Administrative History
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The history of the eastern Mojave prior to systematic federal management is long and varied. Most of the challenges and opportunities faced by Mojave National Preserve have their roots in the history of human habitation of the area. Likewise, many of the outstanding resources and attractions, as well as the less attractive features of the park, are the result of human efforts. As such, understanding the history of the eastern Mojave before systematic federal management is crucial to understanding the area afterward.

Individual perceptions of the eastern Mojave varied by cultural affiliation and the individual's potential for economic gain from the area. Native Americans such as the Chemehuevi and the Mohave understood the area as a homeland and a transportation corridor. Early Europeans and Euro-Americans viewed the desert as an unremittingly hostile place. Ranchers and miners envisioned economic opportunity through resource extraction, while homesteaders imagined land ownership and yeoman freedom. Beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing throughout the following century, railroads, power and pipeline companies, and migrants on Route 66 alike saw, in John Steinbeck's words, a place that one must "get acrost." The U.S. Army looked at the Mojave as a facsimile of North Africa, suitable for training, and Americans after World War II understood it as recreational space. The first threads of systematic management could be found in the post-Taylor Grazing Act (1934) ranching operations, but comprehensive federal control did not happen until widespread, destructive recreation forced the government to take action in the 1960s.

Native Americans and Anglo Contact

Illustration 2 - Prehistoric petroglyphs, like these at Indian Well, are found at sites scattered throughout Mojave National Preserve. (Photo by Eric Nystrom, 2001.)

About 11,000 years ago, the region's ecological zones were one thousand feet lower in elevation than today due to the cooler and wetter weather patterns of the waning Ice Age. Streams flowed and lakes existed where dry playas are today. The relative abundance of plant communities supported wildlife and indigenous peoples who depended upon the natural resources. While clear archaeological evidence of human presence in this early time are sparse, over 1,300 later prehistoric and historic period archaeological resources have been recorded for the large Preserve area, including 65 rock image sites. Museums and professional researchers have made significant collections of artifacts since 1925.

In general, these tribal peoples occupied the lands as small, mobile social units of related families who traveled in regular patterns and established summer or winter camps in customary places where water and food resources were available. Archaeologists named a series of five manifestations of Native American occupation, which were believed to describe changes in climate, chipped stone technology, and subsistence practices of these early peoples. These periods covered time intervals from about 5000 BC to AD 700-900. At that point, the Mojave desert area, unlike other portions of California's desert region, was influenced by native peoples now called 'Ancestral Pueblo' who established farming villages along the Muddy, Virgin, and upper Colorado rivers. Their culture reached into today's Preserve lands at turquoise sources and via trade trails as far as the Pacific coasts. Later, however, Ancestral Pueblo peoples abandoned their territory and were replaced by Shoshonean and Paiute peoples after about AD 1000. In addition, native peoples of the lower Colorado River basin speaking Yuman languages expanded their river zone territory and utilized some desert lands as well.

Modern Native American "tribes" were products of interactions with the American military and legal system as much as modern reflections of pre-contact Native American land use patterns, and the land allocated to these groups frequently did not reflect the actual extent of their pre-Anglo homelands. No tribes directly control any lands in the Preserve, but historical, archaeological, and ethnographic information indicates that ancestors of the modern Chemehuevi and Mohave Tribes traveled, camped, hunted, and resided at various places now in the Preserve. Oral traditions and historical information compiled into maps for the 1950-1960s Federal Indian Lands Claims cases showed Chemehuevi land knowledge and uses. Some Mohave Tribal members have family histories of being on lands now within the eastern areas of the Preserve. Certainly, the very detailed and lengthy "song cycles" of the Chemehuevi identify many places within the Preserve with names and events of supernaturals who performed various activities there. The "song cycles" were a type of oral map of the territory which had great value to travelers moving through the area or following seasonal foraging patterns. However, both tribal groups sustained hostilities between themselves, which was noted by Spanish Friar Francisco Garcés in 1776. Euro-American contact with peoples now called Chemehuevi or Mohave increased in the nineteenth century. [1]

