Black Eagle Mine Road heads east off of Pinto Basin Road in Joshua Tree National Park (JTNP). The left fork in the road is Old Dale Road and it leads to the Dale Mining District, located outside the boundary of JTNP. Black Eagle Road dead ends at a barricade of boulders near the Iron Chief Mine, which is on BLM land. The quest for Gold brought people here in the early 1880s.
For this day trip I drove my recently purchased 2010 Rubicon Unlimited Jeep (didn’t have the custom mattress yet). I’ve seen mention on forum websites of people making attempts to travel roads in this area in 2 wheel drive vehicles (like a common rental car) and I strongly recommend against that. Posted signs clearlystate that 4×4 high clearance vehicles are essential if making a journey along this road. There’s been times I’ve been in the area over 48 hours and not seen a single individual or vehicle on the road. It’s extremely remote and the desert is unforgiving. Do not travel unprepared.
On the day I took this photo trip (August 19) the temperature started out at 107°F and I noticed the thermometer hitting 113° about 7 miles into my trip. Way too hot to hike any significant distance in the daytime, and not the best time of day to be taking photos, but it was the last day on my trip before heading back to coastal Los Angeles (Venice Beach).
I marked a few areas of interest on the above topo map. The shaded green area identifies Joshua Tree National Park and the gray shaded area is BLM land (where most of the mining sites are located). The Storm Jade Mine is on Joshua Tree property and is only accessible by foot. Helpful topo maps for the area are the Buzzard Springs and Conejo Well maps. The USGS Buzzard Springs topo identifies locations for the Mission Sweet Mine, Rainbows End Mine, and Iron Chief Mine.
The first 7 miles or so is a graded sandy road, which may give the appearance that this route is doable in a 2 wheel drive automobile. Before leaving the park boundary, the road terrain changes significantly, and the chances of getting stranded increases dramatically.
Most of the road is fairly easy to travel by 4×4 vehicle. On several occasions though I’ve seen evidence of punctured oil pans where people didn’t expect to bottom out on rocks. Cell reception is spotty but I have climbed a few peaks in the area and gotten reception on both my AT&T iPhone and Verizon Droid. No guarantee you’ll have any cell service in the area so don’t count on it.
Near the Mission Sweet Mine the road gets very rocky, and expect to find boulder barricades if continuing onto the Iron Chief Mine. Plenty of locations to park and travel by foot (but not when it’s 113° out). There are signs identifying Joshua Tree National Park boundaries and once you’ve passed those you will be on BLM land managed by the Palm Springs office. Stay out of abandoned mines and stay alive.
Also near the Mission Sweet Mine (and Cactus Mine) are the remains of a miners camp. There are several concrete slabs in the area along with plenty of historical (and not so historical) left behind trash. Among shotgun shell casings and recent trash are scattered remains from the days of mining in the area. There are parts of old stoves, water heaters, automobiles, and even dishware. I’m not certain on the rules for car camping in this area but there are several pre-existing fire pits.
The view from the mining camp site is quite impressive. Placer Canyon is seen in the distance along with the mountains of the Old Dale Mining District beyond. Check with the field office before making camp fires. Black Eagle Well is located in the Pinto Basin, north of the Cactus Mine and Mystery Mine, and you’ll pass back onto JTNP property if hiking that route.
There’s some beautiful colors found in the rocks nearby a few of the mining sites. Most of the mines were mined for gold, but silver, copper, and other minerals were mined as well. The former Eagle Mountain iron mine is over the hill beyond the Iron Chief Mine. As far as I know the area is closed to access and is on privately owned property.
The Storm Jade Mine is inside the Joshua Tree National Park boundaries, which is federally protected land meaning no rock collecting of any kind. The Rainbows End, Mission Sweet Mine, and Iron Chief Mine are on BLM land. There are several easy to navigate 4×4 trails in the area near these mines. Watch out for signs that identify washes that are closed to vehicle traffic versus trails open for 4×4 access.
These rocks look like they could turn into Transformers at any time. They are inside the park boundary (33.864725, -115.630045) and located nearby the Jade mine. There’s also lots of barrel cactus and plenty of Sidewinder and Green Mojave Rattlesnakes found in these areas so be snake aware and don’t put your hands or feet where they don’t belong.
The Big Wash Hiking Corridor also crosses Black Eagle Mine Road. There is a rare chance you’ll see hikers, but keep an eye on the road and your surroundings, as road hazards can pop up quickly.
Old Dale and Black Eagle Mine Road map (PDF file)