Category Archives: Geography

1864 Travel Tip – Hold Hostages

From the diary of Sarah J. Rousseau , 1864:
Regarding traveling with Indians across the Mojave

Sunday, November 6 … The lava that has been thrown out looks like cinders. The mountains, some of them have a grand appearance, some a red color while others have a white appearance. Some of them I think must be 400 feet high. This canyon is called Diamond. at the mouth it takes us into Santa Clara Valley which we traveled through and down a pretty dangerous hill to Santa Clara Creek where we got food and shelter for horses. Here came a number of Paiute Indians. they are a tribe that is very fond of horse flesh to eat, and will steal anything they can lay their hands on. We have came today 20 miles.

Santa Clara/Virgin River divide

Monday, November 7. Started from camp late this morning. It is a cold, windy time. The Dr. had to prescribe and deal out medicine for a little child that belonged to a Mormon Bishop. About breakfast time a number of Indians came to the camp and we gave some their breakfast. When we started four of them started with us, three of them on foot and one on horseback. They are miserable looking creatures. Some of them almost entirely destitute of clothing. I believe it is their intention to go to the Muddy with us. as for me I would rather have their room than their company. I am afraid of them. We have crossed the Santa Clara 15 times this morning, and have now camped. It is cold and windy, a real disagreeable time.

Sarah Jane Rousseau

Sarah Jane Rousseau

Tuesday, November 8. A cold blustering morning, the wind blowing hard all night. Started from our camp rather late with an escort of from 10 to 15 Paiute Indians. Last night two of them stayed with us as prisoners. Our guide, Mr. Hatten, said it would not do to let them leave camp after dark, as they might get some other Indians, come back and do us some mischief. We started from camp with five, which increased to 15 of them. We crossed the Santa Clara this morning 14 times in after going 12 miles made a dry camp at Camp Springs, having filled our kegs the last crossing place. the Indian chief told the guide we must all give them something for traveling through their country, to renumerate them for using water and grass. We all gave them some flour. We intend to let them have the care of our horses tonight, they are going to take the cattle as well. The Chief with four others we kept as prisoners till morning when they bring back the stock. Then they will be free.

Virgin River

Virgin River

Wednesday, November 9. A pretty warm morning. Started from camp about sunup. The Indians brought back the stock safely back. Left camp with our escort, traveled over some rough roads till noon. This afternoon the road’s much better. Passed over the summit between the Clara and Virgin, went 5 miles in the canyon and camped. Some grass for the stock but no water.

Wagon Master Nicholas Earp Wyatt's dad.

Wagon Master Nicholas Earp

Thursday, November 10. A cool but pleasant morning. Last night the Indians were prisoners again. They left the stock go on to the mountains to feed. We fed five among us. All are willing to do so but Mr. Earp. He swears and cuts up about it, although he derives the same benefit as the rest of us. I fear he may cause us some trouble when we get to the Muddy. … “

Oro Grande

History of Lucerne Valley

by Ethel V. Owen

In the early days, natural springs in what now is Lucerne Valley provided good camping grounds for Indians on their way into the San Bernardino Mountains together pinon nuts. The Indians  resented white pioneers settling in the territory and committed some violent acts against them. Instead of discouraging the settlers, caused them to marshal forces and attack the Indians  who were of the Paiute, Chemehuevi and Serrano tribes. in February 1867 a decisive battle at chimney rock caused the Indians to retreat and leave the territory to the white pioneers. (Chimney Rock is at the north edge of Rabbit Dry Lake. A quite complete story of the Chimney Rock Massacre is available at the Lucerne Valley branch of the county library.)

Rabbit Springs

Rabbit Springs

In July, 1873 five men, L. D. Wilson, John E. McFee, W. S. Manning, W. P. Morrison and (?) Holmes located the springs known as Rabbit Springs. They laid claim to the Springs and 100 surrounding acres 20 acres each according to a recorded document.

In 1884 Peter Davidson operated a way station at Rabbit Springs. Travelers could get fresh water, exchange news, rest and sleep over. “Uncle Pete” died in 1906. His grave is at the corner of Kendall Road and Rabbit Springs Road.

Pete Davidson's grave

Pete Davidson’s grave

In 1886,  W. W. Brown brought his family to this valley, which was without a name at the time. Brown had the water rights at the Box S. (The Box S ranch is where the drainage ditch now crosses Highway 18.) The family stayed at “Uncle Pete’s” until an abandoned house could be moved on to the Box S property.

Box S Ranch, Lucerne Valley, CA.

Box S Ranch, Lucerne Valley, CA.

In 1896 Al Swarthout  acquired the Box S, intending to raise cattle. There was plenty of water but not much  forage. Swarthout and a friend found a place about 15 miles to the east, that had even more water and lots of forage.  after one year he gave up on the Box S  and moved to Old Woman Springs Ranch. (It is said the Indians used to leave their old people camped here while the young ones went into the mountains to forage for pinon nuts.)

In 1897 James Goulding came to the Box S  with his wife Anna and two small children, Mamie and George.  Three more children, Minnie, Jim, and Nelly were born in Lucerne Valley. “Dad” Goulding proved the fertility of our soil with his apple orchard, vegetable garden and alfalfa fields.  He also raised cows, horses and other animals. He dug a well which proved to be artesian.

Alfalfa field in Lucerne Valley

Alfalfa field in Lucerne Valley

In 1905 a friend suggested to Goulding that this valley should have a name.  Because of his success in growing alfalfa (also  known as lucerne)  he christened this place Lucerne Valley.

