California Desert trips,interesting places to visit: ghost towns, old mines, lost treasure, personalities and bits of the old west


The desert is sort of my second home. The places described below are special and worth visiting provided you know the story. That's what this blog is all about. Now I have tried as best I can to be factual but sometimes you hate to let facts get in the way of a good yarn.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Shootout At Boulder Springs

Three lawmen rode up Sage Canyon to the Indian ranch area located near Boulder Springs. They were looking for Wampei Jiggens, a member of the Shoshone band that lived there. He was wanted for setting fire to a number of haystacks in the farming community located on the South Fork of the Kern River. The year 1891.

The three met with Chief Kiowa, leader of the band, who told the men that he'd get his horse and help find Jiggens. Suddenly, one of Chief Kiowa's sons opened fire from the door of a building. At the same moment, the Chief pulled his pistol and fired at the surprised lawmen. They managed to return fire killing the Chief and two of his sons. When it was over Constable Jonnie Powers laid dead, Oliver McCoy, who was deputized to accompany the two lawmen, was seriously wounded and Constable Oliver Gann, out of ammunition, had taken to the road heading back to town.

As expected, the incident stirred the small South Fork community into action. Early the next morning a posse headed for Sage Canyon. Upon arrival they found that the Indians, expecting further trouble, had fled with belongings. The posse set fire to buildings, dug-up the bodies of the Chief and his sons and left them fully exposed to the elements as revenge. They figured rightly that Jiggens had fled with the rest of the band.

The hunt for Jiggens continued for some time but proved unsuccessful. The band had led the posse out onto the desert and eventually eluded it.

Jiggens didn't seem to take his part in the crime seriously. He was later spotted walking around the town of Lone Pine wearing Powers' constable badge on his hat. The local authorities had been on the lookout for him and possession of that badge led to his arrest. Jiggens stood trial in Bakersfield Superior Court, was found guilty of his part in the crimes committed at Boulder Springs and was sentenced to life in prison.

Credit for this story goes to historian Bob Powers. Johnny Powers was Bob's great uncle.

The Boulder Springs site is located in eastern Kern County at 35* 33' 45" north latitude; Longitude 118* 01' 43". You get there by way of unimproved Sage Canyon Road, BLM route SC56.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

California Desert Overview

The California Desert extends from Death Valley on the north to the Mexican border on the south, and accounts for 25% of the land area in the state -- about 24 million acres. Following is a list of what I consider important areas and sites within this extensive region, and the posting that I well be making in the following months will involve many of them: Parks; Joshua Tree, Death Valley, East Mojave, Red Rock, Anza Borrego, and Picacho. Outstanding Wilderness Mountain Ranges; coyote, chuckwalla, Mecca Hills, Palen/McCoy, Old Woman, Turtle, Whipple, Kingston, Clark, Owens Peak and Panamint; Special Areas; Jawbone/Butterbredt, El Paso Mountains, Saline and Eureka valleys, Pipes Canyon, Rodman/Newberry, Yuha Desert, Superstition Hills, Cargo Muchacho Palo verdce, Palen Ironwood forest, Sperry Wash, Panamint Valley and Afton Canyon. Sand Dunes; Kelso, Imperial, Rice, Dumont and Panamint; Dry Lake Beds; El Mirage, Silurian, Ivanpah, Silver, Soda, and Searle's; Off-Highway Areas; Jawbone Canyon, Dove Springs, Spangler Hills, Dumont Dunes and part of the Imperial dunes.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Jawbone-Butterbredt a place to visit

If you like four-wheeling in the desert, the Jawbone-Butterbredt area is the place to visit. Most open routes are passable without engaging four wheels. However, because of heavy motorcycle and quad activity, some stretches present deep sand that can bog-down vehicles with narrow tires.

A short time back, my son and I took Bird Springs Road from the Los Angeles Aqueduct Road to Kelso Valley. Except for a few sandy spots, I'm sure almost any vehicle could make it through. The road is rough in spots but overall well maintained and signed. And, we had the old road all to ourselves.

According to a Boy Scout sign located at the intersection of Bird Springs with Kelso Road, John C. Fremont and party took this route in their famous exploration of the West in 1844. Some knowledgeable folk claim that he crossed at a place farther south. I'll report on this controversy at a later date.

Thanks to the great the effort by the Bureau of Land Management, off-road experience here is the best in the California Desert. I should know, I've been over the region for the past 50 years, from Saline Valley on the north to the Yuha Desert on the south. The Bureau has done a good job of maintaining and signing designated routes.

To get full benefit out of this country get a copy of "Off-Highway Vehicle Riding Areas and Trails", published by Friends of Jawbone at BLM Visitor Station located at the intersection of Highway 14 and Jawbone Road.

We'll talk more about this area later.