The Desert Chemehuevi were Native Americans who actually lived most of the year in the area of the Preserve. Limited food and water resources sustained a low Desert Chemehuevi population density. When food was abundant, it would be dried and cached for later use. The area of the Preserve probably never supported more than about 150 people at any one time. [2]

While the Chemehuevi were the primary inhabitants of the area now encompassed by the Preserve, the desert and the park itself are named for a different group of Native Americans - the Mohave. [3] The Mohave were agriculturalists who planted in the flooded plain of the Colorado River. This agricultural lifestyle generated food surpluses, which enabled them to support a sizable population in the river basin area, numbering in the thousands. The Mohave frequently traded with other Native American groups to the west and east, and had a particular fondness for seashells traded by Indians on the California coast. The Mohave had a network of trails across the desert from waterhole to waterhole. The Mohave bragged to early European visitors that a powerful Mohave runner could make the trip to the Pacific coast, more than 150 miles long, in three days. The Mohave guided some of the first non-Indian travelers over this network of trails, including friar Garcés in 1776 and American trapper Jedediah Smith in 1826. Their network of trails, now known as the Mojave Road, became one of the main routes used by the government and other travelers to cross the desert before the advent of the railroad.

The Mohave were friendly to Garcés and Smith at first, but when Smith returned to recross the river in 1827, the Mohaves attacked as his party was crossing. Historians later determined that other trappers, arriving between Smith's two visits, killed several Mohaves and antagonized the rest, prompting the tribe to exact revenge on the next Euro-Americans they saw. Half of Smith's party was killed, and the explorer led the survivors back across the desert trails to relative safety in California. This incident created the reputation of the Mohaves as a fierce band that should be avoided. [4] Further encounters with trappers in the late 1820s and early 1830s led to more bloodshed by Indian and Anglo alike. Historians hypothesize that the Old Spanish Trail, which runs to the north of the Preserve, was created in the 1830s specifically to bypass the Mohave. [5]

In 1848, the United States signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo to end the Mexican War and received almost all of the territory that is now the American Southwest, including all of California and all of the area of the Mojave National Preserve. Interest in building a transcontinental railroad was high, but the choice of route was difficult due to sectional controversies. In 1853-54, the United States sent several survey teams into the field to report on the feasibility of the various routes. One of these was the so-called 35th Parallel Route, which cut through the eastern Mojave. Two survey parties took the field: one, under Lt. Robert S. Williamson, explored from the western side and proceeded as far as Soda Lake; the other, under Lt. A.W. Whipple, proceeded from Arkansas to Los Angeles, crossing the Preserve along the route of the Mojave Road. [6]

Later attempts proved more successful at opening the cross-desert route now known as the Mojave Road. Between 1855 and 1857, the General Land Office surveyed township lines throughout the area. This effort was largely wasted when the location monuments could not be rediscovered by others, but the small number of people on the surveying teams became very familiar with the desert and later served as guides for other expeditions. In 1857, Edward F. Beale surveyed a wagon road across the Arizona desert, and crossed the Mojave along the route of the future Mojave Road. Combined with his eastbound crossing in 1858, Beale's success proved the viability of the wagon road.

Conflict between Native Americans and Euro-Americans was the catalyst for the establishment of a lasting federal legacy in the Mojave desert. The Mohave attacked emigrant wagon trains in 1858, prompting a substantial military response. [7] Major William Hoffman led a unit of over 600 men to the Colorado River, homeland of the Mohave, and demanded surrender. Prudently, the Mohave complied, and Hoffman set up a military post on the eastern bank of the Colorado River that soon became known as Fort Mojave. The effort to supply the fort caused wagon teams from Los Angeles to cross the eastern Mojave regularly until the start of the Civil War in 1861, and turned Beale's path into a true wagon road, easily followed. Some improvements were made to the route at this time, such as the construction of a water stop known as Government Holes.