Dad Goulding is generally acknowledged as the founder of Lucerne Valley. In 1907 Goulding legally established Lucerne Valley School District. Hanna Brown, a cousin whose family lived in near by Oro Grande, came to live with the Gouldings so the requirement of six students could be met. The school building was a former cook shack on wheels, 8′ x 18′.  With wheels removed and one end of the inside painted black for a blackboard, the school opened on September 9, 1907 on the Box S Ranch.

In the meantime, more families were settling all over Lucerne Valley, and Goulding donated property in 1910 for a new school where the Baptist Church now stands.

In 1912, people in the east end of the valley thought the  school should be closer to them,  so they formed a new school district  to be known  as Midway. Still another school district, Rodman, was formed in North Valley, in 1915.

View of Lucerne Valley from North Valley

View of Lucerne Valley from North Valley

Then, in 1916, windstorms and fire destroyed both Lucerne Valley and Midway schools. all the students attended Rodman school until the other two were rebuilt, which took a couple of years  because of wartime problems. In 1920 Rodman School District lapsed and joined with Midway, which by then was in its present form.

In 1941 was certain school was condemned as unsafe and all  students went to Midway. The building and grounds were purchased by the Community Church ( not the present Community Church) and used until 1952. It was then that the building burned to the ground during a terrific  windstorm at night.  Construction was begun in 1952 on the new Lucerne Valley School at its present site.

Lucerne Valley’s library began in 1912 with 140 books in the front room of the Box S ranch house. Most of them were for school use, but some could be borrowed by local residents. In 1915 the library was at Midway school. In 1916 storm damage some of the books in the library was moved to the Boom Ranch on Wilshire, northeast of Midway. After being closed during World War I, both Midway school and the library reopened in September 1918. The library continued as a combination school-public library until March 1928, when it became a community branch of the county library system.

The Lucerne school building was condemned for school use, so the library moved in. When the church  bought the building, the library was moved into a smaller room there. Later it was moved into a small, narrow trailer behind the present China House.  Ethel Windschanz Clapton, the librarian, said that looking out the little, porthole shaped windows during a strong wind made her feel like she was on a sinking ship.

The library moved begin to the building which was occupied by the Sheriff’s office. Mrs. Vera Russell was one of the librarians at that location. The library then moved into the building generously provided by John Russell (Vera’s  son) at very low rent.  From there moved into its beautiful new permanent home for which ground was broken March 17, 1988.

Lucerne Valley post office was established in 1912 at the ranch of John and Rosa Koehly, who came here in 1909. It was on the southeast corner of Rabbit Springs Road and Post Office road.  (Have you wondered about the road name?) Rosa Koehly  was postmistress. Some days only eight cents worth of stamps were canceled, so that was the postmistress’s salary.

In 1935, the post office moved to a one-room building on the highway, west of the Box S Ranch, with Ed Smith as postmaster.  (Ed Smith was also a licensed electrician  and Scoutmaster of Troop 71,  Lucerne Valley’s first Boy Scout troop, from 1928 to 1933. Some of those scouts are still living here, among them  Harold Reed and Dick Owen.)

Downtown Lucerne Valley, CA.

Downtown Lucerne Valley, CA.

Later the post office moved again, to shared the Clark building with John Hutson’s and Irving Seeberg’s hardware store. ( The Clark building is now occupied by the China House.)  Flora and Clark was postmistress. The post office moved again to “the triangle”  on Verdugo Road at Oracle Road ( now renamed Oracel  by the county street sign makers.)  Early postmasters there were  Vern Ely and Ray Bonin. The post office is now in its permanent location on Highland Avenue south of Highway 18.

A volunteer fire department was first organized during World War II, along with fire watchers, skywatchers, plane watchers, civil defense, etc. In the early 50s a fire house was built with donated material (cinderblock) and volunteer labor.  it was located about where Shell gas station/ Halleck’s Market  is now. They had a unique system. People would phone Dick’s Center Store to report fires. Dick Grobaty would then press a button on his wall, which was wired to the siren on top of the firehouse. That was how the  volunteer firemen were summoned. The building was torn down after a  short period and the present County fire district was formed in 1962-63. At that time it still operated with volunteer firemen and one paid chief.

Lucerne dry lake

Lucerne dry lake

Some of the descendants of the early settlers still live here. John Russell’s father, William Russell in 1911 had filed on land called Lucerne Springs which brought son John here to live in 1949. He has been building houses and commercial buildings ever since. Also in 1911, Theodore P. Owen filed on 640 acres to miles north of Midway school his son, Dick, has come and gone but has lived here steadily since 1950.

View from shack at Gobar Ranch

View from shack at Gobar Ranch

Athene Siewerda  was another very early settler. She was the first to have pistachio trees here. Her son, Joe Sherman, lives here now  Orlando (Jake)  and Mildred Jacobs came here in 1928. There were about 250 people in Lucerne Valley then. At the Jacobs home in North Valley, Jake bake 60 or 70 loaves of bread, sweet rolls, cakes and pies on Saturdays and sold them through Max Lewis’s grocery store. Later he rented from Goulding  the building now housing the Rosebud Gift Shop and established Homestead Bakery and Grocery. At that same time Mildred ran the Jackrabbit Café, located on land now occupied by Halleck’s Market.  In 1936 Jake in Mildred moved their house onto land they bought from the Southern Pacific Railroad, the southeast corner of Barstow Road and old woman Springs Road. The Jacobs  donated 10 acres of their land which is now Pioneer Park. As Jake’s health failed, Mildred gave up  the café  and ran the Homestead Bakery. She, along with other citizens, still found time to clear implant for the park, along with other citizens. The Jacobs had two daughters, Shirley Ann  and Millie Lou. Millie Lou lives in Maryland and Shirley Ann (Mrs. Bob Fuller)  lives in Apple Valley.

