Tecopa

Tecopa, California Mine Exploration

A sunset with lenticular cloud formations near Tecopa.

A sunset with lenticular cloud formations near Tecopa.

The Mojave Desert is my escape from day-to-day life in Southern California. Every two months or so I get the overwhelming urge to pack up the car and get lost for a week. The desert offers a perfect place to do this, and is a brilliant photographic subject as a bonus. 

I'd like to thank my favorite desert pioneer and entrepreneur Cynthia, who runs the only hotel in the desert encampment of Tecopa - Cynthia's. Tecopa served as a jumping off point for our plans to do some spelunking in the abandoned mines and climbing of amethyst laden mountain ranges of the area.

War Eagle Mine. A silver and lead mine abandoned in 1957.

War Eagle Mine. A silver and lead mine abandoned in 1957.

The landscape surrounding Tecopa is littered with mines. From talcum, to lead, silver, gold and iron, few are active, dozens are abandoned. A small number of these mines have been mapped and explored by the Underground Explorers Club. One of these is War Eagle mine. Active from 1912 to 1957, the mine was an abundant source of silver, lead, and even small amounts of gold.

Entering the mine, a cool winter breeze flowed through the top shaft, indicating another exit somewhere within the depths of the cavern. The walls and divergences within had been marked by the explorers club, which was a welcome sight, as the amount of twists and turns soon had us questioning our sense of direction. Roughly a quarter mile within, we were greeted with an extremely steep, sloped shaft.

The mine shaft descends to over 300 feet below the surface

The mine shaft descends to over 300 feet below the surface

The infrastructure, left untouched for over 70 years was in amazingly good shape, and the makeshift staircase allowed us to descend in relative safety. As we descended deeper into the Earth, the temperature rose, and a stifling stillness permeated the air. We passed through 6 levels of horizontal shafts, broken by platforms through which passed small trap doors to the levels below. It became increasingly difficult to breathe, and we contemplated turning back, but we soon reached the bottom, where we found a dead end, and interesting objects such as an 18 year old newspaper which showed absolutely no signs of age. The atmosphere within the belly of the earth seems to serve as a placid time capsule.

Contemplating the end of the mine, over 300 feet below the Earth's surface.

Contemplating the end of the mine, over 300 feet below the Earth's surface.

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