Gold Fever at Lost Dutchman State Park

panning for gold lost dutchman“There’s gold in these hills, tenderfoot,” says my mother to me each year during our annual trek to the Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction. Spend enough time in Arizona, and you’re bound to get gold fever. So grab your gold pan and shovel, arrange for a grub stake, buy a map, and saddle up your mule as I tell you about the Grand Canyon State’s most famous gold mine story – the Lost Dutchman.

During the 1840’s, the Peralta family of northern Mexico supposedly developed a rich gold mine in the Superstitions. According to legend, an Apache ambush ended the family’s last expedition, and the gold remained in the area. In the 1870’s, Jacob Waltz (“the Dutchman”) was said to have located the mine through the aid of the Peralta descendant. Waltz and his partner, Jacob Weiser, worked in the mine and allegedly hid one or more caches of gold in the Superstitions. Most stories place the gold in the vicinity of Weaver’s Needle.

After Waltz’s death in 1891, several people attempted to seek out the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, all without luck. Later searchers have sometimes met with foul play or even death, contributing to the superstition and legend of these mountains. The legend of the “lost mine” has been fueled by a number of people who were supposed to have known the mine’s location or even worked it. Maps have surfaced over the years, only to become lost or misplaced.

Lost Dutchman State Park

Lost Dutchman State Park

The Lost Dutchman story has experienced a renewed interest because of the History Channel’s 2015 series LEGEND OF THE SUPERSTITION MOUNTAINS. The program teaser states: “Legend tells of the Lost Dutchman’s gold mine hidden somewhere within the 160,000 acres of brutal Arizona desert known as the “Superstition Mountains.” The promise of a $200 million mother lode has lured thousands of treasure hunters and continues to claim the lives of those eager to decipher the legend’s clues and riddles. With cursed mountains said to drive men mad and a hidden fortune of gold worth killing for, the treasure hunter’s greatest danger may be the man at his side. Trust at your own peril if you dare to tread into HISTORY’s Legend of the Superstition Mountains.” Gold, mystery, adventure, danger – are you interested yet?

If your search for the treasure proves as fruitless as mine, you’ll be happy to know there’s a lot to do in and around the park. Named after the fabled lost gold mine, this park is located in the Sonoran Desert at an elevation of 2000 feet. The Lost Dutchman State Park offers a variety of hiking trails, nature trails, campsites, picnic facilities, and special programs throughout the year. The park is located 5 miles north of Apache Junction, off of AZ 88 (the old Apache Trail), at the base of the Superstition Mountains and is open 365 days a year. azstateparks.com/Parks/LODU/

Good luck with the search – you’re going to need it. According to mom, “This is our year!” And with gold hovering around $1300 an ounce, I hope she’s right!

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