Ethel Owen came in 1946 as Ethel  Johnston and built Lucerne Valley’s first beauty shop.  Ethel  and Dick Owen  were married in 1950 in the old community church and their daughter, Lilli Ann, born in 1952, was dedicated there shortly before it burned down.

The foregoing was prepared by  Ethel Owen  on March 25, 1988 from material obtained from Lucerne Valley library and from her own memory. She apologizes for any inaccuracy of dates of facts and/or  omissions. There is much to be added that could not be contained in these pages.

From: History of Lucerne Valley by Ethel V. Owen
Mohahve V – Scrapbooks of History – 1991, 2016
Mojave Historical Society

The Cajon Pass — Yesterday

by Myra McGinnis 1968

Long years ago, Cajon Pass became the gateway into the desert interior of California.   The word “cajon”  means box in Spanish and was fittingly applied to the area that has served as a pass through the rugged country between the desert and the valley lands west.

San Gabriel Mountains

San Gabriel Mountains

Cajon  is not a pass through a mountain. It is a pass between two mountain ranges —  San Bernardino and San Gabriel Mountains  which overlap. It was through or around this pass that the early settlers had to travel. Either way, it was a difficult trek of uncharted roads and highways. for that time and era, it would seem that settlers might want to stay on the eastern side of the ranges and settle down rather than try to get horses and wagons over the steep and hazardous mountains.

Horse-drawn wagon

Many years in the past the Pass  became  the “gateway into the wilds of the interior.”  What an interior it is!  coming or going from the coastal area of the Southern California that great mass of mountain peaks and sheer drops from the high precipices are startling and they culminate into the one of the most rugged as well as one of the most beautiful in the West.

The fact that this pass was at the western end of the Old Spanish Trail made it an important spot in the emigrant days.

Old trail

Old road over the divide near the summit of the Cajon.

Camp Cajon, 3 miles above the Blue Cut was once an Indian village. Here the pass becomes wider, a fan-shaped site bounded by the divide on the upper edge. the divide is the desert rim. Eroding water cause the formation of the two major divisions which are known as East and West Cajon.

The divide at the top of the pass

Long before the Cajon Pass was an accepted one and used freely, the wilderness of the Cajon region was a hideout for renegade Indians and white men.  Cattle and horse-stealing became so common that the people of the lower valleys had to take to battle.  Once in the interior of the vast mountain area beyond Cajon it was almost impossible to recover the animals.

Brown's toll road

Brown’s toll road through the Pass.

One of the historic roads that benefited the desert for many years was built by John Brown Sr. , an early desert  settler. This was the toll road that he built to connect the desert territory with the outside areas. The toll road served the public for 20 years. It was built from the Cajon Pass to the old Verde Ranch adjacent to Victorville.

from: The Cajon Pass — Yesterday
by Myra McGinnis 1968
Mohahve IV – Scrapbooks of History
Mohahve Historical Society

Chapter X: The Mojave Desert

Mojave Desert

Mojave Desert Map

An exceedingly interesting region of California is known as the Mojave Desert. The region is traversed for a distance of 100 miles by the Mojave River, from which it gets its name. The area includes Inyo and San Bernardino counties, and eastern Kern, northeastern Los Angeles, and northern and eastern Riverside counties. Death Valley lies to the north. There is no definite line of demarcation separating the desert to the south from the similarly desert region lying to the east of Owens Lake, and including Death Valley and the Amargosa Desert.

Location and Extent

49 Palms Oasis

Mojave Desert is separated from the Colorado Desert, which lies to the south, by a series of southeasterly trending mountain ranges. The San Bernardino Range extends southeast from Cajon Pass more than 100 miles, and the Cottonwood, Chuckawalla, and Chocolate ranges extend to the Colorado River. The San Gabriel Range separates the desert from the Los Angeles basin on the south. The Desert is bounded on the west by the southern Sierra Nevada Range and the Tehachapi Mountains. It extends north to the latitude of Mount Whitney, and east to the State line and into Nevada. On the south and east it extends to the Colorado River, which forms the boundary of the State of Arizona. It is a part of the Great Basin region of North America. This vast desert region embraces more than 30,000 square miles, an area almost as large as that of the State of Maine. It is a vast arid region destitute of any drainage streams that reach the ocean. The water supply, such as there is, is obtained from springs and wells. The region is much broken by mountains and hills, often rough and rocky.

