Red Cloud Mine

The directions to this old mine are very simple. Take Interstate 10 east past Chiriaco Summit and exit at the Red Cloud Mine Road.  You will then travel generally south east to the mouth of Red Cloud Canyon.  This is a great trip in the spring.  When we were there we found  lots of color and quite a variety of healthy looking cactus.  This section to the mouth of Red Cloud Canyon can easily be done in a two wheel drive vehicle.  There is a nice level area just before you enter the canyon which is a perfect campsite.  There are several intact rock fire rings and plenty of spots to put up the tent.  This area is at roughly 33*36.904N and 115*27.456W.
From this area on, though, a short wheel base 4X4 would be the vehicle of choice.  There are lots of large rocks in the wash to maneuver around, and this makes for slow going.  Conditions, however, vary from year to year depending on flash flooding in the wash itself.  That caution aside, we found it to be a nice drive with a few challenges at times.  As soon as you drop into the wash be on the look out for some old mine and mill ruins coming up on your right.  We hiked up to them for some exploring and were really glad that we did.  Not only are the ruins impressive, but there are also some large quartz veins in the area.  The real treat came in a small package, a baby desert tortoise!  She must have been part mountain goat 'cause she was up in a rocky area behind the ruins.  We were tempted to move her, but knew that any intervention with a desert tortoise is prohibited.  We took a couple of pictures, wished her a long life, and headed back down to the car.  She was three and three quarters of an inch long and looked so fragile.
As we continued up the wash we found several rock foundations, an arrastre, and a shaft up on the left.  On the right, just opposite but across the wash, was an adit to explore. Old cans, broken glass, and bits of wire and nails attested to the life that once animated this now silent area.  One of the foundations still had its soot stained fireplace intact.  After a bit more creative driving we saw the cyanide tanks of the Red Cloud Mine on our right.  There is also a large can dump and both wood and concrete ruins.  Just opposite the tanks is the side canyon leading to the Red Cloud Mine area.  There are several shafts and adits, but the general area is close to 33*36.139N and 115*26.286W.  You can drive up the side canyon and then explore on foot.  A hike up to the two shafts results in some great views, and for those who don't want to defy gravity as much you can check out the two adits, one is quite large and goes in a long way.  The floor is a bit muddy, though.  The other adit ends quickly at the bottom of one of the shafts.  There is a lot of old machinery busily rusting here and there. 
There is still more to see, though, so continue on up the canyon.  You will come to the remains of old wood structures up on your left, stone foundations on your right, a rock cabin, an old arrastre, and our favorite, the pay phone!  Obviously it's not hooked up, but someone managed to drag a pay phone out here and set it up.  It has been pretty well shot up, but still makes a good photo opportunity!  There are other old mines in the area, such as the Great Western, and if you have a really capable vehicle you can go even further up the canyon on either the left or right fork.  We'll probably be back because we simply didn't have time to see everything we wanted.  After we win the lottery we'll have more free time..........!
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