Since December 31, 1983, the Superstition Wilderness Area has been closed to mineral entry. This closure would not be significant if it were not for the fact that the infamous Lost Dutchman Gold Mine is allegedly located in this wilderness area, and stories of lost gold continue to fascinate men and women.
There are many other tales about buried caches of gold and silver bullion in the Superstition Wilderness Area left there by Spaniards some 150 to 300 years ago.
“Closed to mineral entry” means no mining claims can be staked in the Superstition Wilderness Area. The district ranger at the time said one could still prospect, but could not disturb the surface.
The United States government does allow legal treasure hunting and prospecting in the wilderness area by permit only. The permit process is known as the “Trove Treasure Permit.” Several Trove Treasure Permit applications were allowed in 1984, but none were actually approved. Approval by the district ranger permits an applicant to actually excavate. The application fee for a Trove Treasure Permit is $250.00. Anyone making an application must pay this fee.
A Trove Treasure Permit requires several steps before an individual can legally excavate a site in the wilderness area. First, there is the submission of an application for a Trove Treasure Permit and the payment of the $250.00 fee. Then the applicant must research and document the treasure. This phase can begin before or after the Trove Treasure Permit application has been submitted to the district ranger.
The next step requires an archaeological study of the permit site. A bond is required for the Trove Treasure site by [the] district ranger to assure the site will be returned to its original condition after excavation.
The Arizona State Mine Safety inspector also must sign off on the selected site in the wilderness area.
The final step is the approval of the operation plan and the granting of the permit by the district ranger. Finally, at this point the physical work of excavation can start at the site.
As the work progresses the district ranger will be constantly inspecting the progress of the excavation.
Ron Feldman, owner and operator of the O.K. Corral in Apache Junction, is the first prospector/treasure hunter to receive an approved Trove Treasure Permit for the Superstition Wilderness Area since all mining operations were suspended within the region on December 31, 1983. The approval of this permit and the site’s excavation should prove to be historical in nature. Feldman stresses his work at the site is not a search for gold, but a search for history.
Feldman and his associates have devoted much time and considerable finances toward historical research and documentation to secure approval of this Trove Treasure Permit. Feldman believes the most important aspect of this project is not the alleged gold bullion or treasure, but the historical value of the artifacts recovered at the site.
Feldman and his crew hope that the archaeological interpretation of artifacts found during the excavation of this site will prove the Spanish mined north of the Gila River.
Feldman set up his base camp near the Superstition Wilderness Area on Saturday, September 11, 2004. He and his crew will be transporting a disassembled head frame to the excavation site by hand and on pack animals. The site is located in a remote portion of the Superstition Wilderness Area. A geologist employed by Feldman stated the region was geologically conducive to gold and silver bearing ores.
Treasure hunting enthusiasts from around the world await any announcements from Feldman about the prospects of this adventure into the Superstition Wilderness Area. Feldman is cooperating [completely] with the Tonto National Forest District Ranger by keeping him constantly informed of all daily operations at the site.
If and when artifacts are discovered Feldman will immediately contact the Tonto National Forest archaeologist for his inspection and interpretation of the artifacts. The artifacts will be turned over to the authority of the United States government for final adjudication.
This excavation may prove to be one of the most interesting searches in more than a century in the Superstition Wilderness Area.
Time will prove the significance of this enormous effort to locate treasure in the Superstition Wilderness Area.