Welcome to the Friends of Last Chance Canyon
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FLCC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, located in Ridgecrest, California dedicated to preserving and sharing historic sites within the nearby El Paso Mountains. The El Pasos are a unique and picturesque range some 5 miles wide and 20 miles long, located south of Inyokern, with the highest point being Black Mountain, just over 5000 feet. Red Rocks State Park is on the southern end of the range and has beautiful scenic cliffs and spires, check out Red Rocks State Park
The El Pasos have hosted several peoples instrumental in California history. The mountains were revered by ancient Native Americans whose evidence of inhabitation within the range can still be seen today. A large portion of the range is today off limits to all but hiking for the area's protection. Black Mountain itself held a special significance to the early American Indian. In cooler periods the hike to the peak is interesting and offers views of the Indian Wells Valley and surrounding areas.
In the 1880's gold was discovered in Last Chance Canyon and Goler Gulch. These early miners used basic methods such as winnowing and sifting to recover gold. Miners also returned during the depression era, as unemployment was common, and they had improved extraction tools like the motorized drywasher. Today's hobbyist prospector or recreational miner uses metal detectors or battery powered dry washers, and still finds the ellusive "color".
Walt Bickel was a depression era visitor who found gold and much more in the El Pasos. Walt was intrigued by the area and settled in Last Chance canyon to mine and learn the ways of the land. Walt's keen mind studied the land and its history, including the early settlers. Walt knew there was much to learn such as edible plants, animal habits, and seasonal changes which are critical to understand when living in this austere environment. Read more about Walt at the Bickel Camp website and have a free tour when visiting Bickel Camp in the El Paso Mountains.
Another even earlier denizen of the mountains was William "Burro" Schmidt. Burro bought copper mining claims located in the El Pasos above Saltdale at Koehn Lake, and after entering into a gentleman's agreement with a mining company foreman, he dug a tunnel through the hills high above Last Chance Canyon. His effort took some 30 years of seasonal work using a single jack hammer and dynamite, while mucking the ore out of his tunnel by hand. The mining company and its agreement were long gone by the time he finished, but the tunnel is here today for visitors to see, take a look at.
FLCC is devoted to sharing these and other unique areas and sites; trying to preserve their special nature and history while supporting access by the public to see these areas as well. Recent events have shown us that our goal can best be achieved through site stewards, who are volunteers camping near historic areas. With the help of these stewards keeping a watchful eye on things, we can leave items such as mining era cabins and unique tools in their native habitat for everyone to learn of and enjoy. You can join in the effort to protect what's remaining in the El Pasos and even help restore vandalism in some cases. Site occupancy for stewards, and site restoration and/or aging abatement (as might be permitted by the BLM) is a necessary goal of our organization. Our site stewards are trained by the BLM to recognize and respect evidence of early American history as well as have a unique and personal insight into early depression era settlers and their ways.
Our fund raising efforts go toward site steward support and related activities. We today offer the public sanitation facilities at Bickel Camp, with area information and free tours of the camp itself. We are a helpful oasis to travelers in the El Pasos Mountains where no other inhabitated site exists. We hope to offer a learning center and additional cultural resources. Please help us in our fund raising efforts!
Education of the public is a key ingredient to maintaining our heritage. FLCC volunteers give public presentations on Walt Bickel, Burro Schmidt, and historical activities.