Friday, September 11, 2009

Bonanza in the Mojave: California's Lost Arch Mine

(The Turtle Mountains.)

Harsh Taskmasters

This treasure tale concerns the Turtle Mountains that rise in irregular formation above the floor of southeastern California's Mojave Desert some 25 miles west of that popular spot for water-borne recreation, Lake Havasu. Both the Turtles and the Mojave as a whole are regions of intense heat, extremely harsh terrain, and a definite lack of water. During the summer months triple-digit temperatures are a daily occurrence.

Gold Pans
Gold Panning Kits
Mining Equipment

Warning: Take this area lightly and you could end up paying for your ignorance with your life as others have over the years. The Turtle Mountains and the Mojave Desert are harsh taskmasters that show no mercy or pity, especially to those unlucky or unwary individuals who arrive unprepared. (Note: I've spent a bit of time in this region prospecting and "poking around" and I can tell you from first-hand experience that it's an absolute furnace in the summertime and even in the cooler months it's a barren, desolate, and uninviting place to be. The locals find beauty in it all, but for me that beauty is strictly in the eyes of the beholder. J.R.)

Not Favorable to Gold Formation

With that dire warning out of the way, I can now concentrate on relating to you the story of the Lost Arch Mine. First off, the Arch is not a lost mine per se, but a rich gold placer containing untold wealth (based on current spot gold prices).

The Turtle Mountains are not geologically favorable to gold formation yet they are said to contain a vast treasure trove of natural gold not unlike that of the Lost Dutchman Mine whose location in Arizona's Superstition Mountains is also questionable from a gold formation standpoint. But stranger things have happened. The old Whipple Mountains Mining District lies a scant 15 miles from the Turtles, so who knows?

$30,000 in Placer Gold

In the early 1860s Captain Pauline Weaver and crew made a significant gold strike on the Arizona side of the Colorado River at La Paz (now Ehrenburg, Arizona). The La Paz gold placers were exceedingly rich and drew would-be miners from every direction of the compass (Note: I worked a placer claim near La Paz off and on in the 1980s. J.R.)

One such element heading for the La Paz placers was a small group of Mexican miners who were transiting the Turtles when they stumbled upon an alluvial wash containing substantial amounts of placer gold. According to legend, the Mexicans pulled nearly $30,000 (when gold was $20.00 per troy ounce) in placer gold flakes and nuggets from this Turtle Mountains placer using the crudest means possible.

Amsden and the Lost Arch

Before heading northward to what they believed were richer diggings at La Paz, the Mexican miners constructed an arch-shaped domicile which is one version of how the Lost Arch Mine received its name. Then, as abruptly as they appeared, the small group of Mexican miners disappeared into history or legend (whichever you prefer).

Many years later an old single-blanket, jackass prospector named Amsden was doing a bit of sampling in the Turtle Mountains when he came across rich gold-bearing gravels near a natural arch formation (the second version of how the Lost Arch Mine got its name). After running out of water Amsden barely escaped death in that forbidding terrain, eventually making it back to civilization with his pockets stuffed with placer gold.

A Legend is Born

Amsden was never able to relocate the arch and the rich placers that both he and the Mexican miners had discovered and rediscovered, and then finally lost. Thus the legend of the Lost Arch Mine was born.

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Although many treasure hunters and miners have attempted to locate the Lost Arch Mine over the intervening years they too have drawn a blank (or at least no one is saying otherwise). The obvious key to locating this great treasure is an arch, natural or otherwise.

Find that arch and you just may find a bonanza in placer gold. But remember my warning.....

Good hunting to you.

If you liked this post, you may want to read: "Library of Congress Treasure Maps (List 2)"

(c) J.R. 2009

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