In our last post, we visited the ghosts of Desert Center, California which my wife and I fortuitously discovered after an attempt to reach and explore the modern nearby ghost town of Eagle Mountain.
Eagle Mountain has the distinction of being one of the country’s best-preserved modern ghost towns which is why it was on my “to-do” list as I have seen numerous photos and Youtube videos convincing me it was worth a visit.
The town was founded in 1948 by noted industrialist Henry Kaiser housing the workers of the now-defunct Eagle Mountain iron mine. During the mine’s heyday, the town boasted a population of 4,000 residents. An interesting side note is that Eagle Mountain’s fully integrated medical care system instituted by Kaiser was the beginning of the modern-day Kaiser Permanente Health Care.
The town featured wide landscaped streets lined with hundreds of modern homes, two hundred RV spaces, several boarding houses and dormitories for the bachelor miners in town. Amenities included a public swimming pool, parks, auditorium, lit tennis courts, bowling alley, schools, a baseball diamond, churches, medical facilities and more. Businesses serving the residents included a shopping center and a couple of gas stations.
Iron ore from the mine was shipped by railroad 112 miles west to a steel mill in Fontana, California on a branch line known as the Eagle Mountain Railroad with up to eight 100 car trains running weekly.
As with most mining ventures, favorable conditions for mining and extracting a profit ebbed, forcing the mine to close in the early 1980s. Without the mine as an income source, the residents left town, the shopping center closed, and the high school graduated its last class in June of 1983.
Our attempted visit
As regular readers of this blog know, I am a big fan of Google Earth and always review satellite imagery prior to exploring a new location. A quick look at Eagle Mountain showed two routes for getting there; one was the Eagle Mountain Road and the other Kaiser Road. Since Eagle Mountain Road was shorter, had a direct exit off the freeway, and a great spot to drop our travel trailer, I decided that would be our route.
Had I zoomed in a little closer, I would have discovered Kaiser Road was paved while Eagle Mountain Road had deteriorated into little more than a path through the desert since the town’s closing 35 years ago.
The “road” had numerous washouts, has been detoured around an aqueduct pumping station and includes several “less than improved” crossings of Eagle Mountain Railroad (which time has been unkind to as well). We eventually reached Eagle Mountain only to be met by a locked gate and large signs warning against trespass!
Seems the ghost town is under the watchful eye of a caretaker and the photos and videos I have seen of the town were either taken illegally or during a period of time when the town wasn’t posted against trespass.
Even more discouraging was when I discovered Kaiser Road (the other route) was paved and we had just spent an extraordinary amount of time navigating a bad road only to be met by a locked gate when we could have been there in minutes on the paved road.
As I shared in the last entry, it all worked out in the end as we returned to our travel trailer via paved Kaiser Road and discovered the quaint little ghost town of Desert Center.
Bumping down an old deserted road only to be met by a locked gatekeeping you from your intended destination, just another adventure in RVing!
If any of you reading this have visited Eagle Mountain, or maybe lived there, please share your memories.
See also: Exploring The Ghost Town Of Desert Center, California
Dave Helgeson’s many roles in the RV industry started before he even had a driver’s license. His grandparents and father owned an RV dealership before the term “RV” had been coined, and Dave played a pivotal role in nearly every position of an RV dealership. He and his wife Cheri launched their own RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest. The duo also spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as President of a local chapter of the Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA), worked on the board of advisors for the RV Technician Program of a local technical college, and served as a board member of the Manufactured Home and RV Association. Dave’s reputation earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently roam in their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
Ken Cater says
Played a HS football game at Eagle Mountain, traveled to this away game from Borrego Springs in the fall of 1967. This was the year of Borrego Springs’ HS first ever football team. Great game against some tough desert kids, very unique company town Eagle Mountain was, not surprised to learn it’s been gated off from would-be visitors. I’d love to go check it out.
Locked gates are common everywhere and are the bane of my adventure existance, so I have resorted to an electric assist bicycle and wander into areas totaly oblivious to road signs as I’m not on roads, just trails and open ground. When I hear gunfire, I abruptly turn and leave. So much for the constitutional right to freedom of movement.
Rae Ann Denny says
My father was a Diesel mechanic I don’t remember how long we were there.
I think I was around 8 years old when we moved away. I was born in 1954.
My sister and her husband lived here after we left in the early 60’s.
I believe they left in the early 70’s.
