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CALIFORNIA

Lost Mine of the Sheep Hole Mountains

THE TALE

The rugged Sheep Hole Mountains rise up from the desert sands of southern California about 20 miles east of Twentynine Palms. The Sheep Hole Mountains are a small range, stretching only about 15 miles in a northwest-southeast direction. They lie about 8 miles northeast of the Pinto Mountains, which straddle the San Bernardino/Riverside county line. The dry lake bed known as Dale Lake lies between the Sheep Hole Mountains and the Pinto Mountains.

The Sheep Hole Mountains are virtually waterless. Only one freshwater spring flows for most of the year. It is located on the northwest flank of the range, near Sheep Hole Pass. The Sheep Hole Mine lies close by.

During the early 1950's, a stash of old letters was discovered in the attic of a house in El Dorado, California. The letters contained the ramblings of an old California prospector named L. O. Long. They also revealed a secret! During his travels in

southern California, Long stumbled on a rich placer deposit of gold somewhere east of the alkali beds of Dale Lake.

The letters provided many clues to the location of the gold placer. In them, Long mentioned several landmarks including the "Sheep Mountains", the "Palms", the old Dale Mining District, and the dried-up lake bed of the same name. He claimed that the placer deposit was in a small canyon east of Dale Lake. A small spring issued from the rocks above.

Long apparently worked the deposit for a short time, recovering over 3 pounds of gold! In his letters, he estimated that the placer deposit was located about 15 miles east of Dale Lake. In that case, the small weathered range just east of the Sheep Hole Mountains must also be considered. This desolate stretch of broken hills is known as the Calumet range. Neither it nor the Sheep Holes are highly mineralized. But somewhere in that rugged country lies a glory hole of placer gold.

MINING HISTORY

No major mining districts exist in either the Sheep Hole or Calumet Mountains, although both are home to a single important mine. In both cases, the mines are named after the mountains themselves. Both the Sheep Hole Mine and the Calumet Mine were discovered in the northernmost portion of their respective ranges. Other than these two major deposits, the Sheep Hole and Calumet Mountains have so far proven to be nearly devoid of mineralization.

The nearest major mining district is located in the Pinto Mountains, about 8 miles southwest of the Sheep Hole range. The Pinto Mountains are richly mineralized. The first gold strikes occurred there in the early 1880's, but it wasn't until 1885 that the fabulous Virginia Dale lode was discovered. Eventually, many rich veins were located in the northern and eastern portions of the Pinto range.

Interestingly, placer gold was first discovered near the dry lake bed north of the Pinto Mountains. The Sheep Hole Mountains may have served as a source for some of this placer gold, but early prospectors traced most of it to the Pinto Mountains. As it turned out, the placer deposits of the Dale District produced an enormous amount of gold. One of the richest canyons was dubbed "25 Ounce Gulch". Modern-day prospectors using metal-detectors have found gold nuggets in nearly every canyon and arroyo in the district. Any gully or hillside close to a mine has good potential. A legend surrounds the famous O.K. Mine, located about 3 miles southeast of the Virginia Dale deposit. A Hungarian prospector named Miklos Kovacs stumbled on a rich gold vein somewhere near the portal of the O.K. Mine. Unfortunately, he was unable to relocate it! Prospectors still search for the lost vein today.