San Bernardino Mountain Range

San Bernardino Mountain Range

 

Soda Lake

Soda Lake

The topography is typical of the western deserts, consisting of bare mountain ranges and isolated knobs separated by nearly flat arid belts of varying width. The mountains rise abruptly from the desert, in places almost precipitously. The appearance of the mountains suggests that they are the summits of more massive ranges whose lower slopes are submerged beneath unconsolidated desert deposits. It is thought the irregularly distributed ranges and peaks of the southeastern Mojave Desert are ridges and peaks of a former vast mountain system comparable to the Sierra Nevada, which has been lowered by subsidence of the region, and by erosion, which has resulted in tremendous valley-filling. Alluvial fans occur at the mouths of gullies, and these unite into broad aprons which slope gently toward the centers of the basins. In the center is generally a flat nearly level area known as a playa, dry lake, or alkali flat. Such flats may be covered with water during parts of the year, and they are commonly covered with a white crust of alkali or salt. Toward the west the surface of the desert is generally level. Toward the east it is marked by isolated knobs and short ranges of mountains having no system of arrangement, and separated by broad stretches of alluvial deposits in the form of fans and playas. To the north, in Inyo County, mountain ranges are prominent and are arranged in a somewhat definite north-south system.

A striking feature of the landscape in many parts of the desert is the presence of flat areas ranging in extent from a few acres to many square miles, which are entirely devoid of vegetation. This intensely arid region, lying between the Sierra Nevada Range and the Colorado River, is in extreme contrast with the region lying west and south of the San Gabriel Range, in Los Angeles and Orange counties. However, wherever sufficient water can be obtained in the desert ranches have been developed, and their bright green is a welcome sight to the traveler weary of the interminable desert waste and the dark, forbidding mountains. Many of the valleys or basins that separate the mountain ranges are absolutely desert, totally destitute of water,  and treeless for distances representing many days’ journey, gray sage brush alone giving life to the landscape. In the larger basins the land slopes toward a central depression into which an intermittent stream may convey water during rainy seasons, forming playas or mud plains. Some larger valleys have permanent lakes, and these are saline or alkaline. The shores of such lakes are devoid of all forms of life except salt-loving plants.

Arid Conditions Due to Mountains

The great Sierra Nevada mountain system is the factor which determines the climate of the  desert region. The moisture-laden winds from the Pacific Ocean shed their moisture upon the high mountains, and the lands to the east are left literally “high and dry.”

Death Valley Region

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes, Death Valley

Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes

Saratoga Springs

Saratoga Springs, Death Valley

An outstanding feature of this great desert region is Death Valley. This remarkable sink of the earth’s crust is located about 50 miles east of the Sierra Nevada Range, 6 to 35 miles west of the Nevada State line. This depression of the earth’s crust has a length of more than 80 miles, and in width ranges from two to eight miles. It is 60 to 70 miles east of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the United States. The lowest point in Death Valley, according to the U. S. Geological Survey, is 296 feet below sea level. This point is three miles east of Bennett’s well, about 30 miles in a direct line west from Death Valley Junction on the Tonopah & Tidewater railroad, and  about the same distance northwest from Saratoga Springs, following the road down the valley. The rainfall does not exceed two to three inches annually, with no precipitation at all some years. Mountain ranges on either side of the Valley rise nearly to the line of perpetual snow. Funeral Mountains and Black Mountains, of the Amargosa Range, rise on the eastern side of the Valley to altitudes of 5,000 to 7,000 feet, while on the west the Panamint Range reaches a height of more than 10,000 feet.

High Temperature and Low Humidity

The most marked feature of the desert climate is the unusually high summer temperature and the low relative humidity. Temperatures in this arid region rise to 125 to 130 during the
summer months, and seldom during these months fall below 70. The humidity is low so that conditions are more endurable than would be the case under such conditions of heat in regions
of higher humidity. The highest officially recorded temperature of any place in the world is that of 134 at Greenland ranch in Death Valley. This is said to be the dryest and hottest place in the United States. A low temperature of 15 F. has been recorded at Greenland ranch. The difference between the highest and lowest recorded temperatures however is not as great in this desert region as in some parts of the United States. In the Dakotas and Montana differences of 150 have been recorded. In the desert region sunstroke is almost unknown, due to the low humidity. Because of the dryness of the air the moisture given off by the body quickly evaporates producing a cooling effect. Travelers in the desert should be provided with a sufficient water supply. One should never go far from a source of water, in winter or summer, without enough water to last until another supply can be reached. Travelers should carry at least two to four gallons of water per person for each 24 hours.

Three Rivers that Do Not Reach the Sea

Three rivers enter upon the vast domain of the Mojave Desert from high mountain ranges, but none delivers any water to the ocean. These are the Mojave, the Owens, and the Amargosa rivers. The rivers originate on high mountain ranges, fed by melting snows that gather upon the high ranges and peaks, and by rains that are condensed from the wind-borne clouds at high altitudes. These all start as rapidly flowing turbulent torrents. They continue for many miles as intermittent streams, but ultimately disappear by evaporation after passing into the porous soils and sands, detritus from the erosion of the mountain slopes. Other streams that flow as mountain torrents to the great desert plain sink at once into the sands and are “lost” as streams.

West Fork - Mojave River

West Fork – Mojave River


The Mojave is a typical desert river. It rises in the high San Bernardino Mountains, in southwestern San Bernardino County. The waters gather in the mountains and form a perennial stream. Within a short distance it emerges upon the desert plain, and much of the water sinks into the porous alluvium. The course of the stream is in a northerly direction to Barstow, where it turns to the northeast. In times of flood the water may be carried 40 miles east of Daggett to Soda Lake. Water sometimes flows into Silver Lake, another playa a mile or two to the north of Soda Lake. During many years no water from the river reaches the playas, but in years of extreme flood the water may be several feet deep in the playas and remain for
several months. The water that reaches the playas disappears by evaporation. The river ends in these depressions. The region of these playas has been called “the Sink of the Mojave.”

