Silver Star Mine

The Silver Star Mine is a small mine site located off of the Zinc Mountain Road in San Bernardino County, California. The site rests at 4931 feet above sea level in the Ivanpah montains. The lonely site features a small humble cabin the miners used to survive and beat the heat. There is also a wrecked automobile near at the site, which has long since given up the battle against rust.

Silver Star Mine Cabin
Silver Star Mine Cabin

There is not much information available for this location on the Internet and hopefully I will be able to find some eventually. The mine site is also know as the Lucky Lode deposits. The route into the area is reasonably passable and should be suitable for most cars, provided the driver is used to operating on the back roads of the desert.

Silver Star Mine
Silver Star Mine rusted out auto

Some places claim that this mine produced lead, copper and zinc. The fact that this mine is found just off of Zinc Mountain Road offers some credence to a zinc mine. Other online sources claim this is a tungsten mine. A shallow mine shaft is located near the cabin. The shaft contains an old wooden ladder used by the miners and appears to be filled in, collapsed, or suspended after about 20 feet of workings.

Silver Star Mine Shaft
Silver Star Mine Shaft with ladder.

This stark hole in the ground reminds us what a challenges the life of a miner must endure. Hot, dry deserts, narrow, dark tunnels in a hostile landscape.

Silver Star Mine Trail Map

Resources

Coyote Melon (Cucurbita palmata)

Coyote Melon (Cucurbita palmata)
Coyote Melon (Cucurbita palmata)

Coyote Melon (Cucurbita palmata), also known as Coyote Gourd, is a flowering plant common in the desert southwest and known to produce spherical yellow – green melons. The vine like plant is commonly found is loose, sandy or gravely, dry, well drained soil which is common in Southern California, Arizona, Nevada and exclusively in Washington County, Utah. The primary characteristic is the growth of a green melon or gourd which is quite startling when you first see them in the hot desert climates.

Sereno Watson (December 1, 1826 in East Windsor Hill, Connecticut - March 9, 1892 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) was an American botanist
Sereno Watson (December 1, 1826 in East Windsor Hill, Connecticut – March 9, 1892 in Cambridge, Massachusetts) was an American botanist

The gourd was first described in 1876 by Sereno Waston who was a Yale graduate with a degree in Biology, The Coyote Melon features a sprawling stiff vine with rough, stiff-haired stems and leaves. Cucurbita palmata produces a large yellow bell shaped flower, while the melon itself is smooth in appearance. The striped yellow – green colored gourd is known to be quite hard, however, also thin when mature. The melons are very bitter and not edible. This hearty planet can survive the harsh desert landscape through its use of a large and hearty tap root. This root system can extend several feet into the dry soil to supply the plant with nutrients and water required for survival.

The Coyote Melon (Cucurbita palmata) is extremely fibrous and although not edible to humans is known to be on the coyotes diet during the fall, hence its name. It is quite common to find the seeds of this plant in coytoe scat during the fall months.

Despite the fibrous melon being inedible by man, the native american tribes were known to consume the ground seeds of this plant. Additionally, they used the dried gourds as rattles in various dances and other ceremonies. They also utilized the plant was as soap for cleaning.

Resources

Old Mojave Road

The Old Mojave Road (Government Road) is an east-west route that enters the Mojave National Preserve off the highway 95 in Nevada, and Afton Canyon on the west side.  Some sections are rough and sandy; 4 x 4 recommended. Roads can become slick, muddy and impassable after rains. Be sure to inquire about road conditions, especially if you plan to cross Soda Dry Lake.

The railroad monument along the Old Mojave Road in the Mojave National Preserve.
The railroad monument along the Old Mojave Road in the Mojave National Preserve.

Used by Indians to transport goods from the southwest to trade with the Chumash and other coastal tribes, this route later served the cause of westward expansion. Military forts were established along the route to protect key water sources and provide assistance for travelers.

The route at one time was for all intents and purposes lost until Dennis Casebier and Friends researched the route and reestablished the trail as if it know today and is a popular four-wheel drive road.

