Sure there's gold in the Superstition Mountains

March 17, 2013

Many believe the Superstition Mountains are filled with treasures. For more than a century, people — locals and visitors — have ventured into this part of Arizona looking to find one of the oldest legends: a gold mine.

NADINE ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: The Superstition Mountains are one of the most visited locations in Arizona. Many come for majestic views, others come to get rich trying to find the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. But, did you know …that if you do find a gold mine you’ll never be able to cash in on it?

superstition Mountains Superstition Moutains east of Phoenix (Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)

Legend has it that in about the 1870s a German miner named Jacob Waltz found gold in the Superstition Mountains — recovered some, and then hid the mine. According to historians like Superstition Mountain Historical Society’s Gregory Davis, there’s some truth to that legend.

GREGORY DAVIS: He did exist. And he had gold? He did have gold. That he found in a mine? And he claimed he found the gold in the Superstitions that had been run by some Mexican miners.

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Davis says there’s more than one mine in the Superstitions. He says the Mexican miners, as well as Spanish settlers, and Native Americans who lived in the Superstitions, found gold or knew where the ‘golden’ spots were located. Today, he says, those mines are buried deep within the mountains and practically impossible to find.

GREGORY DAVIS: You have to understand how rugged it is and how vast it is. I mean, you’re trying to find a little shaft that’s been covered a least 6 feet in depth that’s probably had some rubble and erosion over the top of it over the years. 

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: And that, Davis says is what has led to dozens of deaths in the Superstition Mountains over the years. Since 1880 records show many have died or disappeared. Some say the mountains are haunted. Experts say they’re not haunted … they’re enormous. 

TIM KRISTOF: That mountain draws people.

Ranger Tim Kristof Ranger Tim Kristof (Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez - KJZZ)

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Tim Kristof is an Arizona Park Ranger stationed at Lost Dutchman State Park near the Superstition Mountains.

KRISTOF: It’s very visible from the Valley and there’s nothing else like it.

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Its unique features like the Weaver’s Needle stand at 4,000 feet. It’s highest point rises to more than six thousand. They’re bobcats, mountain lions, javelinas, coyotes and black bears roaming the mountains. The 180 miles of trails range from simple to very rugged. These characteristics have earned the Superstition Mountains the designation of a Protected Wilderness. No one can dig or build on it.

KRISTOF: Technically you can’t touch this. What I’ve read if you actually find the mine and told the federal government they’ll say 'that’s nice.' And you couldn’t do anything about it.

ARROYO RODRIGUEZ: Don’t fret, there is gold on the Superstitions: marigolds and Mexican poppy wildflowers that is. Kristof, says these has become the Superstition Mountains’ golden attraction today.

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