The U.S. military spent several months in the eastern Mojave in an ill-conceived attempt to punish Native Americans for a crime they may not have committed. In 1860, two whites were murdered at Bitter Springs, on the Salt Lake Trail, and the attacks were blamed on the "Pah-Utes," though contemporaries and later historians suggested that the attacks were quite possibly carried out by Mormons, rather than Native Americans. Newspapers in southern California whipped the citizenry into a fury, and prompted the army to send a unit led by James H. Carleton, an Army dragoon from Fort Tejon, California, into the desert to exact revenge on the Native Americans supposedly responsible for the attacks. Carleton's troops built a small fort at Camp Cady, and roamed all over the western portion of the present-day Preserve - through Devil's Playground, around the Granite Mountains, and across Soda Lake. The soldiers constructed a small earthen fortification, called Hancock's Redoubt, at Soda Springs. Carleton chased his quarry all over the desert, and executed several in an attempt to impress the remainder with the power of the United States military. At the end of his three-month stay in the desert, the Native American leaders arrived at Camp Cady and asked for peace. Carleton negotiated a cease-fire, but it was ultimately ineffectual as the army did not return later (due to the Civil War) to distribute aid as promised and uphold their end of the bargain. [8]

The Civil War prompted the military to abandon Fort Mojave in 1861. In mid-1863, it was re-activated with a garrison composed of California Volunteers, to provide security for travelers to Arizona. Gold was discovered in Arizona that year and by 1864, the Mojave Road was a crucial supply line to the territorial capital at Prescott. From 1866 to 1868, the mail was carried over the Mojave Road from California to Arizona. Native Americans in the Mojave and in Arizona commenced hostilities, and a group attacked the garrison at Camp Cady. This emphasized the importance of having a military escort for the mail as it crossed the desert. To support this escort effort, the military constructed small outposts at Soda Springs, Marl Springs, Rock Spring, and "Piute" Creek. The army successfully negotiated an end to the conflict in late 1867. Shortly thereafter, a series of heavy rainstorms left the road impassible. This factor, combined with the cumulative losses to Native Americans along the Mojave route, caused the transfer of mail service to a different, more southerly trail. The outposts at Piute Creek, Rock Spring, Marl Springs, and Soda Springs were abandoned. [9]

Military use of the Mojave Road diminished, but civilian use increased as more people were attracted to the desert area. By the 1870s, Fort Mojave was largely supplied by steamboat service up the Colorado River, but miners, prospectors, and ranchers used the Mojave Road to cross the desert until the Southern Pacific / Atlantic & Pacific Railroad was completed in 1883. [10]


Grazing of non-native livestock has occurred on most of the land that is now the Mojave National Preserve at one time or another over the past 150 years. Livestock was present in the east Mojave in association with the earliest Euro-American uses of the desert. Travelers over the Mojave Road almost always had some stock with them, and grazed them as they crossed the desert. Several times, herds of hundreds of cattle or sheep were driven over the route across the Mojave either to resupply Fort Mojave on the Colorado River or to move livestock to fresh range in New Mexico and Arizona. Military outposts constructed along the Mojave Road conducted small-scale grazing activity, to supplement the soldiers' food supply. [11]

Entrepreneurs took advantage of the open range and ready market in the form of miners and later railroad workers by setting up several ranches in the years from about 1875 to the end of the nineteenth century. George Briggs and LeRoy Blackburn, two of the future partners of the Rock Springs Land & Cattle Company, set up their individual ranches around 1875, with headquarters at Marl Springs and Government Holes, respectively. John Domingo raised work horses on a ranch near the Bonanza King mine starting in the early 1880s, and Daniel Kistler raised beef for sale near what is now known as Kessler Spring at about the same time. [12]

