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Seems "Safe" | EMHT Segment 3C The Bonanza King to Fenner

Just to remind everyone where we left off - we'd found the perfect camp site, with one minor caveat: it was located about 25 feet from a rather deep, Tacoma-sized, hole in the ground. With no barriers.

"If you get up during the night to pee, do it on the driver side of the truck,"

The main shaft of the Bonanza King

Framed by enormous lumber, this is one of the most impressive shafts in the preserve. It plunges down 600 straight feet, then continues as a winze for another 200 feet. When the shaft encountered a new ore body, a drift was sunk along it as far as the ore would run. This shaft eventually developed six levels and nearly four miles of tunnels. It produced a cornucopia of minerals: cerussite, argentite, sphalerite, bromyrite, smithsonite, cerargyrite, and galena. Its size is mirrored by the volume of the tailings - the 100-yard-long pile of waste rocks around it and the conical hill looming besides the mill. The tailings still hold an estimated 2,500 pounds of silver.

Hiking the Mojave Desert

With only a few miles left until we finished Segment 3 of the East Mojave Heritage Trail - and a flight that didn't leave Las Vegas until 5:00pm - we weren't in any huge rush to get going on this final morning of our adventure.

Still, I very much enjoy the 30 minutes or so before sunrise - the landscape illuminated but shadowless - so I threw on my sweatshirt and grabbed the camera for a quick survey of the Bonanza King Mine.

We really couldn't have asked for a nicer spot.

Not to be outdone by the sky above, the Providence Mountains were showing off as the sun crested the horizon.

After wandering around for a few minutes - and careful to steer clear of the swiss-cheesed swaths of hillside - I climbed back into the tent for a bit more snuggle time, and to discuss our plan for the day.

Half an hour later, and all warmed up, we were dressed and heading up the hillside. My suggestion - that we wander into some of the swiss-cheese - wasn't so much agreed to as it was acknowledged, but we both love following the old mining trails, and some of the adits had neat rock platforms at their entrances, so @mrs.turbodb was happy to explore.

When you can't decide whether to dig left or dig right, why not both?

Inside, it was a maze of tunnels and shafts.

We scurried from one complex of openings to another, knowing that many of them likely connected beyond the distance which we were willing to explore.

In the spring of 1880, two prospectors from Ivanpah, George Goreman and Pat Dwyer, stumbled upon high-grade silver ore while poking around the Providence Mountains. True to their trade, they filed claims, and the following year sold the richest one - the Bonanza King - to four businessmen from San Bernardino. One of them was Jonas B. Osborne, who he sank a few exploratory tunnels to show how good his ore was and to attract investors. In 1882, after a rich vein was exposed, Senator George Hearst, one of the world's richest men of the time and an astute mining investor, became interested. Well aware of Osborne's keen eye for mineral wealth, he acquired the Bonanza King for $200,000. The claim thus became the property of the Bonanza King Consolidated Mining and Milling Company, and with Hearst's solid backing, development began.

Through 1882, the new company hired upward of 100 miners to sink a huge shaft and access the silver veins. This small army was housed in the town of Providence, parallel rows of stone houses strung down a sloping alluvial plain next to the mine. A post office was added in June, and in the fall the booming town was large enough to become an election precinct. In July, the company put in its last major piece of equipment, a 10-stamp mill that it purchased and hauled from San Francisco for $50,000.

The mill went into operation on January 1, 1883. The ore came out of wide veins containing as much as $100 in silver and gold per ton, and there was plenty of it. Six months later, the mill had already churned out $573,000 in bullion. The outlook was so bright that the company started offering stock on the New York mining exchange. For two full years, the Bonanza King Mine operated at a nice profit, spending on average $20,000 in supplies and wages and earning a minimum of $35,000 every month. It even paid its stockholders regular dividends, a rare feat for a desert mine. In early 1885, the shaft reached 800 feet below the surface, and production topped the $1.5 million mark.

As in any mining venture, the mine's welfare was at the mercy of the market. In March 1885, when the price of silver dipped from around $1.10 an ounce to near $1, profits slipped, and the mine owners suspended operations. It might have been a ploy to lower wages, because a week later they reopened the mine but hired miners for at a reduced pay - from $3.50 to $3.00 - per day. With a team of 40 men working the tunnels, 35 running the mill, and the ore looking as good as ever, production resumed at a whopping average of $60,000 a month - nearly double what it'd been prior to the wage cut! But just when everything was running smoothly again, the Bonanza King was dealt a second blow, this one fatal: in late July 1885 its mill was destroyed by fire.

