Tuesday, January 19, 1999

The Golden Three

January 19, 1999 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved. 

Black Top Mesa, Bluff Springs Mountain and Weaver’s Needle have long been synonymous with the tales of the Superstition Mountains. The three landmarks lie in close proximity to each other and each play their roles as part of the legacy of lost gold in the region.

Bluff Springs Mountain lies directly east of Weaver’s Needle and Black Top Mesa. Weaver’s Needle lies immediately south of Black Top Mesa. Black Top and Bluff Springs are separated by a deep narrow chasm known as Needle Canyon. Bluff Springs Mountain lies between Needle and La Barge Canyon. There are few tales about the Lost Dutchman Mine that don’t include one of these prominent landmarks. Storytellers shroud all three with mystery and intrigue, and each has been, at one time or the other, the center of national attention.

Black Top Mesa received considerable national attention in 1931 and 1932 when the skull and body of treasure hunter Adolph Ruth was found in its proximity. Ruth was a Washington, D.C. treasure hunter who disappeared in the Superstitions in the summer of 1931. His skull was discovered just north of Bluff Springs Mountain on December 10, 1931 and his skeletal remains were found on the slopes of Black Top Mesa in January of 1932.

Bluff Springs Mountain received considerable notoriety in Curt Gentry’s book “The Killer Mountains” and the mountain was the center of Glenn Magill’s search for the Lost Dutchman Mine in 1967. Packers used the northeast trail to get up on and off of Bluff Springs Mountain and cattlemen generally used the trail on the southeast end of the mountain to get to the top.

On top of Bluff Springs Mountain there is a natural holding area for animals at the north end of the valley and there is usually water available in Bluff Springs Mountain year-round. The cliffs surrounding the area provide protection from intruders and encircle a natural pasture that can easily be controlled by a few men.

Some storytellers will try to make you believe that this was an ideal setting for the early Mexican and Spanish miners who visited the region from time to time. According to these same storytellers, the Peraltas had their camp in this hidden valley. If you believe the stories, then you certainly would also believe this is Canon de Fresco. Somewhere on the southeast corner of the mountain is a cave located high above Bluff Springs. This cave contains a small bronze cross of some religious significance. Some storytellers claim that if you find the cross you will find one of the Peralta caches.

Directly across from the north end of Bluff Springs Mountain and to the west lies Black Top Mesa. The southeast slopes are dotted with dumps where discovery shafts have been excavated. This same characteristic is common on the west slope of Bluff Springs Mountain due east of Weaver’s Needle, and these barren holes are the result of dedicated men searching for gold or treasure.

Black Top is a fitting name for this pale yellow mountain capped with black basalt. Near the south end of Black Top, on the summit, are some ancient petroglyphs and contemporary etchings. The sun burst petroglyph here could be authentic Native American, but the oro etched into the rock is undoubtedly a contemporary marking.

Barry Storm, an early writer on the lost gold of Superstition Mountain, brought these markings to the world’s attention in his book, “On the Trail of the Lost Dutchman.” These markings have been romantically called “hieroglyphics.” Actually they have been described as Spanish “hieroglyphics,” but their authenticity is highly suspect. We all know hieroglyphics are confined to the Valley of the Nile in Africa and the various Egyptian dynasties. Still, these markings appear on a U.S. Geological Survey map, 71/2 minute typographic sheet titled “Goldfield,” and this map describes the markings as “Spanish Hieroglyphics.” 

The history, legend and romance of these three prominent Superstition Wilderness Area landmarks will continue to attract the curiosity of those who venture into these mountains, anxious to learn more about the region. The existence of the romantic nostalgia of this area cannot be denied, and these three landmarks have played a major role in the many lost gold stories about the Superstition Wilderness Area.