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Goldome Mill

The heavily vandalized Goldome Mill outside of Ivanpah, California
The heavily vandalized Goldome Mill outside of Ivanpah, California

The Goldome Mill is an abandoned modern mill site in the New York mountains of San Bernardino, California just off of the Ivanpah Road. The site was abandoned in the 1998 following the formation of the Mojave National Preserve by the California Desert Protection Act in 1994 and has slowly fallen into a state of decay. The mill site is currently classified as a Superfund Site by the Environmental Protection Agency which means that the site is known to contain hazardous waste which is improperly contained.

The mill was named Goldome, meaning “an abnormal growth of gold” out of an optimism as to the fortunes of those who invested in this venture. The construction of the site is very modern and industrial in appearance. All of the buildings are of metal construction and probably built during the late 1970s or early 1980s. All of the milling equipment, such as the trommel and sluice boxes appear to silently rest in state. This site was likely the mill site of choice for near by mines of its era, such as the Morning Start Mine or the

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In 2017, political vandals posing as “street artists” decided on their own to deface the site as part of their environmental message and forever changed the face of this site. The mill at Goldmine is heavily vandalized and at the time of our visit during the riots following the murder of George Floyd gave the site an uneasy felling. It is not too far a reach to understand that they vandals who defaced this site could be burning our cities down.

At the Goldome Mill, the work of vandals is undone by the harsh Mojave Desert.
At the Goldome Mill, the work of vandals is undone by the harsh Mojave Desert.

During our visit to the site, a large swam of bees built a hive in the main building. This prevented me from entering and exploring further, however, I will return to do so, at some point.

Goldome Mill Map

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Additional Reading

Vanderbilt California

A metal headframe marks a vertical shaft in the mining district outside of Vanderbilt California.
A metal headframe marks a vertical shaft in the mining district outside of Vanderbilt California.

Located in the New York Mountains, Vanderbilt California was an short lived gold mining town which lasted just a few short years, from 1891 to 1895. The mining district is found in the northeastern section of San Bernardino County, right at the California and Nevada Border and almost within sight of Primm, Nevada.

Old Plumbing remains in the town of Vanderbilt, CA
Old Plumbing remains in the town of Vanderbilt, CA

Gold was discovered in the New York Mountains, in January 1891 by a Piute Indian named Robert Black. Soon after, the news of the strike traveled quickly and there were several mines in operation, including the Gold Bronze, the Sagmore and the Boomerang. The district was named for the the Vanderbilt Family, in the hopes the gold strike would prove as rich as the Vanderbilt Fortune. A small camp was built to support the operation and with additional gold veins found in the fall of 1892, word got out and the rush started.

Two years later, in 1893, the small mining camp has attracted 150 people and boasted two stores, one saloon, three restaurants, stable, lodging house, a blacksmith shop and about 50 tents. The post office was added in February of 1893 and a Justice of the Peace, W. A. Nash was appointed. A weekly newspaper, the Shaft was soon published. A railway line and water works were planned, but never completed.

A horizontal mine shaft in Vanderbilt
A horizontal mine shaft in Vanderbilt

A population of about 400 was found in the small town in 1894. In addition of adding more buildings and saw more saloons and businesses followed to service the town. Two ten-stamp mills were constructed at the two large mine sites, however the service was short lived. Almost as soon as the mills were built, the mines struck water and the ore changed and made it such that the mines could not recover gold. The town died with the gold production in 1895. 1895 also saw work on the railroad to Vanderbilt ceased. The school closed in 1898 and the Post office closed in 1910.

Exploring the ghost town of Vanderbilt, CA
Exploring the ghost town of Vanderbilt, CA

Perhaps the towns biggest modern claim to fame was one of its famous citizens. Virgil Earp, older brother of Wyatt Earp and survivor of the infamous gunfight at the O. K. Coral, owned and operated a two story building which was served as saloon and hotel in the small town of Vanderbilt. It should be known that there were a lot of Earp Brothers, and there was a lot of migration during this period as populations moved quickly from town to town looking for fortune and opportunity.

Virgil Earp 1843 -1905
Virgil Earp 1843 -1905

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Further Reading

Desert Fever – An overview of Mining History of the California Desert Conservation Area

The Historical Mining Towns of the Eastern Mojave Desert