In 1894 Blackburn and Briggs, along with other investors, merged their holdings to form the Rock Springs Land & Cattle Company, with headquarters at Barnwell, the northern terminus of the newly constructed Nevada Southern Railway. This move highlighted the fact that while local consumption by miners in the area was important to the firm, so too was the capability to transport cattle to other markets via the railroad. The Rock Springs outfit, like other ranchers in the area, grazed their cattle on public land without fences. They moved aggressively to purchase or trade for ownership of water rights, the possession of which enabled de facto control of the surrounding range. At various times, the company had more than 10,000 cattle on their fifty square mile range. [13] The company came into conflict with homesteaders who staked claims in prime grazing territory after 1910. Cattle trampled homesteaders' crops (sometimes at the deliberate urging of the cowboys) and the company denied homesteaders access to water; homesteaders retaliated by helping themselves to free beef. A shootout at Government Holes in 1925 was the final straw for many of the homesteaders who had not yet left. [14]

Sidney E. "Boots" Yates arrived in the Valley Wells area in 1894, alone with 27 head of cattle, and set up a ranch of his own. With hard work, good forage years, and a job as foreman of the Rock Springs Company that provided a steady income, Yates worked steadily and built up his ranch. After World War I, Yates started his nephew, L. E. "Boy" Williams, in the cattle business as well. Yates passed away in 1923 and his widow Bessie continued to run the Valley Wells ranch. [15]

John Domingo raised horses on his ranch near Providence until 1918, when he sold his holdings. The ranch soon came under control of the partnership of J. N. Sanders and W. W. "Wash" Gibson, who stocked the ranch with cattle and called it the 7IL. Sanders and Gibson hired Frank Murphy, a homesteader from the Lanfair area, to direct the day-to-day operations in the early 1920s.

71L Ranch sign
Illustration 3 - The 7IL Ranch, in the Colton Hills area, has been operated by members of the same family since 1938. (Photo by Eric Nystrom, 2001.)

A massive drought in the late 1920s, culminating in 1928, contributed to changes on the Mojave range. The Rock Springs Land & Cattle Company dissolved under the pressure. Most of the cattle had perished on the range, but the remainder were rounded up and sold in urban markets. In September 1928, the northern part of the Rock Springs range was sold to Bessie Yates and "Boy" Williams. The Rock Springs lands in Nevada were given to long-time ranch superintendent John Woolf, who promptly sold the property to Hollywood western movie star Rex Bell, who together with his wife Clara Bow, lived and worked on the ranch they called the Walking Box. In September 1931, the remainder of the Rock Springs Land & Cattle Company's holdings were sold to a group headed by Claud Halsell, Sr., who took complete control within a year of the ranch they called the OX. [16] Additionally, Gibson and Sanders sold the 7IL Ranch to Mark and Mary Pettit in 1929.

The late 1920s and 1930s were years of flux in the cattle business in the east Mojave, not only because of the substantial drought, but also due to the passage of the Taylor Grazing Act in 1934. The Taylor Grazing Act compelled individual ranchers to clearly delineate and fence their ranges, and required grazers to pay fees to the government for forage consumed by each animal on public lands. Mark and Mary Pettit sold the 7IL that year, just prior to the signing of the act, in part because of concerns over impending government regulations. The ranch was sold again in 1938 to Herbert and Anson Murphy, sons of Frank Murphy who had operated the ranch in the early 1920s. [17] The Yates/Williams partnership that purchased part of the Rock Springs range dissolved in 1937 as a result of the need for smaller holdings that could be fenced, resulting in the creation of the Kessler Springs Ranch for Williams and the Valley View Ranch for Yates. The Valley View was sold to Fred Twisselman in 1940, while the Valley Wells ranch remained in the hands of Sarah Yates Miles, daughter of "Boots" Yates, and her husband, Wade Miles. Fleetwood "Fleet" Southcott Sr. came to the Gold Valley area in 1931, after losing his fortune in the Great Depression, and staked a homestead in Gold Valley with an eye toward developing a ranch. [18]