Aguereberry Point

Aguereberry Point

Owens River is the principal stream occupying Owens Valley. Owens Valley is a long narrow depression lying between the Inyo Range on the east and the Sierra Nevada Range on the
west. Between these two ranges Owens River flows south to its end in the saline sea called Owens Lake. The valley is thought to have originated as an enclosed and undrained basin
through profound faulting of the crust of the earth. The origin of the valley is thought to be similar to that of Death Valley and most of the enclosed undrained areas of the Great Basin. This great structural valley extends from the great bend of Owens River north of Bishop southeast to the southern end of Owens Lake, a distance of 100 miles. It is wholly in Inyo County.

Owens River rises in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near San Joaquin Pass and descends the rugged eastern slopes as a turbulent stream. The river emerges from a deep canyon cut in a
table-land of volcanic lava north of Bishop and enters upon the level floor of Owens Valley, whence it pursues a meandering course southeastward to Owens Lake. It is one of the few
perennial streams of the Great Basin. Owens Lake, into which the river empties, lies in an undrained depression at the south end of the valley, from which the water disappears by evaporation. The waters of the lake constitute a dense brine containing common salt, sodium carbonate, potassium sulphate, borax, and other salts. The recovery of sodium carbonate is an important chemical industry established near Keeler. About 40 miles above the point where the river enters Owens Lake, near Big Pine, the pure mountain water is diverted through the Los
Angeles Aqueduct and conveyed to that city.

Fresh Water of Owens River forms Saline Lake

The waters that gather from the mountains to form Owens River are “pure” as surface waters go. Even the pure clear sparkling waters of mountain streams contain some mineral matter dissolved from the rocks. By long continued evaporation from Owens Lake the contained mineral matter becomes concentrated so that the waters of Owens Lake are strongly saline. The river waters diverted by the Los Angeles Aqueduct are essentially pure. The salts now contained in solution in Owens Lake were undoubtedly derived by the slow accumulation and concentration of the river waters entering the basin.

In the geologic past Owens Lake overflowed and supplied water to a series of lakes in Indian Wells, Searles, and Panamint valleys. On the bottoms of these lakes deposits occurred consisting principally of clay, with minor amounts of sand and almost no gravel. In most places they include some chemically deposited salts. In a few places these salts are of economic value.

Amargosa River rises in a group of springs about 17 miles northeast of Bullfrog, Nevada. It is dry the greater part of the time throughout much of its course. It is about 140 miles long. Its course is east of south through Franklin Dry Lake, thence south through a canyon about 10 miles long to the southern end of Death Valley. Here it turns westward to Saratoga Springs, where it flows northwestward to the sink of Death Valley. The northern end of Death Valley lies nearly due west of the head of the river, so that the depression which is occupied by the Amargosa River as a whole is in the form of a long and narrow U. Ordinarily there is water at only a few places along the course of the channel, but when a cloud-burst occurs it may become a raging torrent for a few hours. For many years the river has not been known to carry enough water to flow on
the surface as far as the lowest depression of Death Valley. The waters of the Amargosa are briny along its lower course. Where it spreads out into the large playa at Resting Springs
Dry Lake it leaves fields of salt as well as of borax and niter. Hot springs discharge into it at a number of places.

Coyote Dry Lake

Coyote Dry Lake

Playas or “dry lakes” are widely distributed throughout the desert region. It is somewhat paradoxical to speak of a “dry” lake. Often flat dry surfaces of saline mud are ripple-marked
from the wind before the water disappeared. Seen from a distance such “dry lakes” may deceive the traveler, the dry flat bottom having the appearance of a water surface. The term
“dry lake” seems therefore not entirely inappropriate. In the desert region the rainfall is very light, but sporadic. Mountain torrents tear down the slopes with great erosional force after
sudden rains. Broad basins between mountain ranges are generally filled, often to depths of hundreds of feet, with alluvial wash from the surrounding mountains. In the lowest parts of such basins water may gather after storms, and large areas may be covered by shallow sheets of water for a time. Soon, however, the waters disappear by evaporation, and the lowest part of the basin becomes a salt-encrusted flat pan, or dry lake.

Soda Lake

Soda Lake

Salt Deposits Accumulate on Lake Bottoms

Scores of dry lakes or playas range in size from a few acres to lake beds several miles across. One of the largest and most important playas is Searles Lake, which has an area of about 60
square miles. This playa is important because of the extensive deposit of crystalline salt in the central part of the broad basin. Solid salt beds embrace an area of 11 or 12 square miles, and
extend to depths of 60 to 100 feet. It is unique in that the salt is nearly pure crystalline mineral (sodium chloride), and not interbedded or mixed with dust or clay, as is the case in many playas where saline deposits occur. This deposit of salt is free from earth sediments, it is thought, because of settling basins in Indian Wells and Salt valleys through which waters passed from Owens Lake during Quaternary (Pleistocene) time when waters from Owens Valley evaporated here. Death Valley contains an immense salt field. It extends fully 30 miles south from the old borax works. It varies in width from two to four miles. Borax was once manufactured two or three miles north of the point where Furnace Creek emerges from the hills of the west slope of Black Mountains (Amargosa Range) .

World's tallest thermometer (134')

World’s tallest thermometer (134′), Baker, CA.

Soda Lake, southwest of Baker, is one of the largest playas in the desert, having an area of approximately 60 square miles.It is here that Mojave River ceases as a stream. To the north, and separated by a low divide, is the playa of Silver Lake. The great structural trough in which these playas lie is continuous with the trough of Death Valley, and it is thought that waters from the Mojave Valley in Pleistocene time moved northward and joined the Amargosa, and then flowed into Death Valley. Strand lines or beaches high above the valley bottom show that a large body of water once filled Death Valley.

