Traveling along Cactus Flats Rd off of Highway 395 is like driving through a smaller more isolated version of Joshua Tree National Park.
I had just finished camping in a nearby ghost camp and was on my way to spend another long weekend in Mammoth Lakes. While driving along Highway 395, I decided to take a little detour along Cactus Flats Rd which travels behind LADWP’s Haiwee Reservoir and into the Coso Range Wilderness area.
The Cactus Flat area which Cactus Flats Rd runs through is located immediately south of Owens Lake (dry), east of Highway 395 and west of the Coso Mounatin Range. Portions of the eastern and southern part of this area lies in the restricted Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake (shown in gray).
I had a map of where some old abandoned mines were located and was looking forward to finally getting a chance to check them out.
My plan was to follow Cactus Flats Rd to the Jack Henry Mine, take a 4WD route over to the Five Tunnels Mine and then eventually reconnect with Cactus Flats Rd.
Cactus Flats Rd is located 2 miles south of Olancha, CA off of Highway 395. The first 1.5 miles are paved but the rest is gravel and/or dirt.
The road begins to climb after it passes the North Haiwee Reservoir. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power constructed Haiwee Reservoir in 1913 as a part of the Los Angeles Aqueduct system. There are actually two reservoirs, North Haiwee Reservoir and South Haiwee Reservoir. Because Haiwee Reservoir is long and narrow, it makes an ideal natural purification reservoir. The water flows slowly through Haiwee, allowing sediment to settle and exposing the water to air and sunlight. Historically more than 70% of Los Angeles’ water has passed through Haiwee. Once the water leaves Haiwee it passes through conduit, tunnel and pipe, never seeing open air and light, all the way to Los Angeles.
4.5 miles from Highway 395 is Global Pumice Mine. The mine itself has been in operation for over 30 years and is one of only three pumice mines still active in California.
As I continued driving along Cactus Flats Rd, I was starting to wonder if my little detour was going to be worth it or not.
As soon as I saw this valley filled with hundreds (if not thousands) of Joshua Trees, I knew it was going to be a good day.
While Cactus Flats Rd remains fairy navigable with a high clearance 2WD vehicle…
…some of the roads that branch off from it become a little more gnarly the deeper you get.
The isolation of the area is occasionally broken up by scenes like this but during the 4 hours I was there, I didn’t see another living soul.
After a small detour down one of the many 4WD routes that branch off from Cactus Flats Rd, I was finally able to see evidence of the first mine I wanted to visit in the distance.
The Jack Henry Mine is located at the end of Cactus Flats Rd, where it intersects with Jack Henry Rd.
Evidence of the mining operations that once took place here can still be found scattered around the site.
The actual mine is located further up the hill.
The views outside the mine were pretty incredible.
Looking south towards Jack Henry Rd where the nearby McCloud Mine is located.
The portal to the Jack Henry Mine.
Copper was once mined at this site.
Lead can also be found here but it was never economically feasible to extract during the time the mine was in operation.
The underground workings seemed rather extensive but I only went in about 150 feet or so.
After exploring the Jack Henry, I hopped back into my Jeep and headed northeast towards my next destination.
The road through this section was a little rough…
…but I didn’t have a problem making it over to the other side.
Remnants of the Five Tunnels Mine could be seen as soon as I made my way over the hill.
Unfortunately, it looked like the entrance had collapsed or was purposely filled in.
A little further down the road was evidence of an old mining camp.
With some crumbling rock structures…
…and a foundation for an old cabin.
As I traveled further down the road, these tailings on the side of the hill sparked my interest.
Leaving my Jeep on the road below, I hiked up to see what I could find.
It was a fairly steep hike.
Evidence of mining activity dotted the hillside…
…and a small portal was found near the top.
After exploring the hilltop and looking out towards the valley of Joshua trees below, I realized just how big this area actually is. Apart from the mining roads that skirt its fringes, it remains largely untouched by man. If isolation and beautiful scenery are your thing, this place is for you. Just make sure you come prepared, there are no facilities once you leave the highway and if you get into any trouble there will most likely be no one around to help you out. Explore, be safe, enjoy!