Tuesday, December 30, 1997

Bluff Springs Mountain

December 30, 1997 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

Bluff Springs Mountain or Bluff Mountain, as it was called around the turn of the century, has played an interesting role in the history of the Superstition Wilderness Area. The mountain, like Black Top Mesa and Weaver’s Needle, has long been synonymous with the legends of the region. This walled monolith lies directly east of Weaver’s Needle and immediately south of the Three Red Hills. The rugged façade of this elongated mountain still attracts the curiosity of adventurers and prospectors alike.

Individuals have been prospecting around and on Bluff Springs Mountain since the famous Goldfield strikes of the late 1880s and early 1890s. The mountain has been sacred to several groups of Native Americans. Early ranchers William A. Barkley and James A. Bark talked about ancient burial grounds on top of this rugged mountain.

Near the top of Bluff Springs Mountain ancient stone defense circles are found. These structures were Native Americans’. On the northeast corner of the mountain there is a series of three caves that were inhabited by early Native Americans who lived here prior to the turn of the century. Also on the northeast corner of Bluff Springs Mountain an excellent spring or seep can be found. This spring was the source of water for early inhabitants of the area and the cattle that were brought in later by the ranchers.

The origin of the mountain’s name must have come from the early cattle ranchers who worked cattle in the area. James A. Bark once said the mountain was called Buff Springs Mountain instead of Bluff Springs Mountain because of its color rather than the bluffs that totally encircle this elongated mountain. William A. Barkley always called it Bluff Springs Mountain. He ran cattle in the area from 1907-1955. Bark began running his cattle in the area about 1891. It is reasonable to believe the people who first reported the mountain being called Bluff Mountain may have corrupted the name themselves.

History does not record the name of the first prospector who searched this mountain for gold. It would not be unreasonable to believe the first prospectors in this area were Hispanic prospectors from along the Rio Gila in the early 1800s. These Hispanic prospectors were probably followed by mountain men led by Paulino Weaver in 1827. The reason for this suggestion is the name of Weaver’s Needle. This landmark was named after Paulino Weaver in 1853, about twelve years prior to Weaver’s death near Camp Verde.

Weaver was a notable Arizona guide, prospector, mountain man and scout. It is further reasonable to believe prospectors covered this area during the great search for mineral wealth in Arizona Territory (1863-1895). Many newspaper articles place prospectors in the vicinity of Weaver’s Needle and Bluff Springs Mountain as early as 1884.

Bluff Springs Mountain became a prominent part of the Dutchman’s Lost Mine story in the early 1930s. The mountain played a role in Harvey Mott’s articles for the Arizona Republican in 1931. A story that began about an archaeological expedition ended up being one of the lead stories concerning the tragic death of Adolph Ruth in December of 1931. It was chroniclers like Oren Arnold, Charles Higham and Barry Storm who placed this rugged mountain in their literary works. Prospectors like Charles Aylor, Albert Morrow, John Pearce and Glen Magill made Bluff Springs a part of Superstition Mountain history. It was not until 1967 that the mountain acquired national prominence. In April of that year Glenn Magill announced to the world he had found the Dutchman’s Lost Mine on Bluff Springs Mountain.

He said, “We don’t just think we have found it, we have found it.” Magill, like many other men over the years, made a claim and then couldn’t produce sufficient [evidence] to back it. This has been the story of the elusive Dutchman’s Lost Mine since the death of Jacob Waltz on October 25, 1891, in Phoenix, Arizona.

Bluff Springs Mountain is a three by one-and-a-half mile rock composed of alternating layers of basalt and ash formed some 24-29 million years ago during the Tertiary Period of geologic time. Geologically the mountain is a poor place to search for gold-bearing minerals. There are a couple of insignificant sites that have been intruded by small mineral-bearing veins that contain a little quartz and iron pyrite. The iron pyrite of Bluff Springs Mountain does not contain gold or any [valuable] metal.

Many prospectors and treasure hunters believe Bluff Springs Mountain contains a cache of rich gold ore or bullion. There are no historic Spanish, Mexican or American records to support treasure caches on Bluff Springs Mountain. It is a search in total futility to look for a gold cache on Bluff Springs Mountain. When I was a young man in the 1950s I spent many weeks roaming the top of Bluff Springs Mountain. Much of what I found had to do with contemporary prospectors and the early cattle ranchers in the area.

There are numerous stories about hidden Spanish caches on Bluff Springs Mountain. The Jesuit cache theories still remain an interesting theory and that is all there is to it. It is a theory.

Father Charles Polzer, Jesuit historian at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, says, “The insistent legends about Jesuit treasure in the Superstitions are pure bunk. All it proves is the catastrophic ignorance of contemporary inhabitants of the desert of all the important history of the Southwest.”