While researching the high desert, I came across some information on Jawbone and Last Chance Canyons which are a popular destination for hikers and off-road vehicle enthusiasts, so I decided to explore this information to find out more about it. The following is what I found according to Wikipedia, Back Country Adventures of Southern California, Environmental effects of off-road vehicles; Management in Arid Regions, California Place Names from the University of California Press, Los Angeles Aqueduct Jawbone Canyon Siphon, Friends of Jawbone Canyon website, the National Register Information System, Last Chance Canyon, Friends of Last Chance Canyon and the official BLM Jawbone Canyon website.
Jawbone Canyon is geographic feature in the Mojave Desert and is maintained by the U.S. and Calif. Bureau of Land Management. The area is located approximately 20 miles north of Mojave on Calif. State Route 14 in Kern County and is a popular destination for hikers and off-road enthusiasts.
Europeans first settled in Jawbone Canyon around 1860; naming it Jawbone because its shape resembled a mandible and the trail was used as a trade route from Keyesville into the Piute Mountains (which is not to be confused with the Piute Mountains of the Eastern Mojave Desert). During the Kern River gold rush, several gold mines operated in the Canyon; the most successful of these was the St. John’s Mine which produced nearly $700,000 worth of gold between 1860 and 1875. The Gwynn Mine on the Geringer Grade ran six claims, producing a total of $770,000 worth of gold and quartz before ceasing operations in 1942: mining in the area continued throughout the 1940s, mainly focusing on rhyolite and antimony.
Jawbone Canyon has been used for recreation since the early 20th century and a scientific study in 1983 showed that extensive environmental damage has been caused by off-road vehicle operating in the area; although off-roading is still permitted in the recreation area, as the Jawbone-Butterbredt Area of Critical Environmental Concern, riders are restricted to established trails.
Jawbone Canyon has many wonderful features such as the largest sag pipe of the Los Angeles Aqueduct crosses Jawbone Canyon; Blue Point, which is a large hill covered in blue-green stone, marks the entrance to Alphie Canyon (the color is due to oxidized copper in the rock); the Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm is visible from the Eastern end of the trail and Jawbone Canyon Road terminates at Piute Mountain Road which is located inside the Sequoia National Forest.
Last Chance Canyon is a canyon in the El Paso Mountains located near Johannesburg; the canyon runs from Saltdale in the south to Black Mountain in the north-part if the canyon lies within Red Rock Canyon State Park (more in a later story). The canyon has a variety of archaeological sites such as pictrgraphs, villages, rock shelters, mills and quarries and historical sites that include gold mining camps. The canyon is owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and is open for recreational use; hiking, camping and four-wheeler vehicles are permitted in most areas of the canyon. Last Chance Canyon was added to the National Register of Historic Places on Dec. 5, 1972 and is a breath-taking area for sight-seeing.