Monday, August 4, 2014

Trip to Twin Buttes

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

The Coke Ovens (above) with the North Butte on the north side of the Gila River in the background. It was the South Butte that allegedly had the Spanish markings on it.
 The search for lost gold and treasure in the Superstition Mountains has guided many treasure hunters down to an area along the Gila River near the Twin Buttes, appropriately named North Butte and South Butte. The Gila River flows between the two buttes. The Southern Pacific Railroad also has a line that runs along the course of the Gila River in this area. Many treasure hunters believe the Twin Butte area is the starting point for the Peralta Stone Maps. Of course, others totally disagree. Another interesting historical site is located east of the buttes—the Coke Ovens. They are located across the river one and a quarter miles west of the old Cochran town site along the Southern Pacific Railroad. The Coke Ovens were constructed sometime during the 1870’s to fire mesquite and make coke out of it for smelting ore. However, the ovens were never used for this purpose.

Cochran was a small mining camp located fifteen miles east of Florence, Arizona along the Gila River. The town was established in 1905. John S. Cochran was appointed postmaster on January 3, 1905. The post office was discontinued on January 15, 1915. The town at its peak had an approximate population of one hundred residents. The town included a general store and boarding house.

Treasure hunters and authors have written books about the possibilities of the area connecting with the Peralta Stone Maps and lost gold in the Superstition Mountains. These individuals are convinced there are Spanish markings on or near Twin Buttes that prove that this is the beginning area of the Peralta Stone Map Trail. The intriguing marker is the “heart” on South Butte. This marker has been known for many years and has been considered a fake by most historians. Probably more gold was mined along the Gila River than from the Superstition Mountains.

Over the years I have made many trips down to the Coke Ovens and the surrounding area along the Gila River. This past weekend end we departed from Price Road and Highway 79 about 8 a.m. for a trip to the Coke Ovens. We had three jeeps and two ATVs. Roger Barrientos, SSAR, led this trip. Driving through Box Canyon was a delightful experience of beauty and four wheeling. We soon arrived at the intersection of the Cottonwood Canyon Road and the Martinez Canyon Road. At this point you turn right. Suddenly the quality of the road deteriorates considerably. Just beyond the Martinez Canyon Trail turnoff we passed a stock tank and climbed over a very rough section of rock. This rock step was probably a three or four foot climb of 45 degrees or more. This particular portion of the road required some skill and caution. Around the bend and through a saddle we came across a 2000 White Jeep Wrangler that had rolled down the mountainside. Whoever lost this vehicle had tried to retrieve it. Four or five Saguaro cactus were knocked down trying to get the Jeep up a steep slope or were lost when the jeep rolled down into the canyon. It is going to be a major retrieval problem before that Jeep Wrangler is removed from this site. We continued our trip one rock ledge after another until, some three hours later, we arrived at the Coke Ovens. I believe we covered twelve miles in those three hours.

We enjoyed looking at the Coke Ovens and then planned our return trip to Highway 79 and Price Road. The Coke Ovens are a very interesting place to visit, but I must advise you the road is in extremely bad condition. However, for the experienced four-wheeler with lockers and a lift kit it is just a fun trip. Experienced four-wheelers will take recovery equipment in case they become high centered or stuck. Personally I don’t recommend this trip for the novice or inexperienced. Secondly, I wouldn’t make this trip without the company of other vehicles. Finally, I would plan carefully on taking the necessary supplies if you are caught out over night.

For more information on the Coke Oven trip check Google on the Internet. Type in Cochran, Pinal Co., Arizona and you should get additional information about the trip to the Coke Ovens. The Coke Ovens are privately owned. James Copeman of Apache Junction purchased the Coke Ovens many years ago and planned to make a destination resort out of the site. Access to the area denied him the opportunity to succeed at the project he had planned. I am not sure who owns the Coke Ovens presently.

The road to the Coke Ovens on the Gila River is never maintained, and each year the road becomes more inaccessible. The trip the Coke Ovens is a unique Arizona backcountry experience that requires some planning. I would recommend making this trip with somebody that knows the route and conditions.

The search for the Dutchman’s gold has taken prospectors and treasure hunters to many other parts of the state. Clues continue to be found and another “wild goose” chase begins.