Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pinto Wye Arrastra (Part 1), Joshua Tree National Park

Yes, I had never heard of an "arrastra" either! Arrastras were/are circular mills used to crush and grind up ore using large heavy stones. At the Pinto Wye arrastra, gold ore, water and mercury were placed on the smooth stone floor. Several stones were dragged around the circle, crushing the ore. The mercury formed an amalgam with the gold, which was then retrieved. The Pinto Wye arrastra was powered with a gasoline engine, using a belt around the central wheel. Earlier arrastras were most often powered with animals, steam or water. Wagon wheel arrastras are supposedly very rare. There are a number of arrastras in Joshua Tree National Park, but not sure if there are any other wagon wheel arrastras.

I had heard about this arrastra from a blog I follow (http://cali49.com/jtnp/2014/6/7/pinto-wye-arrastra). Here's the challenge: there is no trail leading to the arrastra. It's literally out in the middle of the desert, and you need to hike cross-country to get to it. The blog helped me figure out the ballpark location, but how do you find a small speck in the middle of the desert??

Here's my technique. After an extensive search on Google Maps, I finally found something that looked suspiciously like the arrastra. Just above it appears to be mine tailings, and just below it a wash, so I knew it had to be the arrastra. Here's a screen capture.
On Google Maps, when you right-click, it gives you the exact latitude/longitude information. For the Pinto Wye arrista, it is 34.028742, -116.028038. Try it out... go to Google Maps and type in this latitude/longitude. It will take you exactly to the arristra. Pretty cool, don't you think? Here's where I had to get a bit creative. There is no cell service in the park, so I can't use Google Maps (or equivalent) on my phone to help me find the arrastra. I have an app called MotionX GPS. It lets you download maps ahead of time so you can find your way, even without cell service. Better yet, you can enter and save latitude/longitude information (called "WayPoints"), and the app will show you the way to the exact spot! As I made my way across the desert in search of the arristra, I frequently checked my phone to see if I was veering off in the wrong direction. It worked perfectly! In the "old days", a compass and topo map served the same purpose.

So off I went, fully-charged cellphone in hand and plenty of water with directions to 34.028742,-116.028038, trekking cross-country through the desert. I really don't think I would have found the arrastra without my phone app. The terrain looks totally different from the ground as compared to the Google Map satellite view!
It was a perfect day for a trek across the desert.
Mild temps and beautiful skies as I hiked around the boulders!


According to my phone app, the arrastra should be over and just a little beyond this peak!
If you look closely in the above photo, you can see a small placard on the right. The arrastra is just above it and to the left.
The Pinto Wye arrastra... I found it! Middle of nowhere, with no trails leading to it, but here it is!
The drag stone... used to crush the gold ore. I checked the area for gold nuggets but didn't find anything. Worth a try, though, right? You never know...
Double wagon-wheel construction.


An old can sitting on a drag stone next to the arrastra, with an old bucket behind it. Remnants of early mining days in Joshua Tree National Park!

I hope to post "Pinto Wye Arrastra Part II" next week with some photos of the mine near the arrastra. I might even post a "Part III" because I found some very cool surprises on my hike back to my Jeep, so stay tuned!!

Linking with Skywatch Friday. Click on the link to check out great skies from around the world. 
Have a great weekend!!

34 comments:

  1. What a fabulous informative post.




    ALOHA, Friend
    ComfortSpiral

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  2. I enjoyed all the information you provided which was new to me. Would you have to worry about mercury in this area, I wonder? Your desert photos are magnificent!

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  3. Great photos of your desert hikes. I have learnt something new today, very informative post!

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  4. Wow - that is amazing - and more amazing that it is still there. What a find - I'm glad you took the hike for us. Looking forward to more about this subject.

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  5. that is way cool. beautiful images too. how neat to be able to find something like this.

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  6. Glorious captures and superb information!! Thank you so much for sharing both!! Have a great weekend!!

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  7. Fascinating info! Gorgeous shots!

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  8. I am really, really a big fan of your photography.

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  9. The photos are really amazing...excellent information

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  10. Now that was a cool post. You've peaked my interest for this would be the very thing I'd enjoy doing. In the past I simply go for a walkabout in the desert and find things haphazardly. But to explore Google Earth images beforehand, find something odd then go seek it out...I had never thought of doing that. Hmmm....

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  11. Desert sands, intriguing boulder shapes and stunning skies. Beautiful images.

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  12. Congrats on finding your treasure... Really cool!
    And your images are absolutely gorgeous!

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  13. What a very interesting trek you made, thanks for taking us along once again! I love this sort of thing, travel, history adventure all bound together.
    I still use a Magellen hand held GPSr for remote wayfinding since cell signal service is so iffy in these areas.
    BLM maps are great too, I am old and take all the information I can!

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  14. The desert landscape is something I've never experienced - thanks for taking me along your trek. Fantastic shots!

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  15. Great work but you should get a proper GPS, phone battery's don't last that long. If that had been in the UK it would have been marked on the OS maps

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  16. A nice way to make a trek to an interesting little antique machinery. The working conditions must be unbelievable. Thanks for showing us.

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  17. What a great find. The cell phone apps are awesome too. It is amazing the mill is still there! Beautiful desert scenes and lovely sky shots. Awesome post. Happy skywatching, have a great weekend!

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  18. seriously dedicated search. Wow.

    And I'm sure you got many more cool pictures :O)

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  19. Beautiful desert skies!
    Have a great week-end!
    Lea

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  20. There's nothing I can add to these comments... Wonderful pictures, and a very interesting post.

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  21. Beautiful, crisp, blue skies - gorgeous images!

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  22. Love the sweep of clouds across such a big blue sky.

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  23. Love the sweep of clouds across such a big blue sky.

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  24. Oh my gosh, I LOVE this post! Your photos are wonderful, but the sense of adventure is such a special thing. And you found this interesting bit of history, out in the middle of nowhere. So cool! Love this!

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  25. Very beautiful pictures and wonderful story. And I learnt a new word too. Happy weekend!

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  26. What a beautiful landscape, your pictures are gorgeous. A really adventurous hike, I like the hike and the story! Great that you find the arrastra!
    Took a look at some of your other posts, love them! So I will stay to follow you in the future :-D
    Greetings from Belgium and happy weekend, Hilde

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  27. What a great post. I think we should value this type of industrial archeology more than we do - love these sorts of places.

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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  28. A very interesting post and a very enjoyable read, along with your photos.

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  29. woooow...I really love all your photos! Nice shots and amazing sky! I really hope I can come anf visit this place one day..

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  30. I had to read this post as well, very exciting! Thank you for sharing! :)

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  31. I had to read this post as well, very exciting! Thank you for sharing! :)

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