The Long-Dormant Mitchell Caverns Are Back in Business

The limestone caves had been closed to the public since 2011.

The Committee to Reopen Mitchell Caverns recently announced that the Providence Mountain State Recreation Area, home of Mitchell Caverns, reopened to the public on November 3.

Due to California’s budget crisis all tours were suspended and the Providence Mountains SRA closed in January 2011. Vandalism has plagued the caverns’ visitor center and installations since its closure.

Mitchell Caverns, within the Mitchell Caverns Natural Preserve, is a trio of limestone caves, located on the east side of the Providence Mountains at an elevation of 4,300 feet (1,300 m), within the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. It is located in the Mojave Desert, at the northwestern end of Essex Road, off of Interstate 40 (Needles Freeway) in San Bernardino County.

The caverns were created during the Pleistocene epoch, when ground water with a high carbonic acid content ate into the surrounding marble and sedimentary limestone. Stalactites, stalagmites and other cave formations were formed from calcium carbonate left by dripping mineral water. For many years the caves were thought to be “dead,” that is, the formations were no longer growing. However, recent studies have found some signs of life.

The park will be open Friday through Sunday and on holidays. Day use and cavern tours will be available. Reservations for cave tours will be available after November 1. (Some slots for cave tours will be first come, first serve.) Phone number for reservations will be announced sometime before that.

The campground will not be available until 2018. (Hole in the Wall campground in the Mojave Preserve is approximately 30 minutes away.) All visitors are reminded that this park is in a remote location. Gas, food and lodging are not readily available.

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