Trona California is one of a cluster of small communities on the edge of the Searles dry lake bed. Trona along with Argus and Pioneer Point comprise the Searles Valley census designated place. Because of the ambiguity of the census data boundaries of these communities I've had a difficult time determining current and historic populations in the area. It's clear from the number of burned out and abandoned houses that the population has been shrinking dramatically.
Trona grew around the Searles Valley Minerals plant. The Searles Valley Mineral company has been extracting borax, soda ash, sodium sulfate and other industrial chemical precursors from the salts and brine of Searles dry lake since 1916. The company also has a facility in nearby Argus and another south of Argus. The company has been brought and sold by a number of international capitalists over the years and is currently owned by an Indian company: Nirma with it's US headquarters in Kansas. The Searles Valley is frequently covered with a blanket of smog and has a distinct odor because of these plants. My understanding is that many of the current employees of the chemical plants now live in Ridgecrest which is 20 miles away. Ridgecrest is next to the China Lake Navel Weapons base and has and a variety of shopping and services. The commercial district in Trona is just about dead. There is a gas station, a coffee shop and a few stores- most of which were closed when I was there.
Trona is a strange and uniquely desolate place. The Trona Pinnacles are 12 miles south of Trona. Ballarat, Ruth Mine, Randsburg, Death Valley and Owens Lake/Keeler are all nearby putting Trona in the heart of the strangest and bleakest part of the Mojave. There are no motels in Trona but Ridgecrest has plenty and you can camp at the Trona Pinnacles.
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