Joshua Tree Car Wash

Our National Parks aren’t known for their collections of old junked cars… Joshua Tree National Park has a collection, though (and so does the Mojave).

I heard there were a few wrecked cars in the vast expanse of the Pinto Basin, but I didn’t know how many, what to expect, or even if they were really there. I decided to chase them down.

Even though I knew what I was looking for, finding so many junked cars out in the middle of nowhere was still a fun surprise. Why the heck are they out here? And all of them have had their engines and drivetrains removed. Most of them appear to be 1950s Fords, and at least one is a Cadillac.

The “Car Wash” site is actually associated with the small mining operation of Gold Rose. In 1949, a man named Dale Holmes had a crew working here. The mill site had a flotation mill with a Blake crusher, a Wheeler ball mill, an amalgamation jig, plates, a cone tank, and two settling tanks.

The NPS removed the mill building and equipment in the 1970s. But why would miners bring out a bunch of junked cars out here? One idea is that they were being rounded up for scrap. Another theory is that the engines were used elsewhere for mining, and the cars were dumped here. Why the cars are actually here, though, will probably remain a mystery.

These days, it is a neat spot to visit and roam around. Please leave everything here. Removing any historical artifacts from a National Park, including anything off of these old cars, is illegal.