Route 66 News

Mitchell Caverns will reopen later this year

Mitchell Caverns, a Route 66 attraction in California’s Mojave Desert until state budget cuts forced its closing six years ago, is slated to reopen in May or June.

A spokesman for the California parks system told The Press-Enterprise it doesn’t have a firm date for reopening because “we still have some work to do” in getting it ready for the public.

Mitchell Caverns closed in January 2011 with 69 other state parks because of a state budget crunch.

More than $400,000 was needed to reopen the park and repair damage by vandals and thieves during the closure.

The Committee to Reopen Mitchell Caverns was formed as a joint effort between Poppy Reserve/Mojave Desert Interpretive Association, the Mojave National Preserve Conservancy and the National Parks Conservation Association to raise money. […]

During the closure, thieves vandalized and damaged the caverns and buildings and stole everything they could, including copper wires. They kicked in doors, broke windows, punched holes in drywall, broke display cases and tried to open the caverns’ security gates with sledgehammers.

The newspaper also reported corroded water pipes in the caverns complex also needed to be replaced.

The caverns are named after Jack Mitchell, who with his wife Ida owned and operated the caves from 1934 to 1954 as a rest stop and attraction for nearby Route 66 travelers. The closest town is the Route 66 hamlet of Essex. The area became a state recreation area in 1956 no long after Mitchell’s death.

The Press-Enterprise in another story gave some background on Mitchell Caverns’ history, including about its role in an Oscar-nominated rock ‘n’ roll movie:

One thing you won’t see is the caverns used as a movie site after part of the 1991 motion picture, “The Doors,” was filmed there. A scene in which singer Jim Morrison looked at cave paintings required some temporary drawings be placed on the walls. Afterward, it was extremely difficult to return the walls to their original condition. Since then, it was decided to bar future filming.

(Image of the inside of Mitchell Caverns in 2007 by Amanda Scheliga via Flickr)

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