header image

[Sign Up Now] to Receive Our FREE Daily SCVTV-SCVNews Digest by E-Mail

Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
November 26
1916 - A score of Wobblies bust up Newhall Jail after commandeering SP freight train [story]

Commentary by Linda A. Castro
| Thursday, Jun 16, 2016

LindaCastroThere is an odd and mysterious tunnel in the Mojave Desert, specifically in the El Paso Mountains east of Highway 14 and north of the Redrock-Randsburg Road.

The tunnel cuts through about a half-mile of solid granite and does not lead anywhere. It merely emerges on a high ledge in the middle of nowhere.

This tunnel stands as a monument to one man’s perseverance, grit, and perhaps bizarre obsession.

It is believed that William Henry Schmidt, better known as “Burro” Schmidt, began building this tunnel so he could provide transportation to the railroad for his ore more easily. He had chosen to mine for gold in a mountain that required him to use a treacherous trail to haul ore to the smelter.

He decided to bore through the mountain instead.

Some accounts are that Schmidt began digging his tunnel in 1902, while others say it was as late as 1906. It is believed he was about 36 when he began digging the tunnel and about 68 when he finished. Depending on which account is accurate, Schmidt spent anywhere from 32 to 38 years accomplishing the task of single-handedly drilling a tunnel nearly half a mile long.

What is even more amazing is that the only tools he used were picks, hammers, hand drills and dynamite. He could not afford kerosene and instead used candles; he would make one candle last an entire day.

burroschmidt01On many occasions, he was seriously injured by his dynamite explosions while digging the tunnel because he refused to pay for long fuses which were more expensive. This earned him the name of “Jackass Schmidt” by some of the locals – which led him to take on the name of “Burro” later in life.

Schmidt removed rubble from the tunnel with a wheelbarrow and even carried it out on his back. Eventually, he installed iron tracks and a mine cart to transport debris. His leveling method was a bowl of water on the ore cart track he put down.

Today the tunnel is dead straight for 2,000 feet, with a sharp turn at the end that exists above Koehn Dry Lake and the town of Cantil.

Despite the construction of a road in 1920 that eliminated the need for his tunnel, he continued to dig. No one knows if he ever struck gold, but when he finally reached the other side of the mountain and reached daylight in 1938, he simply walked away from his life’s work. He packed up and left the mountain and lived the last part of his life in nearby Ridgecrest.

burroschmidt02Was Schmidt crazy? Many people thought so, since Schmidt claimed to be obsessed and unable to stop until the job was done. However, many believe he was following a substantial vein of gold through the mountain.

If you visit the tunnel today, you can walk upright through the entire tunnel in about 30 minutes. You will see a memorial plaque to Schmidt and will be treated to a spectacular view at the end of the tunnel.

Burro Schmidt Tunnel can be accessed by a dirt road (EP15) that is best driven with a high-clearance 4×4 vehicle. Signage for the tunnel is minimal and can often be missed. For example, the makeshift sign on Highway 14 is low to the ground and does not resemble an official Bureau of Land Management sign. There is, however, an official BLM route sign that marks EP15 at its juncture with Highway 14.



Linda Castro is a nature enthusiast and animal lover.  She is the Desert Field Organizer for the California Wilderness Coalition and serves on the board of the SCV-based Community Hiking Club.  Her commentaries relate to California’s deserts.


Comment On This Story
COMMENT POLICY: We welcome comments from individuals and businesses. All comments are moderated. Comments are subject to rejection if they are vulgar, combative, or in poor taste.
REAL NAMES ONLY: All posters must use their real individual or business name. This applies equally to Twitter account holders who use a nickname.


  1. Kevin says:

    There’s definitely gold there. My brother and I walked through the tunnel 10 years ago and found gold on the ceiling just by shining a flashlight on it. Maybe someday we’ll find out how much gold the old man found.

  2. Brian says:

    GPS coordinates to the sign/turnoff would be tremendously helpful…

  3. Definitely worth a trip to see, take a flashlight though!

  4. Keith Wilson says:

    Went through the tunnel 35 years ago…there was a small building in front with pictures and artifacts there was a lady that would answer your questions along with a guest book you could sign.

  5. Justin Gomez Justin Gomez says:

    “El Chapo’? maybe ?

  6. Roger Rompal Roger Rompal says:

    Is that burro Schmidt tunnel

  7. Nick Pavelka Nick Pavelka says:

    Great place to stop with your dirtbike out there .I’ve talk to the lady before she passed away

  8. The Trona Railway runs near there and had a tunnel that closed due to a fire in the early 80s. Could be related.

  9. Johnny Vm Johnny Vm says:

    Jessica Razo lets go here

  10. Terry Is this the one we went through?

  11. Dan Seeder Dan Seeder says:

    Yes. Burro Schmidt tunnel.

