Close-up: Providence Mountains State Recreation Area
featuring Mitchell Caverns
Providence Mountains State Recreation Area (SRA) [SAN BERNARDINO
COUNTY] is home of Mitchell Caverns, which feature spectacular and intricate
limestone formations. The recreation area is located in the eastern Mojave
Desert, 60 miles west of Needles on Interstate 40, 100 miles east of Barstow,
and 17 miles northwest of I-40 near Essay on Essex Road.
Located at an elevation of 4,300 feet, the park is surrounded by one of the
newest National Parks, Mojave National Preserve.
Providence Mountains State Recreation Area has dramatic mountain
ranges, full of cactus, creosote bush, and other desert plants, as well as vistas of
broad valleys below. The park has a visitor center.
The Mary Beale Nature Trail, located near the park's visitor center, is a
self-guided moderate walk through the desert. A brochure describing desert
plants and animals is available. Another, more strenuous, mile-long trail leads to
a spring above the visitor center. There are also cross-country hikes to the many
peaks in the 5,900 acre Providence Mountain State Recreation Area.
The best weather occurs in the Spring and Fall, but, because of the 4,300
foot elevation at the visitor center, temperatures usually remain moderate
throughout the year. Temperatures inside the caverns are at a constant 65
Mitchell Caverns are located in the heart of the State Recreation Area.
The caverns' limestone formations include stalagmites, stalactites, helictites,
shields and drapery. Some of the narrow passageways are lined with calcite
crystals, which give the illusion of sparkling gems covering the walls. First
opened for tours by Jack Mitchell in 1932, the caverns were purchased by the
State in 1954.
They are the only limestone caverns in the State Park System.
Trips through the caverns are conducted by guided tours only and last
about 1 1/2 hours. Although the tour is not strenuous, there is a half-mile walk to
the cave entrance fro