Patricia Caudill says
Please keep sharing all your info I look forward to seeing and hearing all this as the first of the year going RVing full time by myself with dog and cat. Can’t wait.. seeing them thru u for now. Thank you P. Caudill Huachuca,City Az
I grew up in Eagle Mountain! It was a wonderful place to grow up and so deep are the ties that bind us that we have yearly TOWN reunions in Laughlin, NV. It was such a carefree place to live and we created our own fun in the middle of nowhere, summers were spent hiking in the desert, climbing the mountains and having fun at the swimming pool. When I’ve shown pictures to people of our remote desert town, they couldn’t imagine growing up in such a place…I couldn’t imagine growing up anywhere else! We were the lucky ones. Even seeing the way it is now, I refuse to be sad because in my mind’s eye, I see it as it was. It was a special place to call home.
Carol lawson says
My great aunt and uncle lived there twice actually. I remember visiting when I was around 4 or 5 so that would be early 80s then after we moved to Texas we went back to visit. My uncle worked as a guard at the prison and my aunt I think worked at the post office. That was probably in 1991 or so. Loved it! Have so many memories and I love the history of it
Keith Matthews says
Eagle Mountain was a great place to grow up. We had hundreds of miles of desert to play in. We had cars motorcycles or sand buggies long before we had drivers license.
Theresa Coggins says
I lived in EM as a child and my mother worked in the DC Cafe. Eagle Mountain was the best place a child could ever dream of growing up. Even today those of us who grew up there share our memories via our FB group. I recently went back “home” to see it, and like you, was met by the locked fence. I was able to see the baseball diamonds I won my trophies at, the pool I learned to swim in, and even the last house I lived in when I was there. Eagle Mountain will forever be in my heart!!!
Vallerie Walthour says
I didn’t get to grow up in Eagle Mt, but did spend my senior year at Eagle Mt. High School! Class of 1975! Having attended a much larger school prior to moving to Eagle Mt. I can tell you EMHS was the greatest experience of my high school years. EMHS had no clicks and everyone was so welcoming, I made such great friends there $ even met my future husband (we divorced 7 1/2 years later) & father of my two biological sons!
Rebecca Boles says
What FB group is for Eagle Mtn.? I was 10 yrs old when my grandparents left there in ’83, but I had great times for 5yrs while my older sister and I visited every other weekend.
bill wameling bam bam says
hey keith its been a long time I left EM in 1977 I hope you all are doing great God bless you all
My Dad moved us to EM from TX the summer I turned 11. The friends I met there embraced me immediately and are still my friends today, 54 years later. Every one of us would go back to that place in time in a heartbeat. Thanks for your blog.
Rebecca Boles says
My grandparents lived in Eagle Mountain, my grandfather worked for the mine and left in 1982-83 when it closed. The Greyhound bus would stop at Desert Center cafe. Ride down the road to Eagle Mtn. It was so fun being a kid in that town.
Riding motorcycles through the desert and up Yahama Hill. That was the best townspeople I have ever come across. I made many friends that I have lost touch with now, but I think my father still talks to some. Great memories of that town.
Michelle Crawford says
I lived there until I was nine. We moved in 79 or 80. I think rumors of the mine shutting down caused us to leave and move to Houston. I have very fond memories of my childhood there: swimming at the Highschool pool during the summer. Believe it or not we even had a donut man that delivered donuts like an ice cream truck. As a kid we walked everywhere. During school we even went home for lunch.
Again, great memories.
Dave Planitzer says
Looking for ghost towns in CA? Check out Bodie, CA. It’s a preserved/restored gold mining town in very good condition. Worth a visit and walk through.
Erlinda Olivas says
Manuel, I moved there 1972 got a job at the mine. I worked keeping record of daily explosives. wife and I and baby on the way lived in a mobile home we purchased. I enjoyed my job there for 9 1/2 years didn’t make it to 10 years. Had my daughter borned in Bakersfield, Ca. Two other children boys, borned in Indio. Ca. Raised all three at the mine and my wife stayed home taking care of home and kids. Mine closed my daughter was 11 years, 8 & 3. Was a very peaceful place. My wife and a friend would go for walks taking the kids in the evening. School so close, kids walked to and from. Everyone friendly.
Does anyone know why it’s fenced and locked up or by who?
I worked at the prison in Eagle Mountain. I LOVED the quiet, simple life there. I didn’t know that the prison had closed and was contemplating moving back there after I retired from the Arizona Department of Corrections in 2015. I was very sad to learn the prison was closed. I attempted to go back and see the area, but was met by locked gates. I again, returned in Jan of 2023 with my daughter and grand kids. We were hoping to see the houses we lived in. We had a person waving us away. We continued to walk to the gates. I would love to know who is living in the houses now and if it is possible to inquire about living there again.