Thursday, January 19, 2023

Calumet Mine (Part 1)

 You've never heard of Calumet Mine? You're not alone. After multiple Google searches for Calumet Mine in San Bernardino County, CA, I finally gave up. I could find no posts or photos (which made me even more curious). My search uncovered Calumet Mine, Colorado. And even a former mining town (now a ghost town) in Colorado by the name of Calumet. But nothing for Calumet Mine in CA, other than the fact it was an old gold mine. So my friend Roger and I set off in the Jeep to see if we could find it. Fasten your seatbelt and join us, it's going to be a bumpy ride!
A quick stop in Amboy at Roys on Route 66...
And the old Amboy graveyard. Sad to see...
We continued east to Cadiz, then south on Cadiz Road to a rarely used dirt road traveling SW through open desert that would take us to within about a mile of Cadiz Mine. At least, that what the topo maps and satellite view on Google Maps show.
Wow, were we ever surprised to find the road led us to huge green agricultural fields. Are we still in the desert? Where did our road go? And where is all this water coming from??
These surreal green fields seemed to go on forever.
Google tells me this is alfalfa.
It turns out the road we were following (which I think is BLM land/public property) skirted property owned by Allow me to digress: The Cadiz company has pretty much turned the road into a crop access road in some areas, and made it difficult to follow. Being the intrepid desert explorers that we are, we were able to follow the outer edges of the fields and reconnect with the road. The Cadiz company is famous (infamous would be more accurate) for purchasing water rights in the middle of the desert with a goal of tapping into ground water and pumping it to suburban users in Orange County. This pissed off a lot of people who are rightfully concerned that lowering groundwater in the desert would result in drying up the very few springs that still exist today (most have already gone dry) which would be devastating to wildlife that rely on these springs. Thankfully, Cadiz's water grab has been blocked (at least so far), but as you can tell from photo #3, they are tapping into the groundwater and flooding the desert to grow alfalfa. Digression over. 
Continuing on...
We finally made it to the Calumet Mine, or what's left of it. This is bleak, unforgiving desert. Be forwarned: If you are going to attempt this trip, be prepared for a lot of soft sand. The Jeep did great, but I was careful to keep my speed up and was constantly in fear of getting bogged down and stuck. With no cell service or auto towing, we would have been out of luck.
This is what remains of a wooden structure (one of two or three in the area). There's an interesting... something?... built out of local stone. Whoever built it hand picked some beautiful pieces of quartz to use in its construction. I wonder what it was?? The cool thing about visiting this old mine is that very few others have been here. There are no human footprints in the area. On a scale of 1-10 on the Desert Solitude scale, it's a 10!
A closer look at the mysterious stone structure. The photo doesn't do justice to the beautiful hand-picked stones used in it's construction.
If you were to walk strait ahead past this structure without paying too much attention, you would never be heard from again.
I present to you the Calumet mine shaft! It's larger than it looks, and is not very visible from up above (see previous photos). It's not until you are about ready to fall in that you see it. Rule #27: When exploring old mine sites, don't walk around while looking down at your cell phone!
The mine looks quite deep. How deep you ask? Hold that question for just a moment. Something else very cool about this mine shaft is the large raptor nest on the far wall. I'm guessing a hawk or owl, or perhaps even a golden eagle given its large size.
So getting back to your question: How deep is the Calumet Mine? I came up with this crazy idea to tie string around my GoPro camera (which is protected by a plastic case) and see if I could lower it down into the mine (without slipping and falling to my death 😲). It might give me a rough estimate of the depth, and also if there is anything interesting at the bottom of the mine (you always hear about creepy things at the bottom of desert mine shafts, right?) Just a warning: If you get vertigo from twirling around, you may want to skip this video. The camera kept spinning around on the string as I lowered it, which is something the production crew didn't anticipate!
The camera ended up getting snagged on a sandy shelf about 25' down, so I still don't know how deep the mine shaft is, or if there are any old bones at the bottom, but it was worth a try. I guess it's safe to say: Calumet Mine is very deep, and we're certainly not going to win any awards with this video!
After the craziness of lowering a camera into a mine shaft, Roger and I decided to take a look around to see what we could find.
What remains of another wooden structure.
I'm guessing melted glass from an old campfire.
Lot's of interesting artifacts remain at the Calumet Mine.

This large tube dropped down a steep hill from the mine above into this wash.
Sand dunes near the Calumet Mine.

So dry and desolate that even the creosote have a hard time surviving.

We followed the old roads in the area but didn't find any more mines.

The views from the mine are impressive. See the train?

Looking SE, you can see Cadiz Dunes.
One more photo of the big watering machine. I think the Cadiz Company refers to this area as "Cadiz Ranch". Seems like a crazy place to farm. Summer temperatures are routinely in the triple digits and frequently reach or exceed 115-120 degress. Evaporation while watering must be tremedous.
We were treated to some incredible skies on the Jeep trip back home, and I'll share those with you on my next post. Thanks for stopping by!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.


  1. Wow, what a trip you had!! Skirting around the fields, braving sandy soft roads with no cell phone reception and then finding the mine. I bet some mob guys might like to know about that mine now that Lake Mead's level has gone down in case they need dependable places to dispose of bodies.

