Visitor's View – Kumeyaay Indian Village Mine Wash


Last updated 3/21/2023 at 9:33am

It was an incredible moment of connection as I touched the finger marks frozen in time in the broken piece of crude pottery scattered on the desert floor.

This was a larger piece of broken, fired clay that had once been an olla crafted by an unknown maker hundreds of years ago. Perhaps whoever left their fingerprints when making this crude, earthen vessel had used it to carry precious water needed by the people who called this arid place home.

Nearby rocks contained dozens of indentations where seeds were pounded and ground into metal, and larger rock shelters could be seen in the distance that likely provided shelter in distant times.

I was only a few miles from the smooth pavement of a modern desert highway, but my mind was lost in time as I visualized what this Native American village site looked like more than 1,000 years ago.

Thanks to the efforts of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, visitors can now come to this preserved site and learn about the Kumeyaay people who spent winters here before their journey to summer homes in the mountains to the west.

It's a fascinating destination for park visitors who have an interest in the early people who lived here and how they survived in the harsh environment.

The Mine Wash Kumeyaay Village site is an 8.5-acre cultural preserve, located approximately 16 miles southeast of the park visitor center.

Here, visitors can learn how the Native American people used this place to gather and prepare food and engage in sacred ceremonies during their winter to spring visits.

Archeologists consider this location to be a relatively large village site containing grinding and milling areas and plant roasting pits dating back at least 1,100 years.

Archeological studies here have found significant amounts of evidence of plant processing for food, stone tool manufacturing, pottery, ceremonial activities and the presence of a trade network linking west to the Pacific Ocean and east to the Colorado River in late Prehistoric times.

Surrounded by mountains, this site was relatively well protected from storms and strong winds, and there was an abundance of agave, ocotillo, chia, cacti, native grasses and yucca in the area to provide an ample source of food. Nearby mountains also provided easy access to juniper and pinyon pine nuts.

The views here have not changed since the Kumeyaay lived here, thanks to the preservation provided by the state park.

Visitors can sit on a rock filled with grinding holes and let their mind wander to a time when the early Kumeyaay would gather here to process food.

A visit to the Kumeyaay Village site in Mine Wash is an enjoyable day trip for desert visitors. If you want to stay longer, there are some wilderness camping sites further up the road from the village site.

Begin your journey at Christmas Circle and head south from Christmas Circle on Borrego Springs Road, also designated County Road S-3. Stay on S-3 until you reach Highway 78 at Tamarisk Grove Campground.

Turn left on Highway 78 and go 2.8 miles to the turn off to Mine Wash. It is marked by a small park sign.

From the pavement, you begin a 1.6-mile trip on a dirt road to the historic village site. There is a restroom on your right a short distance after leaving the pavement.

This is a well-traveled dirt road, but a high clearance, all-wheel drive vehicle is recommended.

You will see an interpretive sign when you arrive at the village site and taking time to wander the area a bit can be very rewarding.

In addition to the cultural relics, this can be an area of spectacular wildflower blooms, good birding for desert species and encounters with the unique wildlife species found here.

Add Mine Wish to your list of "must see places" to visit when exploring Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

You can reach the author at Ernie at

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