Antelope Valley

Poppy Reserve – Antelope Valley

Antelope Valley, lying north and east of the San Gabriel Mountains and south and east of the Tehachapi Mountains, is a closed basin, having no outlet for its surface waters. The rainfall is so slight and the evaporation is so great that not enough water reaches the bottom of the valley to form a lake. Several playas occur, the largest of which are Rosamond, Rogers, and Buckhorn. It is thought that at one time (Pleistocene) all three formed a single large playa. The rainfall in Antelope Valley ranges from 3 or 4 inches to 1 inches annually, varying widely different years. The greater part of the annual precipitation occurs during the winter months of January, February, and March. The summer rainfall is so slight and so irregular that it is not of much value to agriculture. Irrigation is therefore important. The greatest development of agriculture in the Mojave Desert region has been in the Antelope Valley, where it is claimed 10,000 to 1 5,000 acres are under cultivation. Water for irrigation is obtained from mountain streams.

Geology of the Region Very Complex

Panamint Valley

Panamint Valley

The geology of Mojave Desert and the Death Valley region is very complicated. The region embraces the southwestern  portion of the Great Basin plateau. In the north, in the Death
Valley region, mountain ranges trend in somewhat parallel lines in a generally north-northwest and south-southeast direction. Faults in many cases mark the boundaries of the ranges and valleys. Death Valley, lying west of the Amargosa Range (Funeral and Black mountains) , is a sunken basin in which the floor dips to the east and north toward the great fault scarp which marks the mountain side. The structure of Panamint Valley, lying west of the Panamint Range, suggests that it is a down-faulted block with the greatest depression on the east side of the valley. What is thought to be a fault-plane appears in the abrupt wall of the mountain range on the east. Hot springs at the north end of the valley, and the springs near Ballarat, indicate a zone of faulting along this edge of the valley. The parallel arrangement of the mountains and valleys is generally believed to be due to a series of parallel faults, the valleys representing large blocks that have been lowered relatively with respect to the blocks that have been elevated or tilted to form the mountains.Post Office Spring Ballarat ghost town

Post Office Spring (Ballarat)

Crystalline Basement Rock

1.7 billion year old Crystalline Basement Rock

Very ancient rocks, granites probably of Archaean age, occur in some of the mountains. Whatever rocks may have been deposited over them have been removed by erosion. During the early part of the Paleozoic era (Cambrian period) some parts of the region were submerged beneath the sea. This is shown by beds of limestone and other sea sediments in which fossils have been found. If the sea covered the entire region during Cambrian time the formations that were laid down have been removed by erosion from most of the region. During the long Ordovician, Silurian, and Devonian periods it is thought that the region was land, as no fossils of these ages have been found. Small patches of rocks containing fossils of Carboniferous age have been found, showing that the sea covered parts of the region at least during Cambrian time. Throughout the Mesozoic era the region is thought to have been land, and was greatly eroded. In the early part of the Tertiary period volcanic outbursts occurred and great lava flows spread over large areas. Throughout the long time of the Tertiary and Quaternary periods erosion was actively going on. A large part of the Tertiary lava flows and other rocks were worn away until now only remnants of once continuous formations are left. Disturbance of the rocks by faulting completed the work of deformation and resulted in the present relief. Geological conditions have resulted in the accumulation of mineral deposits. These constitute the greatest resource of the region, and have been the incentive for the early exploration and much of the later industrial development. Of metallic ores those of gold, silver, copper, and iron have been principally mined, but lead, zinc, quicksilver, and many rarer metals also have been found. Non-metallic minerals, as salt, potash, niter, borax, and gypsum occur in many places, some in commercially important quantities. Much literature relating to the minerals and geologic features of the region is available. (See Appendix.)

Lava flow at Fossil Falls

Lava flow at Fossil Falls

 

 

From: ADVENTURES IN SCENERY
A Popular Reader of California Geology
BY DANIEL E. WILLARD, A.M.
Fellow American Geographic Society, Fellow A.A.A.S.

Van Dusen Road Notes

Point of Van Dusen Road crossing Mojave River, Hesperia, CA. Looking toward Apple Valley and Marianas Mountains

The Van Dusen Road branched off from John Brown’s toll road heading east along the ridge after reaching the Cajon Summit.   The road  found its way down the Antelope Valley Wash to the Mojave River.  At this point the trail crossed through the soft sand and ascended through a small  canyon  at the base of the mountains, finding its way east then southeast to Rock Springs. From the springs the road then branched to the left heading east to Holcomb Valley becoming what is now known as the Coxey Truck Trail.

Looking west up Antelope Valley Wash from the Mojave River toward Cajon Summit

by Walter Feller – 2017

The Hardy Pioneer

by Jean Goldbranson – 1967

As you whiz down the freeway in a well protected automobile, have you ever wondered what life was like in the good old days as the hardy pioneer planned the trip 50 miles into the desert with wagon and a team of horses?

Excerpts from ‘Water Supply Paper Number 224’  published in 1909 by the US Department of Interior states, “A party leaving a supply station to go 100 miles or more into an uninhabited part of the desert must take along everything needed, even to the most minute detail.”

Cowpokes eating a hearty breakfast on the trail.

