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 out in the vast expanse of the Pinto Basin but I didn’t know how many or what to expect or even if they were really there. In 2015, 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. A man by the name of Dale Holmes had a crew of men working out here in 1949. The millsite 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. 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.