In 1994 the Palen-McCoy Mountains Wilderness Area was established. This effectively closed the area to motorized travel. So it was with great interest that we read an article by Delmer Ross in the March 2002 issue of Rockhound Notes. He relates that few people are aware that at the time the wilderness area was established there was still an access corridor to the Iron King Mine. Therefore this corridor still exists, even though the mine is closed. This iron ore strip mine had never proved profitable, but now it makes a nice weekend destination for a bit of rockhounding and exploring. We were there in late April, and the weather was perfect.
Directions are simple. Take Interstate 10 toward Blythe and exit at the Ford Dry lake turnoff. Turn north over the freeway then left to pick up the frontage road that travels west parallel to the freeway – back the way you came. This road is covered in blow sand. You can probably do it in two wheel drive but to be on the safe side we’d recommend four wheel drive. At the end of this road you will turn north toward the Palen Mountains. The road gradually becomes firmer as you approach the mine location. There are a couple of washes to cross, but nothing extreme. Finally, the road begins to climb. Just as it does, notice a fine campsite in the wash to your right. We spent a glorious evening there in our tent. We even left you some firewood! The road climbs a ridge to an elevation of about 700 feet. As you reach the top it levels off. To your left is the bowl shaped valley (33.042.43N by 115.006.44W) in front of the staircase strip mine. On your right are some great views of the way you came, with the Chuckwalla Mountains in the distance. In the evening the traffic on I-10 looks like a procession of fireflies! Also on your right you will notice an outcrop of white quartz. This vein travels from down the wash up to the ridge you are on, under the road, and up the hills on your left. You can dig along this vein or search anywhere for quartz outcrops or for float. You will find clusters as well as single crystals. We also found some very nice yellow-tan jasp agate down the wash to your right, along the quartz vein. This material has narrow veins of white agate against a mottled background of yellow and tan which provides some nice effects. Delmer Ross also mentioned the possibility of smoky quartz crystals and citrine crystals, although we didn’t locate any.
As always, be prepared. Although you can just see the freeway, it is a long way. Few people know of this location. We saw nobody for two days. As I recall there was no cell phone service. Your CB radio might reach the truckers on the freeway; we didn’t try. The campsite is typical wilderness. Bring your own everything and plan to take ever last bit with you – except the extra firewood. That might come in handy for the next visitor!