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Eagle Mountain, California is a modern day ghost town founded in 1948 by iron magnate Henry J. Kaiser. The town is located at the entrance of the now-defunct Eagle Mountain iron mine, once owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad and located on the southeastern corner of Joshua Tree National Park. The town's fully integrated medical care system was the genesis of the modern-day Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization.

Eagle Mountain, with more abandoned buildings than Bodie, the nation's number one ghost town, grew to a peak population of 4000. It had wide, landscaped streets lined with over four hundred homes with as many as four bedrooms. Two hundred trailer spaces and several boarding houses and dormitories provided living space for Kaiser's itinerant workforce. Other amenities included:



Shopping center

Community swimming pool

Lighted tennis courts

Baseball diamond

Businesses in the town included a bowling alley, two gas stations, eight churches and three schools.

In the late 1930's, Kaiser decided to build the West Coast's fully integrated steel mill. In 1942, Kaiser built such a mill at Fontana, California which is located 112 miles (180 km) west of the Eagle Mountain Mine. Today the Fontano mill is the site of the California Speedway. Kaiser then purchased the idle mines from the Southern Pacific as a source of high grade iron ore.

Production at Fontana began in 1948 and a mining town was constructed below what was soon to become Southern California’s largest iron mine. It connected to the Southern Pacific via a 51-mile-long (82 km) railroad branch known as the Eagle Mountain Railroad. It ran southwest from the mine to the northeast shore of the Salton Sea, just north of the Riverside/Imperial county line. Ore shipments to Fontana steel plant began in October, with five to eight 100-car trains running weekly.

Increased environmental concerns in the 1970's led to a reduction in output and a reduction of the population to a low of 1890. In the summer of 1980 the mine shut down briefly, reopening on September 23. Only 750 workers were brought back to the town with an additional 150 in limbo in Indio, some sixty miles (97 km) west.

On November 3, 1981, Kaiser Corporation announced the phasing out of half the Fontana works and the entire Eagle Mountain Mine operation over several years. The population dwindled as layoffs began. The grocery store closed in October, 1982 and the post office, which had been active since 1951, closed in January, 1983. In June of that year the last official graduating class celebrated their commencement at Eagle Mountain High School, followed by closing of both the mine and mill.

1986 saw a resurgence of Eagle Mountain when the California Department of Corrections proposed placing a unique privately operated prison for low-risk inmates in the town. The shopping center was converted by 1988 into just such a facility. That same year saw the proposal to turn the gigantic 1.5 mile (2.4 km) long by half-mile (800 m) wide open-pit mine into a massive, high-tech sanitary landfill. Trash would be shipped by train from the metropolitan Los Angeles area via the abandoned Kaiser railroad line. The Riverside County Board of Supervisors approved the project in October 1992 after EPA approval of the project. However, as of 2005, the project has yet to begin. State budget problems led to the closure of the prison in December, 2003. Talks resumed in 2005 to reopen the facility.

Eagle Mountain is accessible by Riverside County road R2, twelve miles (19 km) north of Desert Center, midway between Indio and the California/Arizona state line along Interstate 10. The town's relative youth and brief time of abandonment make Eagle Mountain among the country's best preserved ghost towns.

Zip Code 92239


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Web Sites and Links

Eagle Mountain - California Ghost TownPhotos and descriptions by people who once lived in this modern day ghost town.
Eagle Mountain Refugee SiteIncludes scrapbook, memorials, biographies, and games.
Eagle Mountain--A Proposed Giant Landfill in the MojaveDescription and details of a landfill proposal at the former mining site.
Steph's Eagle Mountain Links & Reunion InformationHigh school and community reunion information.
Structural Geology of Eagle Mountain, Amargosa Valley, CAScientific explanation of the formation of the mountain.

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