You’ll find lots of history and charm in this Mojave Desert living ghost town.
Randsburg sits just off of Highway 395 on a plateau at 3,500 feet. It’s just one of several ghost towns that dot this portion of the Mojave Desert.
Like most people, I had driven through Randsburg many times before but had never spent more than a few hours checking it out.
On a recent mine exploration trip, I decided it was time to change that.
I love renting unique places through Airbnb and booked a pretty amazing rustic cabin that was just a hop, skip and jump away from Butte Street, the town’s main drag.
It had a separate bathhouse with a very large shower…
…and a boardwalk that lead to the two bedroom cabin that would be my home for the night.
It also had a clean, fully stocked kitchen…
…and a nice sized living room to relax in.
But the best part was its book selection. I read each and everyone by the time I checked out the following morning.
It was comforting to know that the jail was located only a few steps away from where I was staying in case anything went down while I was there. Fortunately, it wasn’t needed on this particular trip.
Gold was discovered at Rand Mine in 1895. Within a few months, a saloon, barber shop, general store and even an opera house had sprung up.
The OHV parking area across from the general store has a few interesting informational kiosks about the protected desert tortoise. If you see a tortoise in the wild, it is important not to pick it up. Like a young child who may wet his pants when afraid, a tortoise will “void” its bladder if frightened. This could have life-threatening consequences for the animal if it is not able to replenish its water supply. Handling wild tortoises is illegal under the Endangered Species Act.
The Friends of Jawbone (FOJ) built and maintains the OHV parking area in Randsburg. They are a non-profit, public benefit corporation dedicated to the promotion of outdoor recreation in the Jawbone Canyon area. Formed in 1998, Friends of Jawbone supports and develops projects to improve, protect and maintain existing trails and to promote understanding, education and cooperation among all users of public lands. The organization consists of off-highway users and their local, state and federal agency representatives. These groups work together to ensure the continued availability of multiple use recreational opportunities in Jawbone Canyon and the surrounding area.
The Randsburg Post Office was first established in 1896…
…and while this building located next to the General Store was indeed the Post office between 1910-1940, it wasn’t the first or last location where the town would collect its mail.
By 1897 Randsburg was a boomtown of almost 4,000 people. The same year, three separate fires destroyed most of the original town, but some of the $60 million dollars in gold profits quickly rebuilt it, including the General Store, which was originally known as the Randsburg Drug Store. Today, the General Store is the town’s main gathering space for locals and visitors alike.
The Rand Desert Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, protecting and sharing the historic cultural resources and architectural history of the Rand Mining District as well as adjacent historic and pre-historic sites in the Upper Mojave Desert Region of California. The museum is open each weekend from 10:00 a.m to 4:oo p.m and holidays except for Christmas and New Years. They are also open by special appointment. Admission is free but donations are always welcome.
Each year the Rand Desert Museum sponsors an *OLD WEST DAYS*, a street fair with country western and bluegrass bands, food booths, antiques, collectibles, and other vendors. Gunfighters, mounted posse, a vintage car show, and other entertainment is also offered.
On December 20, 1895, the Rand Mining District was organized. Twenty-six persons signed the document creating this district. Randsburg soon became one of the great boomtowns of the West. Large-scale gold mining continued until 1918. The famous and highly productive Kelly or California Rand silver mine was discovered in 1919 and was operated on a major scale through the 1930s. Gold production from the district was substantial in the 1930s and early 1940s, and there has been intermittent prospecting and development work since. In 2006, BLM identified dangerous levels of arsenic contamination at the Rand Mining District — levels thousands of times higher than recognized as safe by the EPA.
Gold was discovered at the Baltic mine site in January 1896 by William and Wilson Logan. It was mined by lessees until 1901. The Baltic Co. operated the mine from 1901 until 1920. The Rand Mining and Milling Co. acquired the mine in 1921 and operated it until 1923. The Monarch Rand Mining Co. owned the mine in 1924; Albert Ancker was the owner in 1933. The mine probably yielded at least $50,000 in gold. A moderate amount of scheelite, which was discovered shortly before World War 1, also has been produced. The most productive gold-mining period was from 1896 until 1912; minor production, was obtained during the years, 1920-22, 1933, 1935, 1938, and 1940. A 10 stamp mill was operated for many years on the Baltic property. A large part of the mill tailing has been remilled. Part of the Mill was set up at the Randsburg Museum in 1958. — MINES AND MINERALS OF KERN COUNTY CALIFORNIA, CALIFORNIA DIVISION OF MINES AND GEOLOGY COUNTY REPORT
There are lots of interesting things to see when strolling down Butte Street. I spent the remaining two hours of sunlight walking from one end to the other, snapping photos along the way.
Hopefully Jim feels better now.
As the light faded, there was just one more place I wanted to check out.
The Joint has been family owned since 1955. The 1927 building was previously a bakery.
Today, you can still play .25 cent billiards, drink whiskey, and chow down on a Mexican burrito or some Pay Dirt Pretzels, which I highly recommend.
Johannesburg and Red Mountain are located just around the corner and are also both worth checking out when traveling through the area.
The following morning I met up with some of my friends for some advanced mine exploration.
We spent the next 6 hours underground. Check out the video highlights from our day here via my Vimeo channel.
It was the perfect way to end my first (but definitely not last) overnight trip in Randsburg.