Mitchell Caverns


Useful Information

Location: Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. I 40, 100 km west of Needles.
(34.943122, -115.513241)
Open: SEP to JUN Fri, Sat, Sun, Hol Mon 8-17.
Closed 01-JAN, 25-DEC.
Online booking strongly recommended.
[2023]
Fee: Adults USD 20, Children (3-16) USD 10, Children (0-2) free, Seniors (62+) USD 19.
Day Use Fee: Car USD 10.
[2023]
Classification: SpeleologyKarst Cave
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension: A=1,310 m asl, T=18 °C.
Guided tours: D=120 min, L=2,400m, 800 m inside cave, 1,600 m outside cave.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Jack Mitchell (1964): Keeper of the Caves, The Story of Mitchell Caverns. Reprint.
Address: Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve, PO Box 1, Essex, CA 92332, Tel: +1-760-928-2586.
The California State Parks / Mojave Desert Information Center, 43779 15th St. West, Lancaster, CA, Tel: +1-661-942-0662.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

01-JUL-1931 Winding Stair Cave first explored by Jack Mitchell.
1932 opened for the public by Jack Mitchell.
1954 purchased by the State after the death of Jack Mitchell.
1972 Providence Mountains State Recreation Area created.
1975 declared a National Natural Landmark.
16-OCT-1999 closed due to the 7.1 Hector Mine earthquake, which shook loose rocks near the El Pakiva cave entrance.
15-APR-2000 reopened.

Description

Mitchell Caverns, is named after Jack and Ida Mitchell, its first owners. They were prospecting for silver in the area, but when they discovered the cave, they opened it to the public and offered tours. They built several rock houses, improved the road, created a car park and a campground. This is the only karst cave in the California State Park System. It has nice formations including helictites, lily pads, rimstone dams, draperies, curtains and popcorn. Some speleothems are very rare and were the subject of scientific research. Mitchell Caverns consists of three parts:

  1. El Pakiva, the Devil's House.
  2. Tecopa Cave, named after Tecopa, one of the last chiefs of the Shoshone Indians.
  3. Winding Stair Cave, a vertical cave which is closed to the public.

The two accessible parts of the cave had to be visited seperately when the cave was owned by Jack Mitchell. The California Department of Parks and Recreation had a tunnel built to connect both caves, so today there is only one cave tour showing both caves. The cave tour is an 800 m walk through the cave on uneven ground. But from the Visitor Center to the cave entrance is an 800 m walk (one way) through the hot Mojave Desert. It is easy to understand, why it is more popular during winter, especially October, November, and February through April. This is the only cave on the northern hemisphere we know of, which has its main season during winter.

The remote location in the desert requires additional planning for visits. The next fuel station is 39 km away in Fenner, and there is no food sold at the park. It is very much recommended to carry enough food and water in the car for unexpected situations.

The Visitor Center is the start of various hiking trails. The Mary Beale Nature Trail is a short, moderate walk around the Center. Another trail leads to a spring above the Visitor Center. Also, hikes to some peaks in the Providence Mountain State Recreation Area start here. Be careful when planning such walks, wear sturdy shoes and appropriate clothes. A brochure describing desert plants and animals is available at the Visitor Center.