Monday, May 5, 2014

Stone Corral... Or Fortress?

April 28, 2014 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

There are several well-known stone structures in the Superstition Wilderness Area. Stone structures are more prominent in the western part of the wilderness than the eastern.

These structures are usually found on small valley flats or along deeply incised canyons. The two most prominent sites are located in La Barge Canyon and in West Boulder Canyon above its confluence with Old West Boulder Canyon and near Willow Springs. The site in La Barge Canyon is located below the confluence of Squaw Box Canyon. These two structures are mentioned in several of the stories about lost gold in the Superstition Mountain.

Some lost gold stories make reference to the stone structure in West Boulder Canyon as being a Mexican or Spanish fortress used to protect the miners against the hostile Apaches. The structure, as well as the one in La Barge Canyon, is constructed primarily of two-man stones. This means some of the stones used in the construction of the walls required two men to move and set them in place. This fact has convinced many gold seekers that these structures were not corrals, but old forts used for protection against the Apaches.

La Barge Canyon Corral located near Squaw Box Canyon. This corral has always been called a fortress for the Mexican and Spanish troopers to protect the miners working gold ore in these mountains.
 Both of these stone structures are located near permanent water sources. Often treasure hunters make the case that these fortresses were always located near good sources of water. These same treasure hunters argue the Mexicans and Spanish had troops to protect their miners while they worked the rich gold mines of the area. These same stories are told about the stone structures in La Barge, West Boulder, and Peters Canyons.

I will admit these structures are extremely large considering their location and setting. Ironically, these stone structures are not fortresses of any kind. There is no evidence in the area to support the theory that a group of soldiers once lived at any of these sites.

The dreamers of lost gold want you to believe there were Spanish or Mexican soldiers mounted on horseback protecting the miners that removed gold ore from these mountains. Please believe me, there was no gold ore, nor were there any soldiers protecting miners in these mountains. These stories are nothing but legends and myths.

When I worked for the old Quarter Circle U Ranch I talked to Bill Barkley several times about the site in West Boulder Canyon. He said the cattlemen before his father constructed these large stone corrals (circa 1907). Mexican laborers built these stone corrals. In the 1880’s labor and rock was far cheaper than barbed wire and posts. There was nothing in this country that was large enough to make posts from and, further more, it was too rough of country to pack such supplies into the area. Building corrals out of stone was far more practical.

I have never doubted these stone structures were corrals. This region was cattle range since the late 1870s. Actually, common sense explains the reason for the large stone corrals in such rugged country.

There is one exception to this statement. ‘Circle Stone’ lies southeast of the Reavis Ranch site. This large circular walled structure is composed of a stone and the structure predates most contemporary sites in the Superstition Wilderness Area. This stone structure is not a cattle corral. The structure is located on a knoll some 6,010 feet above sea level. Some studies indicate the structure may have been a celestial observatory used by the early inhabitant of the region (c. 800-1200 AD).

All of the stone structures in the Superstition Wilderness Area are cattle corrals used by the old timers with the exception of Circle Stone. By the time I was working in the Superstition Wilderness Area we packed in fence stays and barbed wire and constructed our own corrals.

Dreams of riches will always make the mind wander. This is usually the case for those who seek gold in these mountains. They believe so strongly in their quest for gold, even common sense will not prevail. When someone wants their version believed they go beyond the realm of common sense and live within the dream themselves. We have seen this many times here in Superstition Mountain country.