” This means if the trip is to last for two weeks enough hay and grain for each animal and enough  provisions to last each man that length of time must be taken.

” For four horses, drawing a wagon that carries for persons and their bedding, provisions, and tools, another team of four horses must also be taken to all sufficient hay and grain to feed the eight horses for two weeks.

”  There are but few places in the desert, away from the railroads, where grain or hay of any kind can be procured. As the teams are rarely able to travel faster than a walk, heavy horses that are good walkers should be selected. The tires should be as wide as can be procured. Desirable widths of tires for freight wagons are 6 to 9 inches; for light wagons 3 inches.”

The average Victor Valley pioneer took a week every six months to travel by horse and wagon to San Bernardino, to do his shopping and come back home.  Leaving the desert and spending the first night in Cajon Pass at one of the campsites close to the junction of State Highway 138 or Interstate Highway 15 further on down  at Cozy Dell Campgrounds. it was another day’s journey to San Bernardino, and after doing shopping and visiting for a couple of days, it was a two-day journey back to the desert Homestead. Now with our sleek automobiles, we whisk down to San Bernardino and 45 minutes, sometimes grumbling because it takes so long.

Cozy Dell, Cajon Pass – 1938

Drinking java from an old tin can was a way of life and not a song in the past century.  Living in the open and eating cowboy beans were part of traveling through the desert before the advent of the  auto.  The trails of yesterday became our freeways of today. Our present freeway route from Victorville to Barstow parallels the one the freighters to quit their mule trains to sell supplies to the minors and Calico in the 1880s. Instead of having a well-built bridge to span the Mojave as we do today, they forded the river even when it was high.

from:
Mohahve IV – Scrapbooks of History (c)1984, 2016
Mohahve Historical Society

Cedar Springs – August 1964

A field trip report by Gladys Steorts

Bridge at Deep Creek

The day was hot. There were only five of us who showed up for the trip. We met at Carl Cambridge’s Museum on Bear Valley Road in Apple Valley in about 9:30 AM and left via Deep Creek Road to Rock Springs Road and across the river to Lake Arrowhead Road and then via Summit Valley Road to Miller Canyon and Lake Gregory Road to Cedar Springs.

Because of the heat, this was to be more of the picnic been a field trip. We had chosen Cedar Springs because of its location in the big binds and the stream which ran nearby the campground. The site is located on the East Fork of the West Fork of the Mojave River in T2N, R3W, Sec. 6,  San Bernardino County.

Cedar Springs Campground - Lake Silverwood

Cedar Springs Campground

When we arrived, we found the stream bed entirely dry, and the picnic table which we chose was sitting in the middle of the dry wash. while we enjoyed our picnic lunch, the Martins talk to the early days when they brought their children and grandchildren and camp by this dream which was at that time a swift moving and cool, sparkling little creek. We then tried to imagine what it would be like in a few years when the entire area will be underwater. Already, many of the homes had been removed in preparation for the time when the dam will be billed at the forks of the river, to hold back the waters of the Feather River when they are delivered to the Southland to water the thirsty reservoirs at the Mojave River Valley and the great metropolitan area.

 

The tree that grew into a rock. Cedar Springs - 1964

The tree that grew into a rock. 1964.

As we sat and talked, we began to look around, and we realize that the well-known landmarks would soon disappear. Nearby, was a huge old pine tree with roots in twined around a very large boulder which had once been at the stream’s edge. Close by was a beautiful old sycamore with a satellite branch, just right for small and not so small boys  to  climb.  downstream was a grand old tree that guarded the  dry stream bed and looked as if it had been watching over the course of the stream for many years.  We took some pictures and left.

Our road led us through Summit Valley to a road which took us  up to Cleghorn Canyon in search of a way to reach a monument which was said to be located at a point where Fr. Francisco Garces (1776)   and Jedediah Smith (1826)  had crossed over from the desert to the San Bernardino Valley.

Silverwood Lake

Cedar Springs today sits under Lake Silverwood SRA.

We failed to locate a way to reach the monument, but we did find a vast area that had been almost denuded by a destructive forest fire which had swept the area only a few weeks earlier. in the midst of this, we also observed a “guzzler”  which still contained water,  and the ground around was covered with thousands of little tracks which was evidence of the birds and small animals that had somehow  survived the ravages of the flames. Joel Martin mentioned that he had, at one time, worked on a project to help install these guzzlers which were designed to help preserve the wildlife of the county and state.

As we return down the canyon to the Summit Valley Rd., Carl Cambridge suddenly called a stop, and there beside the road, where the road had crossed a dry wash, lay a large metate.  There was also the ruins of an old cabin and signs of placer mining, which told a silent story of a culture and a generation earlier than ours.

Bridge at fork to Cedar Springs

We retraced our road to where the Summit Valley Road and the road to Cedar Springs meet, to make a survey of his site of an old Indian camp which Carl had told us had been discovered there several years ago, but all that we found were a few fire stones and the dark and soil, evidence that the Indians had once been there.

Although no great historical facts were uncovered, the day proved to be very interesting, and in time it may be looked back upon as being of historic interest because of what was but is no longer.

