New Idria Mine – Exotic Geology in Central California

Pt. 1 – The Way There…


I went out to New Idria with my dad in early spring, an abandoned mining town famous for finding the mercury used in the latter gold rush and more modern-day pollution. It is northwest of Coalinga, in the mountains just to the west of the central valley, in San Benito county.


Apologies for the car parts and windshield reflections, it was hot and I didn’t want to open the window too much, and the views were better up front.

From the valley, into the desolate wilderness


Love what the sun shade did with this one, those almond trees are so full it was a little sickening with our water shortages, in this part of the state especially


Rolling hills


Desert landscape, as the mountains further west soak up all the rain and produce a shadow here with little precipitation


One of my favorite road shots, it was this pretty the entire time


Windy, then straight, windy, then straight




A lone, dry well


Along with a lone, bright tree and a lone, black horse




I want to go to that green spot, I bet it has a nice view and looks like paradise compared to down here


Steep, steep hills


Some sort of drying elevator, but not sure what they could grow out here, not even hay really


Then the road got bad, I mean 10 mph and still bone-jarring bad


Such a tiny strip left


Until everyone said screw this and created a dirt road right next to the bad one. You could go 5 times faster on the dirt!


Then the geology really got interesting, see all the colors, and how they mix


This sandstone created really interesting, and creepy, formations


They drill for oil south of here in the valley and hills, so I wasn’t surprised to find this well, among a handful of others


You can really see how the layers have been thrust upwards in this shot of the mountains, there are fossils in that white layer near the bottom, but more on that later


We were headed up to the top of this mountain to go looking for Benitoite, the state gemstone that comes in brilliant blue triangles


On the way there, you go through the old town of new idria, but the road basically ends here


Then you see the toxic elements of mine reclamation and cleanup; this is a pile of spent cinnabar, more on that in a later post


Another huge pile of tailings, parts of the town were built on them!


They leak lead, mercury, cadmium and other heavy metals, along with the water coming out of the many abandoned mine shafts in the area


Next up: the town itself, slowly decaying, and the mine entrance

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