Like many mines with prior success, the Bonanza King Mine came back to life - many times. Between 1906, and 1920, at least three companies gave it a go, each one revamping and modernizing the equipment, but each one producing less silver than the last. Then, in 1923, another company - grand plans to dewater the shaft and push downward exploration - gave it a go with a team of six men. One lone car full of ore came out of the aging shaft in May 1924.

The Bonanza King Mine retired with a whimper, but it did it with pride. In its long career, it produced silver amounting to $1.8 million between 1883 and 1887, and at approximately $70,000 after 1901 - one of the richest historic mines in the east Mojave Desert.

Hiking the Mojave Desert

Looking into (left) and out of (right) one of the few horizontal adits we found. Even this adit was filled with stopes, rooms, and shafts that dropped hundreds of feet. Watch your step!

Wooden supports in rainbow stopes.

We'd spent nearly two hours by the time we picked our way down the overgrown and disintegrating miner trails and got the camp stowed for the final time. That gave us a couple more hours - since I wanted to drop the Tacoma off by about 2:00pm - to make our way over to the nearby Silver King Mine, by way of a deteriorating road and the old Bonanza King mill.

This road was flexier than it looks, but no problem at all.

Remnants of the 1920s-era resurrection.

Old tanks, once used to facilitate the movement of material through the mill.

After a short journey on a rock road, we found ourselves at a wilderness boundary, and the beginning of our hike to the Silver King mine. This place is much smaller than the Bonanza King, but still sports three deep vertical shafts, two adits, and an old (collapsed) headframe, in addition to the ruins of a few cabins.

No motor vehicles beyond this point.

Off we go!

According to these tracks we found, wilderness boundaries don't apply to UTVs.

A couple miles round trip, the hike up the wash is a pleasant one. Halfway to the mine we came upon what were once two "twin" cabins, one of which has now collapsed, time and weather taking their toll on the simple sheet metal construction. As we neared the mine shafts further up the wash, I found the remnants of a quarried rock building, one of the more interesting - and unique - things that we'd see in our explorations. The sheer amount of work that must have gone into quarrying and then shaping these enormous stones is unfathomable - even if the building was, as it appears, never completed.

Even if the mine wasn't a huge success, the miners sure knew how to pick the views!

"You know, instead of mining silver, I think I'll quarry some worthless stone for a cabin."

This agave caught my eye on the way up the wash toward the mine.

After a bit more dodging of catclaw and mesquite in the wash, the tailings piles of the Silver King came into view. Quite large, they were a good indicator that the vertical shafts were no joke, a fact we confirmed when we tossed a rock into the void, the echos taking several seconds for to die out.

A rather wimpy ladder on the now-collapsed headframe.

A wooden collar and door on one of the adits wasn't really necessary. This adit was only a couple dozen feet deep!

Ultimately - without some ropes and serious safety equipment - there wasn't much to see during our second visit to the Silver King. Frankly, even with a means into the shafts, I'm not sure that'd be a smart move - the openings not collared in any way, rocks and debris sure to cascade down during any descent/ascent that might be attempted. And with that, we headed back to the Tacoma.

As we exited the Mojave National Preserve - the Providence Mountains rising in the distance - it was @mrs.turbodb who noticed that the NPS logo had been stolen from the entrance sign.
Probably a UTVer.

From the Preserve boundary to Fenner wasn't very far, and with only wide-open desert between us and there, we made better time than we usually do ...when we're easily distracted by just about anything!

Moar gas pipeline road.

As usual, fuel in Fenner was essentially highway robbery. Luckily, with three Scepter jerry cans, we had plenty to get us back to Vegas.

From Fenner, it was all pavement and much skinny pedal as we headed little bit east, but mostly north. Along the way, we stopped only twice: once, a quick stop in Goffs - so @mrs.turbodb could see some of what I'd seen a few weeks earlier; a second time at a BNSF rail crossing - having chased a 175-car freight train for the better part of 15 miles, the Tacoma straining at speeds rarely reached.

The best way to move truck trailers.

Two trains meet.

Six locomotives - 1120, 3876, 6941, 7889, 3697, and 7061.

Matching speed.

The generators were purring away.

We'd arrive in Las Vegas just after noon, our Chipotle order already placed, our chips and burritos waiting to be consumed. We'd had a great time on Segment 3 of the EMHT, and it was only a matter of time before we'd be back - to tackle the final miles of Segment 4, through the Turtle Mountains.


The Whole Story


Looking for other segments of the EMHT? Check out
East Mojave Heritage Trail
for other trips where the other parts of this epic route were enjoyed.





  1. Greg von Buvhau
    Greg von Buvhau January 24, 2024

    Those ASSHOLES and their UTV’s are what’s going to get our trails taken away from us and they will be the ones to BITCH the loudest.

