Period (i.e., 12/31/2017). You will need to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the Qualification Period (i.e., 10/1/2017 and 12/31/2017) to maintain Gold Status during the Benefit Period (i.e., from 1/1/2018 to 3/31/2018). Thereafter, if you continue to fill up with at least 5 gallons of fuel at least 6 times during the successive 3 consecutive month Benefit Periods, you will retain your Gold Status. If you do not maintain your Gold Status, you will receive Silver Status. With Silver Status, you will receive 3¢/gal in Fuel Rewards® savings. The 3¢/gal reward for Silver Status will be combined with other rewards in your Fuel Rewards® account. Redeem Fuel Rewards® savings with your Fuel Rewards® card or Alt ID at participating Shell stations. Fuel Rewards® savings are limited to 20 gallons of fuel per purchase, per vehicle, or fraud limits placed by Shell and/or limits placed on your financial card by your financial institution, each of which may be lower. Fuel Rewards® savings must be redeemed in a single transaction. Once you begin to dispense fuel using your Fuel Rewards® savings, you must dispense to the 20-gallon limit or you forfeit any remaining discounted gallons of fuel. For example, if you only pump fifteen (15) gallons of fuel, you would abandon the remaining five (5) gallons of discounted fuel. If you have a rewards balance greater than the current per-gallon price of fuel, the price will roll down to the maximum capability of the fuel equipment, and your remaining rewards will be saved for a future fuel purchase. Dispenser may require a price of up to 10.9¢/gal. It may not be possible to combine multiple discounts and/or rewards in a single transaction. For purchases of $75 or more, please go inside to pay. Unbranded diesel and alternative fuels may not be eligible. The Fuel Rewards® program is owned and operated by Excentus Corporation. Offer may be modified or discontinued at any time without notice. Not valid where prohibited by law. Please see fuelrewards.com for complete Fuel Rewards® program details and Terms and Conditions. Other restrictions may apply. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. To learn more, visit fuelrewards.com/gold or call (888) 603-0473.