There’s something about the Old Dutch Cleanser Mine that keeps me coming back for more.
Cudahay Mine is actually Cudahy Camp, which was a small settlement that sprouted in 1923 with the founding of the nearby Old Dutch Cleanser Mine.
While the dirt roads leading to the mine don’t necessarily require 4WD, a vehicle with higher clearance is strongly suggested.
On the way to the mine there’s an area that overlooks Last Chance Canyon. The colorful terrain is a result of differing sediments and volcanic rock strata. The strata has been exposed through uplifting along the El Paso fault which created the El Paso Range.
A dirt road southwest of the overlook leads down to an area that has obviously been mined before.
Old Dutch Cleanser used to be one of the most recognizable brands of the early 20th century. The domestic scouring agent was also one of the biggest players in the pumice-based cleanser category.
The mineral deposit containing the pumicite that was mined here crops out as part of a nearly continuous 7 mile northeast-trending belt that measures up to 600 feet in thickness.
The Old Dutch Cleanser deposit is the thickest and uppermost of six layers of white, thin-bedded, fine-grained, pumicite. The pumicite is interstratified with various other pale-colored sedimentary rocks giving it a marbled appearance in some sections of the formation.
A short, steep path leads down from the parking area to the Old Dutch Cleanser Mine.
The first thing you’ll notice after making it down to the mining area is this old 30’s vintage truck frame and engine.
The mine was in operation from 1923-1947, so this rusty old thing hasn’t been running for at least 69 years.
Still looks pretty good to me.
The powder magazine where the explosives were kept was a little more accessible than the last time I was here.
The trail past the engine leads to the old tramway and entrances to the mine.
Enjoy the views as you make your way there…
…but watch your footing, it’s 700 feet down to the bottom.
Initially, hand labor was used to remove slabs of the semi-hard, brittle material for placement in 1-1/2-ton side-dumping cars pulled up out of the mine into daylight by burros.
It was then lowered to loading bins over a 475-foot long inclined rail tramway.
After making it down to the base of the tramway, the mined rock was trucked 7 miles south to a siding on the Southern Pacific Railroad at Saltdale. It was then delivered to Los Angeles, where it was processed and blended with other materials to produce Old Dutch Cleanser.
There are several openings into the mine.
This one is my favorite.
Just make sure you’re not standing beneath it when the next earthquake hits.
Look, it’s a petroglyph…not!
There are 19 tunnels that come to the surface and about a dozen that don’t.
Numerous tunnels running perpendicular to the mine shafts were used to transport the pumicite to the central extraction tunnel.
The tunnels are massive. Some are 40 feet wide and 20 feet tall and go for hundreds of feet down at an angle of 45 degrees.
One of the reasons I keep coming back to Old Dutch is to watch the expressions on my friends faces when they first walk inside.
Most of them wouldn’t dare enter the mines I usually explore but this one is perfect for beginners.
It’s dry, not claustrophobic and you don’t need rappelling gear or balls of steel to enter it.
Sure, a cave-in could still happen but with multiple access points in and out of the mine, it’s doubtful you would get trapped inside.
I guess there’s also a chance you could die if one of those large rocks happened to drop on your head but let’s not think about that right now.
Believe it or not, there were only 12 men employed to work the mine but they were still able to produce 100 tons of pumicite per week while it was in operation.
The mine produced 120 thousand tons of material before it was shutdown in 1947.
It’s always sad to say goodbye but I know it’s only a matter of time before I return once again.