    • turbodb
      turbodb January 24, 2024

      There've always been folks in society who have been disrespectful, but I feel like the "it's all about me" entitlement and "I don't want to tell my kids no" (so then, who's going to teach them how to be respectful?) that's swept the country in the last 10-15 years has been at a much faster pace than it was prior to that. I hope that in time, we trend back towards the responsible/teaching side of the spectrum. If we don't, there are going to end up being a lot of problems in many aspects of life on earth/in our country.

  2. Lance G
    Lance G January 24, 2024

    Love love these posts. Looks so peaceful out there.. What is the context of the line "probably a UTV-er" with regard to missing signs?

    • turbodb
      turbodb January 24, 2024

      Thanks Lance, glad you've enjoyed them! And, apologies for the (very) long response I just typed up about UTVs. I think it's an interesting topic, and I wanted to capture my thoughts in one place. The reply to you seemed as good a place as any! 👍

      That comment was sort of a snarky one because earlier in the story, I'd referenced some UTV tracks that we followed deep into the wilderness (where there should be no vehicular tracks) as we'd explored the Silver King mine.

      It's only one of many times that we've seen the destruction that UTVs (and their drivers) can do to the places we explore, and it's really a bummer. Just to add a bit of background - since I know it's not every driver:

      I might feel differently if I felt like the majority of folks in UTVs gave a damn, but it seems to me - more often than not - that those in UTVs either didn't learn the etiquette of off-road travel (respect for the land, staying the trail, picking up trash, etc.) or simply don't care.

      To me, UTV owners seem to generally be of the mindset that "I bought this thing, so it must be able to take me anywhere." Or "If it will go somewhere, it's my right to go there." The number of off-trail tracks (around a muddy spot in the trail, just to shortcut a corner, etc.), and chewed up roads I see from their use, makes me sad.

      And yes, I know there are some 4x4s that have that same mindset, and I'm sure not all UTVers contribute to the destruction. But in general, I think more regulation - perhaps regulation and education - of their use is a good thing. They are simply too accessible to too many people, making it easy to do the wrong thing.

      Of course, this is a topic that has started to come up in various forums (not the internet kind, I mean places in the world) such as Moab, where UTV use by "untrained drivers" has become extreme. A few years ago, Moab passed some new laws/ordinances/whatever that restricted UTV use, due to the problems they were causing. Along the lines of:

      1. Stop issuing new business licenses for the sale or rental of UTVs and ATVs temporarily, and stop issuing special event permits temporarily.
      2. Limit the speed of OHVs in the City of Moab to 15 MPH on city streets.
      3. Limit the speed of OHVs in Grand County to 10 MPH below the posted speed limits.


      The response to that - from many in the off-roading world, was something along these lines:

      Ok, I’ll bite. Let me make sure I understand this line of reasoning. Anyone can buy this thing that is very capable and a few people might use it to do something bad so we should eliminate said thing. Also if you can’t prove you can be just as capable with a lesser thing than you are inferior and should be banned as well. Does that about summarize it?

      If so, that sounds like the same line of reasoning that groups use to restrict off-roading in general (of all vehicle types) as well as a number of other items including firearms.

      I will not compile with this reasoning.

      Whenever I hear that sort of reasoning, I always like to take a step back and think about it along these lines:

      Firstly - one thing I think is important in a conversation like this - like so many in society today - is for folks to stay engaged, rather than digging in with an "us-vs-them" mindset. Or equating enactment of any rule to be being equivalent to something like "taking away firearms," which is an extremely politically loaded topic these days.

      I've seen a lot of destruction from UTVs, some of it "after it's done" and some of it "as I was watching." In my experience, a much higher percentage of UTVs exhibit this behavior than 4x4s. In my experience the percentage isn't "a few," but is "most." But again, I recognize that what I've seen could vary from what others have seen.

      What I do think would be OK/good - is to recognize that there is a problem, and try to address it. I'd actually be OK with addressing it across all offroad vehicles (4x4s included) because I think that in the last few years, the percentage of uneducated 4x4s has increased dramatically as well - as folks have gone Instalander crazy, just out to get a cool photo in an amazing place; not really understanding that in doing so irresponsibly, they are doing lots of damage.

      So, I'm not saying that things should necessarily be banned indefinitely. But paused temporarily until we can figure out how to make it work in a sustainable way? That sounds OK. Needing a license to go out, and having acquisition of that license entail some education (like a drivers license, or Ham operator license)... seems like a good idea. Maybe there are more good ideas. Better ideas even.

      My daughter had a book when she was growing up called "If everybody did," which is easily applicable to "creating a new trail," or "leaving toilet paper where I used it."