The Taylor Grazing Act caused changes in the ranching landscape in the Mojave, by requiring ranchers to fence their ranges and develop multiple water sources, so that the burden on any one part of the range was lessened. "Boy" Williams and Claud Halsell both constructed large numbers of corrals, improved water sources, and built many miles of fence to bring their Kessler Springs and OX Ranches into compliance. "Fleet" Southcott saw the act as an opportunity to develop a ranch of his own, and leased an allotment in the Gold Valley area before Halsell was able to do so. [19]

During the years from the 1940s to the passage of the California Desert Protection Act in 1994, ranching in the area evolved, but remained rooted in old-fashioned methods that worked better on the tough range than modern agribusiness techniques. "Slim" Skinner and his father-in-law, Fred Twisselman, bought the Valley View from Bessie Yates in 1940. Unlike many of the "cow and calf" operations in the desert, such as the OX and Kessler Springs ranches, the Valley View was worked as a steer operation, involving greater risk, but potentially greater profit. Skinner retired in the early 1980s and sold the ranch to Andy Anderson of Montana. [20] In 1960 the Murphy brothers sold the 7IL ranch to their nephews, Howard and Jerry Blair, the descendants of whom still own and operate the ranch. [21] "Boy" Williams sold the Kessler Springs Ranch in 1942, and it passed through the hands of several often-absentee owners until it fell under control of part-owner Gary Overson in 1969. Overson was raised in the east Mojave, first working for the OX Ranch at eleven years of age. Through hard work and a shrewd sense for expansion, he bought out his partners at Kessler Springs within a decade.

Claud Halsell retained ownership of the OX Ranch until 1946, during which time he added a tremendous number of improvements, fenced most of the range, added private lands to the ranch holdings, and moved the ranch headquarters from Barnwell to Ledge, along Lanfair Road. Halsell's successors, the partnership of Waldo Bozarth and Oscar Rudnick, owned the ranch until 1955 and built a herd from 1,000 to 5,000 animals during that time. Ed Eldridge purchased the ranch from Bozarth and Rudnick, and constructed a large number of fences, corrals, and pipelines to facilitate expansion of his ranching operation. When Eldridge was ready to retire, he sold the OX to Gary and Linda Overson in 1986, giving the Oversons direct control over most of the Mojave range. Later, the Oversons also managed the Valley View and Valley Wells ranches for Richard Blincoe, an Idaho-based agricultural businessman. [22]

The lands of the east Mojave have been subject to ranching for profit for more than 125 years, and in that time have indelibly changed. The key to ranching in the Mojave is water, and commercial ranches have developed extensive water systems which are also used by wildlife. Though no definitive data exists, the numbers of both native and non-native species may have been enhanced by the long-term availability of these water sources, making it difficult to discover what pre-ranching levels of wildlife were like. In the same way, long-term ranching has quite possibly been responsible for the creation of some of the Preserve's most magnificent landscapes, the Joshua tree forests of Cima Dome and Lanfair Valley. Biologist Harold Avery noted that cattle grazing in the Mojave had the effect of increasing the number of shrubs, and biologist Steve Brittingham noted that shrubs provide microclimates that nurture the development of Joshua trees. [23] Jim Cornett, a biologist with the San Bernardino County Museum, also explained the connection between cattle grazing and increased Joshua tree density as a product of the shelter that unpalatable shrubs give to the infant trees. [24] An analogy, focused on the role of subtle human effects in producing landscapes that are seemingly "natural," can be drawn between Mojave's Joshua tree forests and the forests of giant sequoias in Sequoia National Park, where researchers in the 1970s realized that the huge trees were largely the product of the Native American practice of setting deliberate fires. Both the sequoias and Mojave's Joshua tree forests are beautiful attractions, seemingly natural, that were in reality partially formed by human actions over a long period of time. [25] In the cultural history of the eastern Mojave and in the landscape itself, the continuous presence of cattle grazing in Mojave National Preserve has left an important legacy.


