My friend and I reached Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park all set to hike the 1.3 mile nature trail. When we got there it was our lucky day as we realized there were two trails to choose from. Barker Dam and a 2.2 mile trail to the Wall Street Stamp Mill. We couldn’t resist trying the new trail we discovered so we jumped at the chance and decided to try to do both, starting with the Wall Street Mill trail.
In the late 1800s William McHaney dug a well and the area where the Wall Street Stamp Mill lives today became a popular area to water cattle. In 1928, while the country was in the depression, Oran Booth and Earle McInnes filed a claim for the area. They built a cabin and named the site ” Wall Street” in a brief search for gold. Two years later they left and William Keys filed a milling claim on the site, July 1, 1930. Keys completed the bunk house, built an outhouse, and transported a two-stamp mill ore crusher to the site.
Keys used this mill sporadically from 1930-1966. He processed ore from his mines and other small-mine operators including the Desert Queen Mine. After the gold was removed from the ore it was sent back to the miner, to a smelter in Mojave, or to the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. Keys died in 1969 and in 1975 the Wall Street Stamp Mill was entered into the National Register of Historical Sites.
My friend and I started our trek out to the Wall Street Stamp Mill. It was pretty straight forward to start with the trail being pretty clearly marked. There were Joshua Trees everywhere, some doing well, others not so well. As we got further away from our start point all trail markers just disappeared. We reached and old wind mill and luckily crossed paths with some other hikers. We were on the right trail so we continued to just go straight.
We could see a small pinkish building off in the distance and an old truck far to our left. We kept walking and eventually the path turned into a wash and we stumbled upon an old green truck under a tree. We had made it! First thing to do, take some pictures of the truck. Second thing to do, get inside the truck and pretend to drive it of course. Just be careful the old wires from the seat don’t poke your butt.
Once our truck fun was over we scurried under the tree and up to the hill to the back of the mill. We found the well and as we came over the top of the rocks we could see where the ore used to be loaded into carts and sent up the track and into the mill. There it was separated and crushed accordingly until it was a fine sand. That fine sand was sent over mercury coated plates where the ore would easily pass through. As we walked around to the backside we could just barely see where the gold was scraped off those plates and extracted into buckets to be sent away.
You can’t go inside the mill since it is a historical site and there are signs all around stating “No Trespassing” including barbed wire fencing to discourage you from entering, but it is still amazing to look at the mill from a distance and to strain you eyes trying to look inside without stepping into the restricted zone.
After we had our fill of the mill we found another old truck and then headed back the way we came. We had some extra time so we took a detour and checked out the old foundation of the pink building we saw on our trek out to the mill and the other old truck as well. So interesting how people just up and left their stuff. Seems like they just didn’t care, but maybe the trucks were broken-down and it would have been more work to take it with them then just leave it behind. Seems like that happens a lot in the desert.