      And again, this education could be for everyone. It might seem unnecessary to "the old hats," but hey, in that case, it'd be easy and we happily trade that easy license for the hope that it would help get others to be a little more educated.

      - - -

      Whew! Thanks for listening!

      • JOHN D MORAN
        JOHN D MORAN January 24, 2024

        My friends and I, decades ago, learned from a large number of UTV/ATV/4x4/etc., people that their mantra is, "I pay taxes, it's MY desert/mountains and if I want to tear it up and destroy it, then that's my right to do so!" They DO NOT respect the land or anything in/on it. They will destroy cabins, mining claims, steal anything even though they have absolutely no use for it (NPS & other signs) and anything they can't steal they will shoot full of holes as they did a number of times at our mining claim until we took measures to make it impossible for them to go up our road. Some are fueled by ignorance, hate, and some by being drunk, we've seen them all, unfortunately. They destroy the land and history for future generations. Kind of an "end of the world," mentality.

        • Rob
          Rob January 25, 2024

          Spot on. There are places in the desert like "Giant Rock" north of Landers which have been taken over and trashed by this crowd. The Polaris army seems to be getting larger every year, sadly.

      • Lance G.
        Lance G. January 25, 2024

        Thanks for the thoughtful response on the UTV issue... I agree with everything you have said and it is with some sadness as I am a UTV owner. My wife and I have a machine at the cabin that we use almost like a golf cart to run around and provide reliable 4x4 access in the Idaho winters. (@7,000 ft!)

        I ride adventure bikes and am currently building an overlander so I'm all about getting out into the backcountry. Like you, I prefer out of the way places. I have noticed my old haunts have become filled with UTV's - with the accompanying scars on the trail and reckless behavior. Some of our old trails near Mesquite, NV are now so whooped out, widened and scattered that I wonder sometimes if I'm even in the same place I used to be. The dis-taste for UTV's is welling up inside me and I'm a fan! Or I was.. The machines are now so powerful and capable out of the box it really does put a "Rally Truck" experience in the hands of anyone - which I don't think is a good thing.

        I'm not sure what the answer is but it likely touches education, enforcement and consequences at least. My real sadness is that we now have one more reason to hate each other as if we needed one. It seems every year there a few new reasons to despise other people and we can't seem to turn it around - to being more agreeable, considerate and more fiercely responsible - collectively to keep our lands pristine and available...

        *Stepping off soapbox*. Love me some Adventure Taco!!!

        • turbodb
          turbodb January 25, 2024

          Thanks to you as well Lance. I wanted to mention that this statement you made really hit home with me. It's something I mention to the people I love on a regular basis and try to model myself, despite how I may have come across with the whole UTV thing.

          My real sadness is that we now have one more reason to hate each other as if we needed one. It seems every year there a few new reasons to despise other people and we can't seem to turn it around - to being more agreeable, considerate and more fiercely responsible - collectively...

          That's a good reminder for me, and for us all. Thank you.

      • Tim Augustine
        Tim Augustine January 28, 2024

        Well put! I too have seen UTV drivers do damage. I agree that there needs to be more education to prevent damage, but the selfish, entitlement mindset is perhaps the biggest problem, as I see it daily on the highways, as well.

  3. Rob
    Rob January 24, 2024

    If you are getting more gas than an amount to top off your tank at either Fenner or Razor Rd, you're doing it wrong, lol. We need to rig our 3rd gen 4runner with a similar external fuel solution.

    Thanks as always for the pics

    • turbodb
      turbodb January 24, 2024

      I do my best to never buy any gas (or anything for that matter) at either of those two locations. It was nice to roll into Fenner this time to just chuckle at the highway robbery. 😉

    JOHN D MORAN January 24, 2024

    Well, another enjoyable adventure for the armchair traveler! It's the only way some of us will get to see those mines, landscapes, and monuments to human ingenuity. We do hope to get out and see some of the more approachable places in the spring (Tecopa, Amboy, Kelso, etc.) in our 2WD pickup which is high clearance with a winch but will be doing our best to avoid any paths that may be a problem (in other words staying on paved roads or well graded and solid ones). Thanks again for sharing.

    • turbodb
      turbodb January 24, 2024

      Thanks John! Have fun out there, and let me know if you find any cool place you think we'd enjoy - we're always looking for new stuff to see! (I'm especially interested about Tecopa!)

      • JOHN D MORAN
        JOHN D MORAN January 24, 2024

        YES, if we find anything interesting I'll let you know so that you can consider it and explore it more fully than we can.

  5. Philippe Richen
    Philippe Richen January 25, 2024

    Great history lesson. Fascinating stuff. Always enjoy reading yours posts.

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