Mining activity played an important role in the history of the area that is now Mojave National Preserve. Geologists agree that mineralization is often associated with faults, joints in rock that allow mineralized water from inside the earth to flow toward the surface, where the water evaporates and leaves the dissolved minerals behind. The Mojave has been categorized as extremely geologically active, a consequence of its position at the junction of two of earth's crustal plates. This faulting and other geologic activity left the desert a highly mineralized area, with large varieties of precious metals and industrial minerals scattered in small deposits of rich ore. A truly remarkable amount and variety of minerals have been removed from the area of the Preserve, including gold, silver, lead, zinc, copper, tungsten, vanadium, iron, clay, and cinders. Discovery, exploration, and development of the area's rich mineral potential was facilitated by the lack of vegetation, which tended to obscure mineral deposits in more temperate locations. Most mines in the Mojave, particularly precious metal mines, offered small veins of rich ore, which led to occasional bonanza strikes but little long-term profitability. Nevertheless, mining activity was a consistent theme throughout the history of human use of the eastern Mojave desert.

Mining by Americans began in the 1860s, although many discoveries did not develop for several decades until the costs of production and transportation were reduced by the railroad. Before the arrival of Euro-Americans in the area, Puebloan people mined for turquoise at several sites near the boundaries of the Preserve, and persistent traditions of Spanish and/or Mexican mining activity tantalized early American miners. [26] Some of the soldiers stationed at the remote outposts along the Mojave Road, especially in the vicinity of Marl Springs, are thought to have conducted small-scale exploration in 1860. [27] The following year, gold was discovered in the Vanderbilt area, but thirty years passed before this deposit was developed. In 1863, prospectors discovered silver and subsequently formed the Rock Springs Mining District, also known as the Macedonian Mining District. The intense isolation of the area made profitable excavation almost impossible, and troubles with Native Americans caused its abandonment by 1866. [28]

The first significant mining activity in the present-day Preserve began in the mid-1860s, and profitably produced silver for more than a decade despite difficulties caused by geographic isolation. In 1865, prospectors discovered silver on the north side of Clark Mountain, and organized the Clarke Mining District that July. [29] The mountain was named after the district, itself labeled in honor of William H. Clarke of Visalia, California, owner of a popular saloon. [30] Ivanpah (later called Old Ivanpah) was the main town, located in the heart of the Clark District on the north side of Clark Mountain. The area, described by one modern author as "the most important [mineral area] ... of all of San Bernardino County," produced a considerable amount of silver between 1869 and 1880, when profits began to decline and people moved away. The district hung on until the late 1890s, when a crash in the price of silver ended mining there. The extraordinary remoteness of the area caused profitability problems as well. [31]

The other major mine before the turn of the twentieth century was the Bonanza King Mine, located near the present 7IL Ranch. Discovered in 1880 by Ivanpah prospectors, the Bonanza King produced rich silver ore until 1885, and sporadically thereafter. The mill, believed to have been near the current 7IL Ranch headquarters, burned in 1885 and was not immediately rebuilt. Later owners revived the mine several times, most significantly between 1905-07 and 1915-1920. Bonanza King workers lived near the mine in the town of Providence, where stone ruins still stand. The profitability of the mine was helped by the construction of the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad to the south; Bonanza King stock was listed on the New York Stock Exchange, and output eventually totaled more than one and a half million dollars. [32]

stone walls
Illustration 4 - Stone walls mark the location of 1880s-era Providence, near the Bonanza King Mine. (Photo by Eric Nystrom, 2001.)

