Keys Ranch, Joshua Tree National Park

Keys Ranch (or Desert Queen Ranch) in Joshua Tree National Park was built and extended between 1910 and the 1960s. The building structures are still in place and so are some of the mining machinery, old cars and trucks, and spare parts.

Keys Ranch main building

Short history of Keys Ranch

Many rugged individuals tried their luck at cattle ranching, mining, and homesteading in the high desert. And so was Bill Keys, whose colorful life story (includes a murder and prison time) shows the hard work and ingenuity it took to settle and prosper in the Mojave Desert. Keys owned a number of mines where he dug for gold and gypsum. He operated a stamp mill, crushed ore, built a dam, and created a lake.

abandoned cars

Is it all a pile of junk?

Many abandoned cars and trucks were left behind when Bill Keys died and the ranch became defunct. Bed frames, old machinery and tools, spare parts are now scattered around and as you walk through the area, watch where you step.

The visit left me a little unsettled. The ranch is listed as a National Historic Register Site, but I felt it was more of a junk yard than preserved history. I guess one man’s junk is another’s treasure.

Visit Keys Ranch

Keys Ranch is not generally open to the public. It’s in a remote area of Joshua Tree National Park. You can book a tour of the ranch with a National Park ranger through the Joshua Tree National Park.

I am still debating whether this place is worth a visit. As a photographer I liked playing around with the color of rusty things. However, as an explorer, I found this place just a pile of trash.

rusty things – a photographer’s delight

Make up your own mind whether it’s junk or treasure.

I was able to access Keys Ranch via a Desert Institute’s photography workshop.

This post was inspired by Weekly Prompts Photo Challenge: Junk.

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