Tuesday, December 9, 1997

Fool's Canyon Gold

December 9, 1997 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

Somewhere in the Superstition Wilderness is located a rugged and secluded canyon. Old timers called it Fool’s Canyon. The canyon has been the center of a lost gold mine tale for more than one hundred years.

The story goes something like this. An army patrol camped near Dismal Valley in 1870 found two Mexican prospectors who were dehydrated and near death. It was quite apparent the two men had suffered several days of extreme hardship in rugged country. Their feet were raw from walking on rocks without shoes. They were severely sunburned and near total exhaustion from the lack of water. The officer in charge had no means by which to transport the two Mexicans to safety. He did give them water and food, and then explained how they could find the Rio Salado.

The two Mexican prospectors begged the officer and his men not to abandon them because the Apache would surely find and kill them. One of the Mexicans told of a rich gold deposit they had been working to the east of Picacho. He explained the vein was so rich the gold could be carved out with a knife. The Mexicans said the entire patrol would be rich if they would help them get back to Fort McDowell safely. The members of the Army patrol did not see any real evidence of rich gold ore therefore they left them behind with a limited supply of water and food.

Only one of the Mexicans survived the ordeal at Dismal Valley. The prospector eventually made his way out to the Rio Salado and downriver to Maryville’s Crossing. After being abandoned in the middle of Apache country by the Army, the survivor did not want anything to do with Anglos. An Anglo blacksmith named Bill Cage, married to a Caborca woman, befriended the survivor of Dismal Valley. After several years of friendship the location of Fool’s Canyon was revealed to Bill Cage.

Cage was told to travel east across the desert to Tanque Prieta, then on to Picacho. Picacho is a tall peak east of Sierra Superstition. Once near Picacho, travel eastward around a giant mountain surrounded by a barranca, then through a large box canyon. From the box canyon travel on eastward across red rolling hills until coming to a deep canyon. Once in the canyon walk upstream to the head of the canyon. At this point follow a high narrow ridge until a rugged mountaintop covered with large boulders is in sight. Near the base of the mountain, on the east side is a canyon with [sheer] walls. At this point, enter the canyon. The canyon is so narrow, it is apparent it will soon dead end. At the point where the canyon is arms’ length narrow, there will be another tributary with two deep tinajas. This is the mouth of Fool’s Canyon or, as we call it, Canon del Tonto. Once in the canyon climb out on a ridge. Just above, locate a large crack in the earth’s surface. It is here the gold will be found.

Bill Cage spent many years searching the area around Sawtooth Ridge and Rock Creek for Fool’s Canyon (Canon del Tonto), but never had any success locating a rich gold vein. Bill did find an excellent placer claim in Gold Rush Creek east of Pinto Creek in 1903.

Most skeptics would not believe the story of Fool’s Canyon. The truth lies somewhere between fantasy and reality. Cage believed Fool’s Canyon was Gold Rush Creek because of the gold he found there. Cage admitted in 1959, when he was near death, that he didn’t think the two canyons were one in the same. His reasoning was based on not finding the two stone tinajas. If the Gold Rush Creek wasn’t Fool’s Canyon, maybe someday a lucky prospector will discover those two tinajas and find the gold of Fool’s Canyon.