California Gulch is an area of abundant old mining activity, water and wildlife. It is very popular with birders. It had been more than 15 years since I last dropped down in there, so it was way overdue! The main drive is on FR217, with the eastern turn off the Ruby Road just west of Ruby. The road descends south into California Gulch, then heads northwest pulling up through Warsaw and Old Glory Canyons, finally returning to the Ruby Road (FR39) near the Austerlitz Mine. There are all kinds of side roads you can check out down in there that go to old mines and prospects.
Since the last time I was there the eastern portion has been re-routed around private property, so you don't drop into the deepest part, where the really rough road and deep pools are located. I have seen mud turtles down there. Probably another reason for the road change was to make it easier for the border patrol runs. But it also bypasses the area where folks could get stuck if they didn't have 4x4 and were in here during heavy weather.
The main road is in good shape and very easy to navigate, but you don't want to go in without high clearance 4x4 to be safe, because you never know what you'll find.
Things look pretty much the same as I remember from long ago, however there seem to be a few more places where people have been living crudely, though most seemed abandoned. The area around Warsaw Mine used to have a nice tall brick smelter stack, but I think that was removed in the early 1990s.
I love all the old mining remnants there in addition to the wildlife. AND COWS!!
Man did I see a lot of them on the drive. I would say cows and ocotillo ruled the day.
Around the Warsaw Mine, if you head up to Cobre Ridge and Holden Canyon on the other side you are only about a mile from the border with Mexico. Needless to say this is an area that has seen a lot of smuggling activity. The only time I camped in this area back in 1987 near Japanese Valley, two trucks loaded with something came driving past northbound in the night.
I didn't encounter any other vehicles or people on this particular day. Going back made me very happy. Should do it more often.