Joshua Tree, GPS

Desert Queen and Eagle Cliff Mines

This old trail leads to a couple of historic mines and a hidden rock cabin. This is a must see for Joshua Tree.

History

Desert Queen Mine

The Desert Queen being one of the largest mines in the park also has an equally large history.

Frank James first discovered the rich Desert Queen vein sometime after 1892 while working as a miner over at the Lost Horse Mine. Jim McHaney, a rancher, and part time miner, had a cattle ranch at Cow Camp (which became the McHaney Ranch and eventually the Desert Queen, and Keys Ranch). McHaney learned of the rich lode and legend goes that he and a few other cowboys: Charlie Martin and George Meyers, decided they wanted the Desert Queen mine for themselves. One day, they visited James at his cabin. One of the cowboys, Martin, shot James twice and killed him. Martin claimed self-defense (As he had some knife cuts on him.) He was acquitted at an inquest (conveniently held at the McHaney Ranch) in April 1894. McHaney, his brother Bill, Martin and Meyers quickly took control of the mine and began to develop it. Gold ore was hauled over to the two-stamp mill at Pinyon Well (Later relocated to the Wall Street Mill).

In 1895, Jim McHaney purchased a five-stamp mill from the Baker Iron Works of Los Angeles. Which was erected at their Desert Queen Ranch (now known as Keys Ranch), and they continued mining the rich lode. To gain more control over the mine, the McHaney’s paid Martin $47,000 for his share of the mine. They gave George Meyers a herd of cattle for his portion of the mine. Bill gave his sister a share of the mine as well. Jim quickly squandered his newly found fortune and a San Bernardino banker by the name of S. F. Zambro gained shares of the mine as an investment. Zambro eventually foreclosed on the mine forcing the McHaney brothers out.

In later years, Jim McHaney was convicted of counterfeiting gold coins and spent seven years in federal prison. Bill McHaney continued prospecting over in Music Valley and ended up settling in Twentynine Palms. Zambro and the McHaney's sister (Carrie McHaney Harrinton) continued to work the mine and, by 1907, the mine had reportedly produced over 3,700 ounces of gold.

Sometime around this date the mine was sold to William Morgan who invested nearly half a million dollars to develop the mine further. The new shafts and workings did not find any rich new gold ore, though. Morgan hired Bill Keys around 1910 as mine supervisor. Keys drilled, blasted, assayed, and maintained all the equipment. When the mine became unprofitable, Bill went unpaid for his work. Morgan died in 1917 and Bill became the owner through a property wage settlement. Keys continued to work and lease the mine for periods in 1923, then continuously from 1932 to 1941, and again for short periods until 1961. The mine probably produced another few hundred ounces of gold under Keys’ watch.

Don’t get too excited about trying to get into the mine. Like nearly all the mines in the park, it is gated. I went inside the mine many years ago and it isn’t all that interesting. It is primarily a room and pillar system of tunnels without any long tunnels or shafts. There is no equipment inside.

Desert Queen Mine

Eagle Cliff Mine

The Eagle Cliff Mine is a bit more mysterious than the Desert Queen. Discovered by Robert Muir in 1895, a 75-foot shaft was put in following a vein of gold. By 1916, Bill Keys owned it. Some minor production was done by his brother-in-law, Albert Lawton, and a partner in 1933. They milled the ore at Keys’ Wall Street Mill. After that, the mine was only intermittently worked in small batches. It was never a big producer or very profitable. A road was never built up to the mine, so all the ore had to be packed out on mules. Exactly who built the rock cabin and lived there remains unclear. Some sources believe it was Lawton. See below for a description of the cabin.

The rest of this post is for subscribers only

Subscribe now
Author image

About Guy Starbuck

Exploring the American West.
  • Nevada
You've successfully subscribed to Starbuck's Exploring
Great! Next, complete checkout for full access to Starbuck's Exploring
Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.
Unable to sign you in. Please try again.
Success! Your account is fully activated, you now have access to all content.
Error! Stripe checkout failed.
Success! Your billing info is updated.
Error! Billing info update failed.