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The Sentinel Enigma – A Mystery in the Mojave Desert

Perched on a lonely hilltop in a remote area of the Mojave Desert National Preserve sits something of an enigma.

Some have surmised that it is a giant megaphone, gunsight, sentinel, or even a device used to communicate with aliens. Why is it always aliens?

The Sentinel Enigma

The Sentinel Enigma-Hilltop

Others think that it may have been used to locate an entrance to a “303-mile California cave system” and “great underground river of gold” in the Mojave Desert.  Stories of the cave system and underground river were first reported in San Bernardino Sun and Los Angeles Evening Herald Express in the early 1930s.

According to Earl (E.P.) Dorr’s official type-written/sworn statement (December 10, 1934), the black sand beaches along the underground river are loaded with a fortune of placer gold and nuggets.

Earl (E.P.) Dorr

The Sentinel Enigma-Earl-Dorr

Whatever it is, nobody knows how long it’s been there, how it got there, or who put it there. The object is about 8-feet long and has been securely fastened to the granite boulders on top of a 150-foot high hill. There are also no markings on it of any kind (numbers or letters). It may weigh up to 600 lbs. and would have been a beast to carry up that hill.

The Sentinel Enigma-Sentinel 1

The Sentinel Enigma-Sentinel 2

Getting to the site is not for the meek. And also takes a long time.

The Sentinel Enigma-Warning Sign

The area is very remote and desolate. The roads are definitely less traveled and you’ll also navigate some pretty deep sand at times. Directions and coordinates are provided at the end of the article . .  if you’re still interested in making the journey.

The Sentinel Enigma-Road To Site

The object’s alignment is north and south. Here’s the view looking south:

The Sentinel Enigma-Sentinel View South

Here’s the view looking north:

The Sentinel Enigma-Sentinel View North

The northern alignment points directly at a distant hill with some peculiar features of its own. Scattered around the hill are large boulders with many petroglyphs (rock pictures). The nomadic Chemehuevi people mostly likely drew these hundreds of years ago. The Chemehuevi knew much about the Mojave Desert resources, including water sources like Mesquite Spring. They probably stayed here at certain times of the year and/or used the spring as a water source during their travels. The sentinel enigma.

The Sentinel Enigma-Petroglyph 1

The Sentinel Enigma-Petroglyph 2

The sentinel enigma

A Chemical Warfare Connection?

The purpose of the mystery sentinel is anyones guess, but one explanation is that it was related to chemical weapons testing. Such tests were conducted in secret and remote areas of the Mojave Desert in the 1940s and 50s.

Military exercises have been conducted in California deserts as far back as 1859 (when Fort Mojave was built).  Today, there are four major, active military installations within the West Mojave including the Naval Air Weapons Station (“China Lake”), National Training Center (“Fort Irwin”), Air Force Flight Training Center (“Edwards AFB”) and the Marine Corp Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms.

Transporting the chemical agent to the locations was usually done by rail (train). The remains of an old rail road track exists in the pass below the hill.  Perhaps the object was a type of siren to warn troops that a train carrying chemical weapons was on its way.

World War II Siren (British) The sentinel enigma

The Sentinel Enigma-WWII Air Raid Siren

Or perhaps, it does point to an entrance of an underground river of gold. And just maybe the Chemehuevi left a map and guardian to protect the secret.

The Sentinel Enigma-Petroglyph 5

The Sentinel Enigma-Rock Face Marker

Location of the Sentinel Enigma

Reaching the sentinel enigma of the Mojave will take some time and effort. It is located close to Mesquite Spring – about half way between the towns of Baker and Ludlow, and Afton Canyon Campground and Glasgow. The sentinel is 13 miles (east) from Afton Canyon Campground, or about 21 miles via Crucero Road (north) from Highway 40. Both roads are rough and have sections of deep sand (4-wheel drive vehicles recommended).  The sentinel is west of Crucero Road on top of the hill. Google Map coordinates: 35.005612, -116.196422

The Sentinel Enigma-Topo Map

In addition to Afton Canyon campground, Hole-In-The Wall and Mid Hills campgrounds are about 90 miles from the sentinel enigma site.

If you visit, please remember that all archaeological resources are protected. Do not collect or otherwise disturb plants, rocks, fossils, historical objects, or artifacts, and do not feed or disturb the wildlife.  Also remember that the Mojave Desert is extremely hot during the summer. Temperatures can exceed 105 degrees. Thank you!

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