The Desert Queen Mine

The Desert Queen Mine
Most people don’t associate Joshua Tree National Park with history lessons – but most people would be wrong. Within its borders sits the Desert Queen Ranch and Mine, the estate of a William F. Keyes and his family. Keyes’ experience is emblematic of the difficulties settlers encountered in trying to earn a living on the Mojave desert; it’s a history lesson drawn in both sweat and blood. Visitors to Joshua Tree who take the walking tour of the Desert Queen Ranch will come away with a better understanding of live on the fringes.

Located near the Hidden Valley Campground, the ranch can only be experienced through a walking tour. Reservations, which are required, may be made up to six months in advance. You’ll meet your tour guide at a locked gate outside the ranch and following him or her for approximately half a mile. You will see a number of artifacts that demonstrate how the family lived and worked; you’ll also be treated to stories about the inhabitants and their escapades. Beware – this is a tale that includes mayhem and murder, as well as children dying too young and other sorrows.

Because of the desert sun, you’ll want to make sure that you’re wearing sunscreen. To make walking more comfortable, wear hiking boots or good exercise shoes. Wear a hat and bring an extra layer of clothing – even if you keep it tied around your waist for the entire tour, you’ll be glad of it in the event of a sudden weather change, which is particularly possible in the cooler months. No eating is allowed on the tour, but bring a water bottle.

The Desert Queen Ranch will particularly appeal to photographers, as the desert light results in sharp shadows and intense contrast. Will you shoot in color or use black and white? No matter – you’ll be rewarded with beautiful documentary shots of a bygone era as well as incredible landscapes. Tripods aren’t permitted on most tours; if you want to focus on photojournalism or long exposures during your visit, ask about the special photography tours when you make your reservation.

When visiting the Desert Queen (as well as all other parts of Joshua Tree National Park), be sure to check the website before leaving to learn of any dangers or restrictions. Note that the tour is not given during the hot summer months, when temperatures routinely top one hundred degrees Fahrenheit. And while we all fight COVID-19, double-check to make sure that you’re doing it right - during the pandemic, camping is restricted to single family groups in accordance with ongoing quarantine restrictions.

Desert Queen Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park -

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This content was written by Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. . If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Korie Beth Brown, Ph.D. for details.