As we thought about the things that were taking place in the area, we realize that, just as the last remnants of other eras were disappearing, the day would soon come when the landmarks that are so familiar in the area today will soon be gone. So we took more pictures for remembrance.

from:
A Field Trip Report by Gladys Steorts
Mohahve III – Scrapbooks of History (c)1966
Mohahve Historical Society

Old Mormon Fort: Las Vegas, Nevada

During the Spanish Colonial Period (1542-1821) in the American Southwest, the Spanish empire was competing for control over resources with the British, French, and Russian monarchies. They attempted to link colonies in the Spanish territories, later known as the New Mexico and California, by establishing trade routes to form a passageway across the entire Southwest desert region. The Old Spanish Trail was used commercially to link the towns that would later become Los Angeles, California, and Santa Fe, New Mexico, from 1829 until 1848. The abundant spring water available in the Las Vegas (meaning “the meadows” in Spanish) Valley made it an ideal resting point on the trail.

Old Mormon Fort - Las Vegas, Nevada

Old Mormon Fort – Las Vegas, Nevada

The presence of the valley springs also drew the Southern Paiute Indians, a nomadic people moving frequently during the year, who made the valley their winter homeland. They raised small crops near the springs in the valley, which provided water and food for the Indians inhabiting the area and later for travelers making their way across the desert.

The Las Vegas Valley would become an attractive place for other European-American settlers as well. One group of settlers looking for a new home was the Mormons–also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints–a religious sect organized by Joseph Smith in New York in 1830. Based on the Book of Mormon, which Smith said was revealed to him by heavenly messengers, this religious body felt called to restore the authentic church established by Jesus and his Apostles. The history of the Mormons is dramatic–filled with persecution, an exodus from the eastern part of the United States, and ultimately successful establishment of a thriving religious society in a desert. The Mormons formed in upstate New York, an area where the Second Great Awakening was most popular as the United States underwent a widespread flowering of religious sentiment and unprecedented expansion of church membership. The group was forced to move several times because of conflicts with residents in various places where they settled, including Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. They were accused of blasphemy and inciting slave insurrections. After Smith was killed by an angry mob in Illinois in 1844, it became necessary for the Mormons to find a new home once again.

A new leader emerged to guide the Mormons to a new Zion at the Great Salt Lake. Under the direction of Brigham Young, they began an arduous journey West to what would become Utah, where they arrived in July of 1847. In 1848, after the war with Mexico, the United States acquired the majority of what now constitutes the American Southwest. The Mormons petitioned Congress to become the State of Deseret, a word from the Book of Mormon signifying honeybee which was considered an industrious creature, but they were only allowed territorial status. Congress established the Territory of Utah, named for a local Indian tribe, and President Fillmore appointed Brigham Young governor in 1851. Young also became superintendent of Indian affairs. He oversaw the building of Salt Lake City and hundreds of other southwestern communities.

In the middle of the 19th century, the idea of “Manifest Destiny”–a phrase used to explain continental expansion by the U.S.–was embraced by many American people, including the Mormons. They began an industrious campaign to colonize Utah and beyond, establishing hundreds of settlements throughout the West and Southwest. As part of this process, Brigham Young called on volunteers to create a Las Vegas Mission, which would be strategically located alongside the Mormon Road (a portion of the Old Spanish Trail between New Mexico and California), halfway between the Mormon settlements of southern Utah and the San Bernardino Mission in southern California. There were eventually 96 settlements that included Lehi, Provo, Payson, Nephi, Fillmore, Beaver, Parowan and Cedar City. Meanwhile, the discovery of gold in California in 1848 made southern Nevada a corridor for westward emigrants and gold seekers. A gold seeker wrote in his diary on November 21, 1849 about stopping at the Las Vegas creek. Offering the only reliable supply of water for a 55-mile stretch along the Mormon Road, the Las Vegas Valley’s springs were important for watering the mules, horses and oxen of travelers crossing the region’s harsh desert environment. With the opening of the San Bernardino settlement in 1851, there was an additional need for a way station at the Las Vegas springs to provide supplies and rest. The mission the Mormons established as part of the Church’s westward expansion out of Utah became the first non-native settlement in the area, and the Mormons hoped to bring the American Indians into their flock. Although the Mormons occupied the site only from 1855 to 1858, it affected the development of what was to become southern Nevada.

from — The Old Mormon Fort: Birthplace of Las Vegas, Nevada — National Park Service

History of the Victor Valley

This book is a “must have” for anyone interested in a detailed history of the Victor Valley …

cover- history of the Victor ValleyAs readers of the early chapters will readily recognize, there are not many sources on the early history of the Victor Valley. Therefore, use of the Los Angeles in San Bernardino newspapers became essential, along with diaries and other writings of people mostly passing through the area. My familiarity with the Latter-day Saint history might have predisposed me to utilize more material from such sources than someone do. In fact, I concede that some coverage, particularly in the last half-century of the book is not completely even. This is an inherent problem for anyone trying to document recent history from the volumes of material available. Every historian has historical periods of interest. Mine are the 19th and early 20th centuries— not particularly the latter half of the latter century. Of all the publications and articles I have written, there is probably more of the post-1960 era contained herein than I have ever previously written.

This doubtless means that someday an ambitious person, at least with interest the last half century or so, will need to add greater historical detail, particularly on the many subjects not covered or at best sparsely covered herein from the 1960s forward.. With the passage of time, the advantage of hindsight will make the task is somewhat easier. On the other hand, is doubtful if much of the earlier. Will need to be redone, other than perhaps in providing a more balanced work that omits some of the extra, but interesting, detail included in this effort.

Excerpt from the Preface of History of the Victor Valley by Edward Leo Lyman

Only $30
Available through the Mohahve Historical Society

– 409 pages – historic photos – maps – subject index –

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