  12. Do the rails run the whole way through??

  13. James King James King says:

    I wanna go explore, can we Wendi?

  14. Jason Greil Jason Greil says:

    Gerry McCarney, remember that weekend we went off roading and dirt biking and found this?

  15. Susan Mitchell says:

    I have been through it back in the 80s. Plan on taking our grandkids! Interesting

  16. Grant Moore Grant Moore says:

    Don’t hit your head lol

  17. This tunnel was.dug by hand by the husband of the lady nick Pavelka mentioned, she never could give a reason as to why he dug it tho

  18. El Chapo remember that his wife is in Lancaster in also is getting ready when he came to United States it’s going to be ready by the time he arrives to escape

  19. And also they used to be Area 51 back in the days

  20. Casey Payne is this the tunnel that you took Josh and I to?

  21. Danny Dang Danny Dang says:

    I was just in this mine a few weeks ago!

  22. Great story – what a Jackass (JUST KIDDING!)

  23. Isn’t this the tunnel in Death Valley ? The tunnel was dug by William Burro Schmidt. Dude miss calculated and realized he dug the wrong way I think. Crazy what one person can do with his bare hands.

    • Matt Skipper Matt Skipper says:

      Schmidt tunnel is in Redrock park. He thought there was a vertical gold spike in the mountain so he dug sideways to try and hit it. There was no such spike. Like a week or so after he finished he died.

  24. Brian Moen Brian Moen says:

    Road dirt bikes there many times from Dove springs.

  25. Oh hell ya I would go in a heartbeat

  26. Be careful out there, we used to live at the base nearby. Some of the mines are still privately owned.

  27. Tommy Prada Joe Bogna Zane Cassidy Michael Coleman our next hike?

  28. Ron Wachter Ron Wachter says:

    Digging this tunnel saved his life go on line and read the story. Burro Schmidt tunnle

  29. Zachary Finney, Cassie Allison, Steven Allison

  30. Tom Coulombe Tom Coulombe says:

    Been in that tunnel many times on desert rides. His Wife used to give us the tour and tell her husbands story. Classic. I think he was looking for gems or silver. Its only been about 27 years lol

  31. Been there many times!

Leave a Comment

Opinion Section Policy
All opinions and ideas are welcome. Factually inaccurate, libelous, defamatory, profane or hateful statements are not. Your words must be your own. All commentary is subject to editing for legibility. There is no length limit, but the shorter, the better the odds of people reading it. "Local" SCV-related topics are preferred. Send commentary to: LETTERS (at) SCVNEWS.COM. Author's full name, community name, phone number and e-mail address are required. Phone numbers and e-mail addresses are not published except at author's request. Acknowledgment of submission does not guarantee publication.
Read More From...
Tuesday, Nov 3, 2020
As restrictions remain in place for gatherings and events in Los Angeles County, one of Santa Clarita’s most important traditions will take place on an online format in 2020.
Tuesday, Nov 3, 2020
The holiday shopping rush is upon us! As with everything this year, checking loved ones off your shopping list will look a little different in 2020. There will be no braving the crowds and tussling for the first crack at the doorbuster deals on Black Friday.
Friday, Oct 2, 2020
In his monthly message for October 2020, Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin spotlights results of the city's 2020 public opinion survey about the quality of life in our community.
Thursday, Oct 1, 2020
As with everything in 2020, this year’s State of the City event will be different than years past. We are looking on the bright side, embracing the necessary changes for safety’s sake and rejoicing in the fact that this year’s event is truly inclusive of the entire Santa Clarita community.
Saturday, Sep 19, 2020
Assembly Bill 1457, authored by Assembly Members Cervantes and Reyes, and supported by Santa Clarita’s Senator Scott Wilk, Assemblyman Tom Lackey and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, represents an important step forward in jumpstarting California’s economic recovery.
Wednesday, Sep 2, 2020
In his monthly message for September 2020, Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Striplin spotlights how the Santa Clarita Public Library branches are helping students and families get back to school.

Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Zonta International’s “16 days of Activism” is held annually from Nov. 25 - Dec. 10. Since 2016, Zonta Club of Santa Clarita Valley has participated in the annual "Zonta Says NO to Violence Against Women" campaign in collaboration with the Child and Family Center.
Zonta Club Brings Awareness to Domestic Violence
On Monday, Nov. 30, College of the Canyons will host a virtual soft opening of its Multicultural Center, which will provide safe and brave spaces for historically minoritized and marginalized groups on campus with the goal of increased diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the college’s fabric.
Nov. 30: COC Multicultural Center Virtual Soft Opening
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health released the latest data on COVID-19 Thursday.
Thursday COVID-19 Roundup: 383,275 Cases Countywide, 37 New Deaths; 9,352 Total SCV Cases
Travel through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, past the sea of twirly-swirly gum drops and into a month of non-stop fun and entertainment with the city of Santa Clarita’s virtual events in December.
City Releases Holiday Virtual Events Line-Up
Power shutoffs commenced Thanksgiving Day in the Santa Clarita Valley, with Southern California Edison customers affected near the Agua Dulce area.
Agua Dulce Community Affected by SoCal Edison Power Shutoffs
While local health care officials have been asking for the community’s help in creating personal protective equipment since the onset of the pandemic, now the message is simpler: Abide by public health guidelines.
COVID-19 Surge Impacting Henry Mayo
Logix Federal Credit Union is supporting College of the Canyons Foundation’s Student Resource & Success Fund with its Double Your Dollars campaign.
Logix Encouraging Community to Take Part in COC’s  Double Your Dollars Campaign
1916 - A score of Wobblies bust up Newhall Jail after commandeering SP freight train [story]
Santa Clarita officials announced plans to file an amicus brief in support of an ongoing lawsuit to block Los Angeles County’s outdoor dining ban, which went into effect the day before Thanksgiving.
‘Draconian Behavior:’ City Council to Support Suit to Block Outdoor Dining Ban
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health on Wednesday reported 49 new deaths and 4,311 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 countywide since Tuesday, including 96 new cases in the Santa Clarita Valley, as Henry Mayo on Wednesday afternoon reported its second death this week.
Wednesday COVID-19 Roundup: 2nd Death at Henry Mayo This Week; SCV Cases Total 9,230
Santa Clarita’s new Volunteer Hub at SantaClaritaVolunteers.com is a one-stop-shop that connects area nonprofit organizations and volunteers.
Need Volunteers? Want to Be One? Check City’s Volunteer Hub
Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau Critical Missing Person Unit detectives are asking for the public’s assistance in locating Vlad Kravets.
Found: Vlad Kravets, Last Seen in Valencia; Detectives Sought Public’s Help
In response to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors' 3-2 vote Tuesday allowing further COVID-19-related closures to take effect Wednesday, Supervisor Kathryn Barger is calling for $10 million in federal CARES Act funding to be repurposed to aid impacted local businesses.
Barger Calls for $10M in CARES Act Funds for Businesses Hurt by COVID Restrictions
After declaring himself the winner of the 25th Congressional District or CA-25 race last week, Rep. Mike Garcia, R-Santa Clarita, continued his less-than-1% lead over opponent Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, after a Tuesday vote count update.
Election Update: Garcia Leads by 405 Votes in CA-25 Race
More than 130 California death row inmates received more than $400,000 in unemployment checks meant to help people during the pandemic — and they were not alone, according to prosecutors who announced the massive fraud scheme Tuesday.
Death Row Inmates Collect $400K-Plus in COVID Jobless Benefits Scam
During their regular meeting Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors approved the proposed Castaic housing development of nearly 140 homes next to Castaic High School.
Supes OK Castaic Housing Project, Sheriff’s Station Funds
A federal judge found California’s ban on “offensive” personalized license plates unconstitutional Tuesday, ruling it constitutes viewpoint discrimination under the First Amendment.
Judge: ‘Offensive to Good Taste’ Rule for California License Plates Infringes Free Speech
A chilly Thanksgiving is in store for the Santa Clarita Valley as a cold-weather alert will be in effect Thursday and Friday due to National Weather Service forecasts of wind chill temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mother Nature to Serve Up Chilly Thanksgiving in SCV
Westfield Valencia Town Center will still get a Costco with a gas station, but not the initially proposed luxury cinema and gym.
Cinema, Gym Cut from Costco Project at Westfield Valencia Town Center
1875 - Vasquez lieutenant Clodoveo Chavez reportedly killed by bounty hunters in Arizona Territory [story]
Following surging COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health confirmed Tuesday 51 new deaths - including an additional death at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital - and 3,692 new cases of COVID-19.
Tuesday COVID-19 Roundup: Highest Number of Deaths Countywide Since September; 36th Death at Henry Mayo
With more than 60 years of combined experience, Alisha Fonder, Shawn Fonder and Amin Salari are very experienced in their field. Together, they founded Fonder-Salari, Inc. to share their knowledge, experience, innovative thought processes and quality outcomes with their clients.
New Construction Management, Consulting Firm Opens in SCV
The L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 to uphold the Department of Public Health’s decision to halt dining at restaurants, breweries, wineries and bars during Tuesday’s regular board meeting.
Supes Vote 3-2 to Temporarily Halt Outdoor Dining
In a pandemic information ecosystem where uplifting news can be scarce, the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture announced Monday $12 million in CARES Act funds have been awarded to 337 arts nonprofits - including a handful of organizations in the Santa Clarita Valley - suffering from COVID-19 business interruption and closures through its L.A. County COVID-19 Arts Relief Fund.
ESCAPE, Canyon Theatre Guild Among L.A. County Arts Nonprofits Awarded CARES Act Funding
%d bloggers like this: