The Lure of the Lore: Arizona’s Lost Gold Mines and Buried Treasures

Photo: Echo Valley Ranch via FlickrFor the last 150 years, people have risked their lives to go in search of Arizona’s lost gold, silver and other buried treasures. As recent as January 2011, the Arizona Republic reported more remains found in the Superstition Mountains, suspected to be three Utah friends who disappeared the previous July while searching for the riches of the fabled Lost Dutchman Mine.

“These sites exist in some of the most rugged, dangerous wilderness areas of the U.S. Forest Service,” said George E. Johnston, president emeritus of the Superstition Mountain Museum. “It’s hard to separate the legend and the lore from the lies,” he said. “But there’s enough to it to encourage people to go after that gold. For almost 120 years now, they’ve been looking for it.” The lure, he said, continues to draw treasure hunters from all over the world to the Superstitions. Weekly, he fields questions from visitors who want to know where the gold is. If only it were that easy.

Since its early Gold Rush days, Arizona has produced in excess of 498 tons or 16 million troy ounces (ozt.) of gold. In 2006, all of Arizona’s gold production came as a fortuitous byproduct of copper mining. But with the dollar’s decline in recent years, gold mining has experienced a sudden resurgence: From the Discovery Channel’s show, Gold Rush Alaska, where six men risked it all to strike it rich mining the Alaskan wilderness to a distinct rise in gold claims filed in Arizona. Not only has the value of gold, silver and other precious metals surged over the last decade, but financial experts claim that their worth will only increase exponentially in years to come.

Arizona’s Gold Rush
In the early 1850s, the Colorado River crossing at Yuma became a major route for gold seekers from the East. The gold trail led through New Mexico, Tucson, and Yuma to California. As was common in the West, the first discoveries of gold were placer deposits, followed by lode deposits found near Apache Junction, Big Bug, Bullhead City, Chloride, Globe, Oatman, Pearce, Quartzsite, Salome and Tombstone, which yielded the lion’s share of the state’s early gold supply. Jacob Snively hit the first major gold strike around 1857 with sizeable nuggets found in the Gila River near Gila City, Arizona’s first boom town. Mining flourished in Gila City until 1862 when a flood destroyed the town.

The second significant gold discovery was made by Pauline Weaver (of Weaver’s Needle fame) in 1862 on the Colorado River at La Paz. By the time the miners had excavated all of the gold at La Paz, they had retrieved eight million dollars’ worth. Word traveled fast and, after Weaver found gold, every miner who had not yet struck it rich in California headed for Arizona. Almost overnight, Arizona was inundated with would-be millionaires. Gold mines subsequently popped up all over the state in riverbeds, hills, caves and mountains.

Henry Wickenburg came to Arizona in 1862. He was believed to be part of Pauline Weaver’s original exploration party that traveled along the Hassayampa River. According to legend, this was when he spotted the large quartz outcropping, which later became the Vulture Mine. The quartz veins of the mine produced 366,000 ounces of gold over the next century.

Wickenburg initially worked the mine by himself, but sold the gold ore to other prospectors. Wanting to retire in 1866, he sold 80% of the mine to Benjamin Phelps and other East Coast investors. The Vulture Mining Company was born. Wickenburg established a farm near this settlement, now known as the town named in his honor.

Then in 1868, Wickenburg used his gold proceeds to fund a new project that would change Arizona history forever: The Swilling Irrigation Canal Company, conceived by ex-Confederate soldier Jack Swilling of Prescott. By 1869, water was once again flowing from the ancient Hohokam canals – for the first time in 400 years – into the fertile land of what would later become known as Phoenix.

In fact, many cities in Arizona like were named by the miners that flocked to their respective areas. Rich Hill was the single richest discovery of gold in one place. Until its closure in 1998, the Gold Road mine in Oatman was Arizona’s last operating gold mine.

Many legends of lost treasure from Arizona’s early Gold Rush days still remain to this day. Most Arizonians are familiar with the Lost Dutchman, but there is a whole host of other tales of lost gold and loot (some with crude maps) still buried in the desert. Some favorites include:

Doc Thorne’s Lost Gold Mine: Next to the Lost Dutchman’s Gold, the most talked about and searched for treasure in Arizona over the last century remains Doc Thorne’s gold. One searcher claimed to have found veins of gold in a narrow canyon just south of the Mazatal Mountains (near Four Peaks on Maricopa/Gila County borders). The man brought pouches of gold nuggets he dug from the quartz vein to an assayer in Phoenix. The tests revealed the gold to be rich, but the man was never able to find the original dig site again. (Jameson, 2009).

Vekol’s Buried Silver Ingots: Just a few miles north of the old ghost town of Vekol, near Casa Grande in Pinal County, lies a legendary cache of 300 silver ingots, each weighing 25 pounds. The ingots were buried in 1891 in a hastily made, shallow excavation and, likely, only a few inches below the surface. Depending on the purity of the silver, various estimates place the value of the silver cache at close to one million dollars (Jameson, 2009).

Gold in Morgan City Wash: In 1934, Palmer Ashley was helping his father work a difficult, low-grade prospect near Morgan City Wash, 23 miles outside of Wickenburg. When Ashley’s dad took a break to go into Phoenix on business, the young man decided to investigate a rumored lead deposit nearby. A passing prospector had told him to “hike a half-mile up the wash to a 20-foot-high wall on the right bank. This wall has vertical eroded ridges resembling a pipe organ. Over this wall and back of the next rise is a prospect hold with large chunks of galena (lead sulfide) on the surface.” While searching for the fluted wall, Ashley tumbled down a steep wash bank and, while nursing his bruises, noticed “a ledge of pure white quartz streaked with red and green.” He broke off a piece and put it in his sample sack. When his father later examined the specimen, he noticed the underside of the quartz was covered with fine wire gold and pinhead nuggets. The Ashleys were never able to retrace Palmer’s path to the ledge. (Conrotto, 1991).

Skeleton Canyon Treasure: During the late 1800s, a gang of bandits conducted a raid on the city of Monterrey in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon. During the robbery, they were confronted by a small contingent of Mexican soldiers and police and a battle ensued. In addition to the bank, the bandits looted the city’s cathedral. Packing their booty onto a number of mules, they fled, heading northwest toward a remote pass through the Arizona/Mexico border. The treasure buried in Skeleton Canyon has never been found, the value of which could amount to $20 million or more today. (Jameson, 2009).

Digging for Gold Today
I had heard of a publicly declared gold excavation and panning trail in the Lynx Lake Recreational Area near Prescott and decided to investigate. When we arrived, the parking area held a variety of license plates, from California to Florida. Just a few feet down the trail, we found several people swishing gold pans in the water, while others had more intensive operations with motors set up behind the screen of brush along the riverbed.

Treasure hunters guard their techniques and secret mining spots like truffle hunters. Many were willing to tell me where I could buy my own panning tools and I also learned that gold is easiest to find after a hard rain. However, when asked if they’d been lucky as of late in their gold-seeking endeavors, one man was only willing to say that he “finds enough to keep him interested.”

So how does one get started? Where can you learn of other dig sites and the timeless techniques and trade secrets of gold prospecting? Here’s a roundup of the best mining clubs, tours, dig sites, claim staking, books and historical information to help you begin your own quest for gold.

Gold Mining Clubs & Dig Sites
Lynx Lake Mineral Withdrawal Area & Gold Panning Trail, Prescott. Free, no day use fee. 928.443.8000
Arizona Association of Gold Prospectors (AAGP), Phoenix. 623.934.6882
Roadrunner Prospector’s Club, Phoenix. 602.274.2521
Find a club in your city: Goldminers HQ, Desert Gold Diggersclubs with gold claims in Arizona, Legends of America Treasure Clubs

Gold Mining Tours & Instruction
Arizona Gold Mining Adventure, Phoenix. Offers five-day prospecting lessons and mining excursions for small groups throughout the year. 623.934.6882
Arizona Gold Adventures, Congress. Offers gold prospecting private instruction, day trips & vacations in the Weaver Mountains from Sept-June. 914.589.3985.
Apache Trail Tours, Apache Junction: Two-hour jeep tour to the foothills of the Superstition Mountains with guided instruction on gold panning and how to tell the difference between real and “fools gold.” Panning equipment provided. 480.982.7661
Goldfield Ghost Town, Goldfield: Stop in at the Prospector’s Palace to learn the art of panning from a gold historian. 480.982.0276
Robson’s Mining World, Wickenburg: Pan for gold with guided instruction and view the “world’s largest collection of antique mining equipment.”

Tiffany Owens is a freelance travel writer and the Phoenix/Scottsdale City Expert for

For more Information
Arizona Mineral Rights & Mining Claims
A Detailed History of Mining in Arizona from Arizona Mining Association
List of Arizona Mineral & Mining Museums

Recommended Reading
Lost Mines & Buried Treasures of Arizona by W.C. Jameson, University of New Mexico Press, 2009.
Lost Cities & Ancient Mysteries of the Southwest by David Hatcher Childress, Adventures Unlimited Press, 2009.
Southwest Treasure Hunter’s Gem & Mineral Guide: Where & How to Dig, Pan and Mine Your Own Gems & Minerals, GemStone Press, 2008.
Dig Here! Lost Mines & Buried Treasure of the Southwest by Thomas Penfield, Adventures Unlimited Press, 2004.
Where to Find Gold in the Desert by James Klein, Gem Guides, 1994.
Lost Gold and Silver Mines of the Southwest by Eugene L. Conrotto, Dover Publications, 1991.

Photo: patti via flickr

Culture 101: How to Get Art Smart

Photo: telmo32 on Flickr

According to a National Endowment for the Arts survey, nearly 40 percent of adults in the U.S. — or 81 million people — attended at least one arts activity in 2002.

But what about the rest of us? Often, newbies and neophytes think that the arts are created for richer, more educated or more refined folks than ourselves. That’s simply not true. Armed with a little knowledge and know-how, it’s easy to find something enjoyable in the arts for every taste or budget.

Where to start

Your newspaper’s Arts & Entertainment section or free weekly paper will be your best guide to local arts events, festivals and performances. Enjoy a particular venue, gallery or theater? Most have a mailing list or e-newsletter to inform patrons of upcoming shows; some even have special sneak-preview events for their members at discounted rates. Or, if you’re on a tight budget, volunteering a few hours of your time (especially at film and art festivals) can often be exchanged for a free ticket or two to your exhibition of choice.

Visual art

Can you tell a Pollock from a Picasso? There’s something innately rewarding about learning to identify the different schools of painting and individual artists — whether they’re Masters of the Renaissance, Realists or rising stars of the art world.

Public art galleries are a great place to begin your visual-arts education. Most towns, even small ones, have them. In addition, most have a “student night” or other free or discounted access.

Private galleries are always free, because they operate like retail stores — they assume that all who enter are prospective buyers. Most of the time, the staff are happy to chat and tell you about the artists, even if it’s obvious you don’t have a spare ten grand to pick up that limited-edition print in the corner.

However, if you’re shy about wandering in alone, you can always attend an opening instead. Dates and times are usually listed in the paper and on artist postcards at the gallery. Art openings equal free admission to free art (and sometimes free wine and snacks too) alongside the anonymity of being part of a crowd. Or, to make a night of it, look for your city’s designated “Art Walk” days, usually the first or last Thursday or Friday of every month. During art walks, galleries stay open for a few extra hours in the evening so that participants can enjoy numerous exhibits at their leisure.

If you are lucky enough to live near a local art college, it’s an ideal place to check out up-and-coming artists. Best of all, because they are just starting out, their artwork tends to have more affordable price tags for the aspiring art collector. Call or check the school’s Web site for show schedules. Also, colleges and universities often have art collections and/or galleries that are free to the public.

Classical music, dance & opera

Classical music, dance and opera can be intimidating for many reasons. Sometimes a little advance research on the storyline and background, especially with opera and ballet, can allow you to follow the performance more easily, thereby enhancing your enjoyment of the overall experience.

If you’re close to a school that offers a music, opera, ballet or other dance program, their calendar will be likely be filled with student recital times. Most days will offer a choice of lunchtime or evening performances, absolutely free. If you’re picky, watch for grad-student performances to see candidates that will soon be pursuing professional careers.

Orchestras and opera or ballet/dance companies often offer discounted seats to their dress rehearsals, usually to student groups and donors, but sometimes to the public as well. Usually, the dress rehearsal is exactly like the performance, with the exception of a few pauses for notes.

A live opera is the most costly type of musical production that exists (that is, other than the typical Rolling Stones concert). Bigger companies, as with operas and symphonies, will often also offer rush seats for those willing to stand in line. They’re usually offered at a big discount, making it worth the wait. If you’re lucky enough to live in or near a really big urban center, like Los Angeles or New York, you can often enjoy big productions last-minute (and on the cheap).

Theater & literature

Who can think of live theater without thinking of Broadway? Most cities have theater venues that promote large-scale, touring productions. In addition, many cities also have smaller, independent theater troupes (think off-off-Broadway) whose repertoires can range from original one-act plays to performance art to comedic antics that play off of the crowd. On a budget? Look for matinee performances or those that offer admission on a sliding scale.

An easy way to introduce yourself to new works of literature is to attend readings. Most authors go on tour to promote their latest tome, sign books and give free readings at bookstores across the country.

How about words and theatrics? Look for a poetry slam or open-mic night near you for a wild night of uncensored, competitive creativity onstage.

Educating yourself

If you’re still intimidated, then by all means, learn some of the basics at the library before you go to a show. Most public libraries have countless books, CDs, videos and DVDs that can serve as handy beginner’s guides to art, opera, dance, drama and theater. But remember, while knowledge can be helpful, the real key to understanding or appreciating art is to experience it first-hand.

Tiffany Owens is a freelance writer in Portland, Oregon.

This article originally appeared on Wine@MSN | December 2005


Past perfect: A decade-by-decade guide to wearing vintage clothing

Photo: GettyThere’s something compelling about a person in vintage clothing that goes far beyond the mere fashion statement. It’s a sense of distinctiveness and daring — stylish, but above the fickle whims of fashion.

Most people (like myself) find their way to vintage apparel out of a growing aversion to modern “cookie-cutter” mall clothes, or perhaps what’s all the rage this season just doesn’t flatter your body type so well. For those looking to give their wardrobe a boost of versatility and individuality, vintage apparel is the ultimate remedy.

Another notable reason to shop vintage is for the clothes’ superior quality and value, usually constructed in styles or fabrics no longer available, but still highly wearable or collectible. The average vintage item from 50 years ago is amazingly well-made compared to its modern equivalent. Beautiful, first-class styling and workmanship — especially for suits and evening wear — are quickly becoming a lost art. A custom-tailored suit can now run thousands of dollars, but a fine vintage suit can be had for a small fraction of the cost.

Vintage goes mainstream

A mere 25 years ago, vintage was still commonly viewed as the low-budget, funky uniform of the starving artist. But since around 1985, the popularity of vintage has grown exponentially as individual taste and comfort have become more important to the consumer than the latest fashion fad or trend.

Hollywood is no exception. Celebrities regularly wear vintage evening dresses on the red carpet and more and more contemporary designers are looking to decades past for inspiration. The savviest designers know that everything good in fashion always comes around again anyway; in fact, the most flattering styles from each period never really go away at all.

Shopping for vintage

I recommend starting out at a vintage-clothes shop, where you can try on a myriad of fashions across several decades to determine the best fit for your body. Once you’ve trained your eye to recognize your era of choice, then you’re ready to brave secondhand shops, flea markets, antique malls, thrift stores, estate sales or the vast number of online retailers to unearth your own vintage gems.

So what should you be looking for? I consulted some of the Web’s best vintage retailers — Don and Michelle Myers (, April Ainsworth ( and Carol Baker ( — to give us a decade-by-decade scoop on what’s hot (and what’s not) in vintage apparel.

For him: rayon Hawaiian shirts; gabardine zip and leisure jackets; unusual mid- century print sport shirts; denim, jackets and workwear (’50s or earlier) by Levi’s, Lee and Wrangler; and dress hats, especially high-quality felts and Panama or porkpie-style.

For her: cocktail and sun dresses; “wiggle” and bombshell halter dresses; full and flared skirts in crisp silks and taffetas; haute-quality business wear; peasant blouses and sequined Mexican fiesta skirts for the “Lolita” look; cashmere and beaded sweaters; svelte millinery or vintage gloves; classic, tailored peplum jackets by Lilli Ann and Irene; narrow pencil skirts; and structured leather handbags, especially reptile or alligator.

Avoid: poodle skirts, neck scarves, saddle shoes.
Hot ’50s labels: Dior, Worth, Chanel, Lilli Ann, Schiaparelli, Balenciaga, Givenchy.


For him: leather bomber and motorcycle jackets (think Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones); Nehru, mohair or Rat Pack sharkskin suits; tailored, embroidered cowboy shirts, especially N. Turk, Nudie and Manuel; vintage Western boots and hats.

For her: chic chemise, shift or sheath dresses (particularly for that perfect “little black dress”) in natural-looking synthetics; pedal pushers or cropped pants; lingerie, especially “Pucci for Formfit Rogers” slips and nighties; mod mini and A-line dresses; mid-calf to knee-high boots; animal print hats and coats; Jackie O-style boxy suits; cutting-edge separates or dresses from Quants Bazaar, Jax, Birdcage, Biba; scarves and accessories by Pucci or Peter Max in Art Nouveau and Art Deco patterns and prints; suede jackets.

Avoid: ponchos, overly jarring color combos (like orange/kelly green or hot pink/royal blue) and oddly cut Empire-waist evening wear.

Hot ’60s labels: Pucci, Givenchy, Rudi Gernreich, Mary Quant, Courreges, Cardin, Dior, Yves Saint Laurent.


For him: T-shirts with old brand or business logos; trucker hats; disco shirts, especially engineered or photo prints.

For her: jersey-knit wrap dresses; “bohemian” gauze and muslin tops; edgy punk-inspired clothing trimmed with slits, safety pins, chains and zippers; strappy evening or platform shoes; embroidered ethnic wear; well-made leather jackets and coats; knit casual shirts; corduroy pants; hippie handbags; and casual pantsuits (think the original Charlie’s Angels).

Avoid: obvious polyesters or caftans (unless you’re going to a costume party!). Make sure you notice the cut of ’70s pants as you shop and buy according to your shape — they run from a high natural waist to low-slung hip huggers.

Hot ’70s labels: Yves Saint Laurent, Diane Von Furstenberg, Halston, Fiorucci, Famolare, Bill Blass, Bob Mackie.


For him: embroidered rayon bowling shirts; team uniforms and jerseys; Izod alligator polo shirts by Lacoste.

For her: fluid jersey cocktail dresses; textured knits and weaves in casual tops and sweaters (especially handwoven or handknitted); Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Gucci handbags and accessories.

Avoid: shoulder pads, legwarmers, acid-washed jeans, oversized (to the knee) and large-patterned sweaters.

Hot ’80s labels: Oscar De La Renta, Galanos, Lacoste, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Armani, Ferragamo, Chanel, North Beach Leather, (early) Betsey Johnson.


For him: skateboard clothing, Doc Martens and Dickies workwear.

For her: Designer accessories, sheer burnout velvet or chiffon tops.

Avoid: pashmina stoles, fleece.

Hot ’90s labels: Calvin Klein, Donna Karan/DKNY, Gaultier, Todd Oldham, Chanel, Versace, Vivienne Westwood.

Tiffany Owens is a Portland, Ore.-based freelance writer and obsessive collector of vintage coats, boots and purses.

This article originally appeared on | August 2005

The Cure for the Common Cocktail: Mixology with Robert Porter at Sanctuary’s Jade Bar, Phoenix

Written by Tiffany Owens | | May 2014

mixology jade bar

Master Mixologist Robert Porter crafts a Pepper Smash #2


Whether it be a Dirty Martini or a Moscow Mule, everyone has a favorite, stand-by cocktail that they always defer to. But, what about when you feel like mixing it up a little or trying something different? Be it a celebratory event or simply a shift in the weather, our capricious palates can experience sudden cravings for something new and fresh—and cocktails are no exception. Beyond your standard-issue Bartender’s Guide, where can you discover some great new cocktail recipes that aren’t just a twist on old Prohibition-era favorites or over-the-top, sickly sweet ‘girly drink’ concoctions that will give you intense sugar-overload (and the ensuing headache that goes with it)?

By far, the best craft cocktail class I’ve attended is Mixology at the newly revamped Jade Bar at Phoenix’s beautiful Sanctuary Resort. Held every Saturday at 1:00 p.m., each Mixology course is centered around a different spirit every week, from tequila or whiskey to rum or vodka, and demonstrates how to make three or four cocktails, plus “tips and techniques along with jade bar’s freshness philosophy, spirit details, cocktail history and tastings of your favorites.” Mixology courses are $30 and limited to 10 participants. Due to their ever-increasing popularity, reservations are highly recommended.

Led by Master Mixologist, Robert Porter, our group was led through a variety of delicious cocktail offerings. A few were of his own invention, but all of which incorporated fresh juices (blueberry, blackberry, yellow bell pepper) to aromatic herbs (sage, basil, mint, thyme, tarragon, rosemary) with an emphasis on savory vs. sweet.

Prior to becoming one of Jade Bar’s premier Mixologists, Porter had previously honed his cocktail-crafting chops for several years at the legendary Trader Vic’s. Now, with the introduction of a new “cocktail culture” by Oregon-based mixologist Ryan Magarian (of Portland’s Oven & Shaker), Porter—along with Jade Bar’s other craft bartenders—have been given free reign to develop their own signature cocktails for potential inclusion on the menu. Judging by the throngs that flock to Jade Bar’s ‘The Pour’ premium daily happy hour (4 to 7pm) to peruse the inventive, ever-changing cocktail menu, it’s an experiment that has exceeded expectations, especially for the discerning cocktail enthusiast.

Porter generously agreed to let me share recipes for some of his tantalizing creations. So, break out the juicer and the muddler—and prepare to wake-up your tastebuds. Cheers!



Pepper Smash #2

This delicious concoction was described by Porter as a “Mojito by way of the Mad Hatter.” The whole time I was watching him make it, I’m thinking, “Why have I never thought of juicing a bell pepper before?”

  • 3/4 oz. fresh yellow bell pepper juice
  • 3/4 oz. Grade A maple syrup (50% water)
  • 1-1/2 oz. Aquavit
  • Lime juice
  • Fresh mint sprigs (for garnish)

The Phoenix

One of Porter’s original creations, The Phoenix is light and refreshing with a high citrus note.

  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1/4 oz. honey
  • 1-1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice
  • ground black pepper
  • Rosemary aromatic – (Porter creates his own herb-infused aromatics with 50% water + 50% sugar dispensed in a Misto sprayer)

Razzle Dazzle (SW Bramble)

Tired of margaritas? This fruit and ginger-forward drink is a refreshing alternative.

  • Fresh blackberry, ginger, sage and lemon juice
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup
  • 2 oz. silver tequila

Jade Cucumber Gimlet

Another of Porter’s creations, this Gimlet made with cucumber-infused gin is (in my opinion) one of the best things on the menu.

  • 3 cucumber slices
  • Mint sprigs
  • 3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup

Muddle the above ingredients together before adding alcohol:

  • 1/4 oz. St. Germaine (a French liqueur made from Elderflower blossoms)
  • 2 oz. Martin Miller gin (a premium gin from Iceland made from 10 carefully selected botanicals)
  • 3/4 oz. pasteurized egg white

Double-shake ingredients together, using ice the first time. Garnish with sugar-snap peas that have been infused with gin for 2 weeks (Robert recommends Nolet’s Dry Gin).

Serve and enjoy!

Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

For even more inventive ideas, view and print these full-color Mixology recipe cards. You can also sign up for Jade Bar’s complimentary newsletter to receive new recipes as they become available.


To attend a future Mixology at Jade Bar, check out their upcoming calendar to see which spirit will be showcased that particular week. Then, make reservations by calling: 480.607.2300

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain
5700 East McDonald Drive
Scottsdale, AZ 85253

Click here for driving directions.