Not long before Joshua Tree National Park became the hiking destination it is today, it attracted a different sort of desert adventurer. Miners, lured west by the prospect of gold lurking beneath the arid earth, descended upon the land. Some ruins of their mills and homesteads still stand today, scattered throughout the parched terrain.
The Wall Street Mill and nearby Wonderland Ranch are two such sites. Knit together by a walking trail, they’re standing reminders of the park’s past pioneers.
A miner named Bill Keys built the mill, which is one of the best-preserved ones in the area. The powerful piece of technology ground chunks of extracted ore, allowing people to sift through the crushed pieces in search of silver and gold.
His mill was so efficient, it led Keys to shoot and kill his neighbor, Worth Bagley, over a dispute about accessing it. But rather than hide from his crime, Keys decided to erect a small monument to the murder, reading, “Here is where Worth Bagley bit the dust at the hand of W. F. Keys, May 11, 1943.” Sadly, after several instances of vandalism, the marker was removed by the park service. A small sign now stands at the site to mark this lost memorial to the rugged history of the Wild West.
The nearby Wonderland Ranch ruins, which now are little more than a few crumbling pink walls, add an unexpected pop of color to a landscape otherwise dominated by earthy shades of tan and green. Not much is known about the family who built the house. Much like the gold mining industry that drew them to the area, they, too, have faded from relevance.
Know Before You Go
Take the Wall Street Mill Trail.