Railroads helped stimulate mining in the Mojave. The Atlantic & Pacific was completed in 1883, but had little effect on the Ivanpah mines, which were already in decline. Beginning in 1893, the Nevada Southern Railway, built north from Goffs to Barnwell, tapped the Vanderbilt area, the Sagamore Mine, and other potentially profitable ventures, and helped stimulate prospecting and small-scale mining in the area. Just after the turn of the century, that railroad extended branches from Barnwell through the New York Mountains to the Ivanpah Valley, as well as to Searchlight, both of which coincided with additional mining activity. [33]

The "Great Years" of mining in the eastern Mojave, so named because adequate capital financed substantial production of both precious metals and industrial metals, came between 1900 and the end of World War I. In 1900, a boom at Tonopah, Nevada, sent prospectors throughout the desert region, and a large number of claims were staked in the Mojave. Several Mojave mines were big producers. The Copper World, in the Clark Mountain section of the Preserve, produced 100 tons each day, making it one of the larger copper mines in California at the time. The Von Trigger Mine, later known as the California Mine, produced 30,000 tons of copper between 1907 and 1909. The Paymaster Mine, discovered in 1900 on the slope of Old Dad Mountain, produced some $75,000 worth of gold between 1910 and 1914. These small bonanzas were short-lived. The depression that followed World War I caused substantial contraction of mining nationwide; smaller producers like those in the Mojave simply found it impossible to operate economically. [34]

The Great Depression sparked an increase in gold mining in what later became the Mojave National Preserve. The Depression caused an increase in the price of gold, and labor expenses were low. These factors, combined with another key ingredient, described by one author as "men not having much else to do," caused a surge of gold mining activity in the area. The Colosseum Mine, discovered as early as 1880 but never mined comprehensively, began substantial production in 1929, and the Telegraph Mine, first located in 1930, produced $100,000 in gold between 1932 and 1938. [35]

The entrance of the United States into World War II in late 1941 prompted a change in mining activity in the eastern Mojave, accelerating a shift from production of precious metals to excavation of industrial minerals. During World War II, mining of almost all precious metals was halted by executive order to free resources for America's war effort. Some resources made more valuable by the war were found in the eastern Mojave, including copper from several small mines, and tin and tungsten from the Evening Star Mine. The most important wartime production came from the Vulcan Mine in the Providence Mountains, which supplied iron ore for the blast furnaces of Henry Kaiser's Fontana steel mill and turned Kelso into a boom town of 1,500 people. [36]

After the shutdown of the Vulcan Mine in 1948, much of the remaining mining activity in the eastern Mojave focused on salable materials such as cinders. [37] The Aiken Cinder Mine and the Cima Cinder Mine both began operation around 1948, and profitably worked their deposits through the 1990s. The primary exception to the focus on salable minerals was the Mountain Pass Mine, located just outside Preserve boundaries, which was purchased by Molybdenum Corporation of America (Molycorp) in 1951 and remains one of the largest producers of rare earth elements in the world. [38]

The period between the late 1970s and mid-1990s saw a worldwide revolution in gold mining methods. The development of cyanide heap leaching, first proposed to the mining community by the Bureau of Mines in 1969, enabled miners to recover microscopic amounts of gold. [39] This was merely an interesting tool until the price of gold, which had been regulated until the 1970s, was allowed to follow the market. The value of gold skyrocketed, which prompted demand for new sources of the metal. Cyanide heap leach technology permitted companies to extract gold from the tailings left behind at older mines. The new technique also permitted companies to profitably extract gold from mines that had not previously had concentrations of ore rich enough to mine. Three major mines in and around Mojave National Preserve were opened or re-opened using cyanide heap-leaching: the Colosseum Mine and the Morning Star Mine were both located inside the boundaries of the Preserve, and Viceroy Gold's Castle Mountain Mine was specifically excluded from the park in the passage of the California Desert Protection Act. Neither of the open pits inside the park were actively mined after the establishment of the Preserve, but these mines have left behind enormous piles of tailings with residual cyanide, as well as the open pits themselves.

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Last Updated: 05-Apr-2004