Mysterious buyer pays $22 million for California ghost town


A mysterious buyer paid more than $22 million for a California ghost town last month, sparking speculation about possible plans for the abandoned site.

Nestled in Riverside County outside Joshua Tree National Park, “Eagle Mountain” was founded as a company town for Kaiser Steel Mine in 1948, CBS Moneywatch reported. The entire property and mining claims were purchased for $22.5 million on April 17, public records show.

The buyer, Ecology Mountain Holdings, has little public presence aside from a business address in Cerritos. The company seems best known for using large red rigs for its hauling services, SFGate reported.

For almost 40 years, Eagle Mountain was a vibrant, palm-tree-lined hub for Kaiser miners and their families. With up to 4,000 residents at one time, the town boasted more than 400 stucco and plaster air-conditioned homes, as well as a 350-seat recreation hall, the outlet said.

Eagle Mountain town manager Jan Roberts pictured in the ghost town in 2003.
Eagle Mountain Town Manager Jan Roberts stands near her then-dying community in 2003.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

During Eagle Mountain’s peak years, the Kaiser miners broke records for their tireless output. But then there were staff cuts. Kaiser announced plans to phase out the mine in the early 1980s, and Eagle Mountain’s residents were evicted in 1983.

“It’s like a piece of your heart is being ripped out,” said Vicky Yates, one of the 23 seniors from Eagle Mountain High School’s final class in 1983, to the New York Times of the forced move.

“But for me, Eagle Mountain is still going to be home. It’s where my basic feelings are coming from. I’ll always remember it.”

Line of homes in Eagle Mountain.
The old steel town once housed 4,000 people.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Former resident Connie Ottinger looks through the broken window of an abandoned home in Eagle Mountain.
Former resident Connie Ottinger looks through the broken window of an abandoned home in Eagle Mountain.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Eagle Mountain regional elementary school is still open: There are about two dozen students between kindergarten and eighth grade, SFGate reported.

Shortly after Kaiser moved out, the area was home to the low-security Eagle Mountain Community Correctional Facility, which closed after a deadly riot in 2003.

More recently, the desolate landscape in and around Eagle Mountain has drawn attention from Hollywood. A pivotal scene in Christopher Nolan’s flick “Tenet” was filmed in the abandoned town, and Carol King shot the music video for her 1993 song “Lay Down My Life” in nearby Desert Center.

The Eagle Mountain skyline.
The last remaining miners and their families were evicted in 1983.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

In 2021, trucking giant Balwinder S. Wraich purchased more than 1,000 acres in Desert Center for $6.25 million, SFGate said.

“We’re going to develop a truck stop, gas station and hotel,” Wraich told the outlet of his plans for the location.

“There’s no food for 40 miles. My goal is to get something big in the next two years. It’s going to help the community.”

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