Twentynine Palms Historical Society
29 Palms, California

29 Palms Arrastra

Culbertson Arrastra
Arrastra on Culbertson homestead
(Photo by Pat Murphy)

The Spanish first introduced the arrastra to the New World in the 1500's. The word arrastra comes from the Spanish word "arrastre," meaning to drag along the ground. When ore was quarried out of the hard rock mines, the quartz had to be crushed to free the gold. The arrastra was the earliest and simplest device introduced into the remote areas of the California Gold Fields to do this operation.

The simplest form of the arrastra was a flat-bottomed drag stone placed in a circular, rock-lined pit and connected to a center post by a long arm. With a horse, mule or person providing power at the other end of the arm, the stone was dragged slowly around in a circle.

Ore placed between the stone floor and drag stone was crushed into a coarse powder after which water and quicksilver were added. The resulting slurry was then moved to sluices (troughs) where the gold was recovered.

Arrastra at 29 Palms
Old Arrastra at 29 Palms
Believed to have been the arrastra built and operated by Phil Sullivan on
his 160 acre homestead northwest of todays Adobe and Sullivan roads.

Arrastra at Old Dale in 1941
Arrastra at Old Dale, September 1941
(National Park Service photo by George A. Grant.)

Arrastra at Old Dale in 2008
Arrastra at Old Dale, February 2008

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