Monday, July 12, 2010

Return to the Cave of a Thousand Eyes

July 12, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The "Cave of a Thousand Eyes" surely had other names, but I am not privileged with that information. However, I am amazed this semi-wet cave has survived into the 21st century with very little damage. The cave was announced to world in 1935 when a local prospector reported finding a diamond mine in the Superstition Mountains.

The Cave is located in the drainage of the Haunted Canyon near the old Tony (Toney) Ranch. Photo c. 1979.
I visited the cave about 14 years ago and you could still see the spot where Joe Modock found his so-called "diamond treasure." When I climbed through the entrance of the cavern it was almost closed with loose debris and well concealed from the streambed below. I sincerely believed the beauty of this cavern needed to be protected from vandals so I carefully completed the closure of the opening by piling broken pieces of limestone over the entrance as I departed for final time. Modock and Jose Perez ventured only a few hundred feet into the limestone cavern. It wasn't until the early 1970s this cave was explored by two amateur spelunkers. The explorers climbed through about 1,200 feet of narrow caverns and chambers before giving up because of water. The cave is not a wet cave by caving criteria; however the cave has a significant amount of water in it. The water may come from an underground spring or from a seep during the rainy season.

I made another visit to the cave this year and found no evidence of anyone being in the cave or any damage in the entrance area. Hopefully the cave will remain undiscovered for another couple of decades until it can properly be protected. My GPS coordinates are accurate within 10 foot. I had often wondered if anyone could find it with my GPS coordinates. The entrance is so well closed with limestone rocks and a good stand of Manzanita. The Manzanita covers the entrance of the cave making it difficult to see standing within ten feet of it. Limestone caverns are quite rare within the boundaries of the Superstition Wilderness Area because most of the wilderness is compose of intrusive or extrusive igneous rocks. Only small portions of the wilderness include sedimentary rock. The most prominent areas of sedimentary rocks are found along the Haunted Canyon drainage and its tributaries.

Early cattlemen of the area undoubtedly knew about these various lime stone caves in this region because they probably chased Mountain lions into these caves with dogs. The Mountain lions preyed on their cattle and had to be destroyed when they could be found. An old time cowboy lion hunter told me he once took over forty lions out-of this country in one year. The only way these old cowboys could be successful killing lions was using good tracking and scent hounds.

The names Moraga, and even Jose Perez (Periz) have been attached to the names of some caverns in the area. Both Frank Moraga and Jose Perez (Periz) homesteaded in the region along Pinto Creek between 1910-1916. Eventually the homesteads were proven up and they received title to their land. Frank Moraga probably was the first man to really explore the cavern. Jose Perez (Periz) also entered the cave and then several months later returned with the Gila County engineer. Perez was convinced he had discovered the Dutchman's Lost Mine. The next man to explore the cavern was Joe Modock in 1935. He claimed he had found a diamond mine in the Superstition Mountains. As it turned out, he had a sack of Calcite crystals he had broken off the wall of the cavern. The diamond mine story was short-lived when local discovered the diamonds were Calcite crystals. This is a brief history on the cavern, but it gives the reader some of the available information. Information about this cavern can be found in the Mesa Journal Tribune c. 1935, and the Arizona Republican, c. 1916.

The Haunted Canyon and Pinto Creek area has some very interesting history associated with it. Cattle, homesteading, and mining have played an important role in this slowly developing area. The large open pit mine east of the region has consumed many of the local landmarks. One of the truly interesting landmarks was Gold Rush Creek. This was site was the source of a lot of free gold prior the open pit mining in the area. Today, fine gold can still occasionally be found in Pinto Creek, however most of the creek is staked out with current claims.

The "Cave of a Thousand Eyes," Moraga Cave or Periz's Cave all are probably one in the same. As far as I know the cavern is still in pristine condition other than the damage done by Modock when he broke of the Calcite crystals on the travertine wall about 300 feet from the entrance of "Grand Chamber" and at least 200 feet from the entrance. Hopefully the entrance of this cavern will remain unknown to the general public and therefore it may survive into another century.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Our Museum: A Special Place

July 5, 2010 © Thomas J. Kollenborn. All Rights Reserved.

The community of Apache Junction lies nestled beneath the towering facade of world famous Superstition Mountain. This giant monolith and the infamous Dutchman's Lost mine has carried Apache Junction and Arizona into the limelight of national and international news for numerous decades.

The history and legend of this mountain has motivated more than a hundred authors to write books on the subjects of Superstition Mountain, the Dutchman's Lost Mine, Lost Peralta Gold or the beauty of the Sonoran Desert.

Television cameras have broadcasted these stories across the airways of the nation and the world. Not too long ago, Arizona Senator John McCain commented on the unique history of this mountain wilderness and how proud he was about having a part in helping to preserve the historical society, once it was area for an A & E documentary as he stood at the base of Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman State Park on Wednesday, January 21, 1998. Tourists, residents, and visitors are still fascinated with the history and legend of this mountain.

The idea of a museum being constructed and dedicated to the history of Superstition Mountain and the Dutchman's Lost Mine was conceived seventy years ago. However, this idea wasn't put into action. In mid-November of 1978, the idea of a museum in the Apache Junction area again emerged from idle conversation. This discussion generated the energies of individuals who wanted to fulfill the dream of a museum about Superstition Mountain and the adjacent area.

The greatest obstacle for the historical society, once it was formed and incorporated, was finding a building to display artifacts and exhibits. Finally in the spring of 1989, Mr. Robert Schoose and partners, at the Goldfield Ghost Town Tours, Inc., offered the historical society a home for the museum. The agreement included a two-story 3,500 square foot building on an ideal location in the ghost town overlooking the Apache Trail and with Superstition Mountain to the east. The grand opening of the new museum took place on Saturday, January 30, 1990 after many months of hard work.

The historical society members gathered a variety of items to represent the history of the region. Some of the items included Hohokam stick figures, an excellent mineral collection, a 1904 Apache Trail road marker, maps, books, gold specimens, era items such as an 1898 bicycle, a 20 stamp gold mill for crushing gold ore, and etc. The museum captures a sequence of time from the prehistoric to contemporary in a very small space. The museum also contains a collection of art and photographs of the region. The museum book store has one of the finest selections of reading material on the Superstition Mountain and Arizona.

Museum displays contain a variety of topics ranging from history to geology, fauna to flora and maps to legends. The museum was both entertaining and educational.

Eventually the museum outgrew Goldfield and the board of directors decided to move the facility to the museum's thirteen acres near Mountain View Road and the Apache Trail. The ground breaking for the new museum occurred on Friday, at 3:00 P.M. on January 3, 2003. The grand opening of the new museum was held on Thursday, at 4:30 P.M. December 4, 2004.

The Supersitition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum is located 3 1/2 miles NE of Apache Junction at 4087 N. Apache Trail. Get a feeling of what the Old West was really like. The museum has a variety of exhibits and is open 383 days a year.
The primary goal of this museum has been to preserve and present the history, geology, flora, fauna and lore of the Superstition Wilderness Area. This new museum has an outstanding collection on the history of this region. Men like Jack Anderson, George Curtiss, Barney Barnard and even my father dreamed of Apache Junction someday having a museum dedicated to Superstition Mountain and the Lost Dutchman Mine. A group of modern day visionaries made this museum a reality by 1990. The opening of the new facility in 2003 has insured a future for the preservation of Superstition Mountain and Lost Dutchman Mine history and legend.

For more information about the museum call (480) 983- 4888, write the Superstition Mountain Historical Society, P.O. Box 3845, Apache Junction, Arizona, 85117 or email to