  2. Wow! is right ~ what a grand series of photos of a magnificent part of the desert ~ glad you avoided falling in the mine shaft ~ that is very dangerous ~ Awesome ~ thanks ~ Xo

    Wishing you good health, laughter and love in your days,
    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

  3. What an adventure! Gosh you guys were brave.

  4. That mine would be dangerous if anyone lived in the area. Yikes, it's deep. What an adventure.

  5. Dearest Peter,
    That was quite a discovery and Cadiz Ranch is cultivating and watering it on a large scale.
    Excellent photos and the noise in that video was worse than the spinning.
    The sky while taking those photos was also rather dramatic.
    Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

  6. I want to say...what a crazy fun trip! How amazing to visit this place and make it out alive! I drive a Jeep now and we have a lot of sandy roads here in Florida. I was driving one of them and hubby was helping me decide which side to stay close to and which holes to drive straight through. And all the time he was saying...stay on the gas...don't slow down too much! Whew! It's pretty neat to go on adventures like this! The skies were amazing for your photos! WOW!

  7. Exciting Road Trip. And great photography too.

  8. Fascinating trip - the company trying to grab the water in the desert is just too much for my mind - glad you found some remains of the mine. It looks like it was taken apart, but then why didn't they cover the big hole. That's so dangerous.

  9. Great adventure indeed. I like those pictures of Sand Dunes. Your enthusiasm to explore places is motivation for us :-)

  10. Fantastic photo and interesting post.

  11. What an adventure!! Your train shot reminded me of a couple I took in the Columbia River Gorge. Super pictures, as always. BE CAREFUL!

  12. Oh what a crazy adventure. You are too brave. I especially like the photos of dunes with wave patterns and the views from the mine. Sad about the unrestrained use of groundwater by the Cadiz Company.

  13. What a hike! Obviously, this was not entirely risk-free. This was very different from your 'green trip' last week.

  14. Your brave heading that far out in the desert. Some amazing shots and that train, sooo long. Good idea with the mine shaft, if you go back bring a longer ball of string

  15. Great expedition again. As always wonderful to see.

  16. ...out west, water makes a huge difference. I love to drive a Corvette down Route 66!

  17. Thank you for taking us along on this great adventure. Love your beautiful photos of the dessert and sky. Glad you were able to safely return in good condition.

  18. Great expedition! Glad you guys have curious minds. :) Wonderful photos as always and a fun video.

  19. You really have an explorer's curiosity.

  20. Gosh, you and Roger didn't have to, but I'm sure glad you did (and that you didn't fall down the mine shaft, or get stuck in the sand, or....) What finds! (That video definitely won't make it into any documentary filmed about this place - and I think it needs one, if one hasn't been made.) As for the alfalfa farm, I'm speechless.

  21. Well How Crazy Is That - Good On Your For Prevailing Through The Unknown - Amazing Quality Of These Photos - Thankfully No Rattlers - Always A Pleasure Visiting Your Blog - Enjoy Your Family Time This Weekend Brother Man


  22. Your trips are getting bolder and bolder, but great finds. Water scarcity is probably becoming more and more of a problem, the groundwater level is sinking here too and some companies are dividing water among themselves, how must it be in the desert!
    Curious of pt.2.

  23. Enjoyed the cyber tour of the Calumet Mine, Cadiz Ranch in a Jeep that didn't get stuck in the desert with no cell phone service. What an adventure you two had. I am anxiously awaiting next weeks photos. Stay safe you two.

  24. Very interesting and beautiful to see

  25. Amazing series of photos, waiting for next part, Great to read

  26. Una gran aventura hasta llegar hasta ella. La mina hará bastante tiempo que está agotada y ahora ya solo queda su recuerdo.

  27. You are a brave group of desert trekkers! I love that photo with the train in the distance. That mine shaft is scary to say the least.

  28. The overtaking of a public road is maddening. Water rights is a crucial issue, and that they are allowed to do this at all, much less in that area in times when we've had drought is a shock. We need more legislative focus on rights to water, air, healthcare and less focus on the unfettered right to an arsenal. /rant

    Cool video! It's interesting the mine isn't protected or boarded up or signed with a warning or _something_, but I guess they count on its inaccessibility. My little Honda Fit and I certainly wouldn't end up there. On the other hand, I'm surprised there aren't folks set up to give tours of some of these remote locations. I'd sign up for one if I were ever out there. Kinda like the cave tours given for folks not able to do spelunking on their own. That landscape is striking.

  29. The skies are riveting! It must have been very special to find Calumet mine, after looking for it so long!

  30. Cool car.
    And sign, for that matter.
    Not even a name for the baby. Very sad indeed.

    When we travelled Australia´s Outback no one knew where we are and there was not even GPS - and see... we all survived :-)
    To adventures!!! We had no cellphone, either...

    Your camsure had an interesting time there!

    Great pics again. Thank you! I miss this....

  31. What an adventure! The melted glass is cool, or hot? You are such an intrepid explorer. :)

  32. How cool. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. I can't imagine actually going down into that mine - nope! It's amazing that all of those items are still there.

  33. Oh that video~ Wow. I'm usually glad to know you survived climbing UP things -- today it's falling downwards. Yikes. What an adventure. We've been in the "civilized" part of your adventure -- stayed a couple of days somewhere in Mohave Valley in fact on our last roadtrip in November, near Amboy and in other trips we've seen the crater. And I was thinking that was where the "Baghdad Cafe" was and the movie -- (we've seen both live and on film) but I just looked it up and that's somewhere else on that vast desert.... anyway, we enjoy visiting *part* of this area so much and thank you for showing the places in it we would never find out about. ... awful about that thieving "ranch" company ; I hope they can be stopped.