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Rainbow Basin and Looking for the Lost Hillside

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We like to go out in the Mojave Desert and look for things. Me, Miss August and the Tomb Raider. We have looked for obvious things like gold and silver. We have also looked for less obvious things like vanished towns, lost mines, minerals and gemstones. We have spent a lot of time looking for fossils and artifacts and even archeology sites that no one has visited for 50 years or more.

This Spring we are looking for a mineral site we found a long time ago and we can't exactly remember where it is. There are chalcedony nodules there called Desert Roses. We have many books and maps to find minerals and gemstones in the Mojave but we can't locate this particular place. So, we go looking.

The general area is North of Barstow on Fort Irwin Road, which has Rainbow Basin, Fossil Bed Road and the road to the Goldstone Deep Space Communications Center. There are miles and miles of dirt roads and few, very few, houses or ranches out there.

The Desert Rose location we lost was on a low hillside. Most of the samples were broken, with only a few as good as the picture. The first time we went there, in a little canyon I followed, I found a skull. It looked like a snake skull but was as big as a man's hand. I took some pictures of it and left it. When I got home I researched it but couldn't find anything like it in the local museums. I realized then that I should have taken the skull with me. The next time we went out there I went looking for it. It was gone. That was unusual. Things in the desert tend to stay in place for a very long time, particularly in remote places like that. It would not be unusual to find an old coffee can that had been there for 75 years.

So far we have made four trips out looking for the spot with no luck. It is easy to remember directions but much harder to remember distances in the desert. Things tend to be farther than you remember them being. We will keep looking.

Rainbow Basin Syncline - Pressure has folded the rock layers. The top is sediment from the Pleistocene. Erosion has exposed fossil bearing layers from the Miocene, 12 to 14 million years ago. Early horse and camel fossils are found there as well as fossilized roots. Horses were about the size of a Great Dane back then.


  1. Lee's Avatar
    Fascinating stuff, Doc! Looking forward to reading more.
  2. Garuda's Avatar
    What Lee said!