The Curse of the Lost Dutchman

I am taking the liberty of plagiarizing the title of Helen Corbin’s excellent book, The Curse of the Dutchman’s Gold, (1991) not to be funny or anything of the kind, rather as a compliment.  I am not trying to sell books for Amazon either, please feel free to get your copy from any retailer who offers it, or from your local library.  It is well worth your time and money.  I would make it required reading for anyone interested in the story of the infamous Lost Dutchman gold mine, along with several other source books which I will add at the end of this post.


The interest in the Lost Dutchman gold mine remains high after over a century of searching.  More than one treasure hunter has invested years of his life or even a lifetime in the quest.  The location could not be more un-inviting, for it is supposed to be located in the craggy recesses of the Superstition Mountains in southern Arizona, one of the most rugged pieces of terrain on the planet.  Laws have been enacted to protect the mountains and keep them in a nearly pristine state, making it nearly impossible for a modern treasure hunter to search effectively, and even more difficult to ever law claim to the mine if he or she should be so lucky as to actually find it.  Over 100 have lost their lives in those mountains, it is not a place to be careless or take foolish chances; yet hundreds of people hike through the range on a regular basis without incident and no worse for it than perhaps a few cactus thorns.   But do not let this fact lull you into thinking there is no danger, for such a simple thing as a twisted ankle, miles from any help, could become a deadly serious situation.


What is it about this particular lost mine legend that holds such fascination for people?  It is very far from being the only lost mine in the southwest, or even in Arizona for that matter; there are quite literally hundreds of stories of lost mines in Arizona alone.  Most of them are little known or even obscure, and few treasure hunters are willing to spend a moment of time even researching them.  Yet this story of the mine of Jacob Waltz keeps its attraction; luring men and women to exert themselves and spend their money to hunt for it, in spite of the terrific legal hurdles that would entail finding it, in spite of the dangers and the extreme odds against finding it at all.  Yes, some 100 different people have all claimed to have found the lost bonanza over the years, but in the last 50 only one had an ore specimen with gold, and even that story is questionable.  In the early days of Dutch-hunting, as this pursuit is commonly called in the community, quite a few men made claims of having found the mine and had actually found a rich gold mine – in every case it was NOT the lost mine of Jacob Waltz (the ore did not match) but at least they had found an actual gold mine; many of our modern claimants have only found a place that fits the various “clues” or spotted an anomaly on a satellite photo that seems to fit the stories.  Did someone find it by a satellite image?  We can not know without an ore specimen, and a comparison done by a qualified expert.


On a personal note, my wife and I have gone looking for this lost mine on a number of occasions, without finding it of course.   There are a number of forums on the internet where people interested in the subject frequently gather to discuss it, yet even so, if one is not careful about how your words are phrased it can come across as someone pretending to be some  kind of an “expert” on the lost mine which will rub folks the wrong way.  I certainly do not wish to make any pretense at being an expert on the Lost Dutchman mine, so dear reader please keep that in mind while reading these words, and please do your own research; never take the word of someone just at face value for when the subject of the Lost Dutchman is at stake, some people will not hesitate to try to mislead you.  I have no such intention personally, but my views could very well be quite mistaken so don’t take my word as final on this.


The curse of the Dutchman’s gold may be real.  Several of those whom have claimed to have found it, died before being able to tell anyone where it is.  Once you visit those haunted mountains, you too may well be infected with something akin to Gold Fever, for you will feel a sort of “pull” for you to return to them again and again, even without finding any gold at all.  While most of the area is officially and legally a federal Wilderness Area, which has severe restrictions on any kind of prospecting or digging, there really is something indefinable and even beautiful about them.   In truth it is not really a “wilderness” – for most of the area was pastureland where cattle roamed and real cowboys worked; prospectors had little cabins and camps, and the hand of man left an imprint in many places, which certainly does not fit the definition of a wilderness by the terms of the Act that made the mountains practically off-limits for us.  It is really a man-made “wilderness” but don’t try to argue it with a US Forest Ranger.  A reasonable person might well just write the whole thing off as an impossible dream, yet even knowing all the problems, risks and potential legal squabble should you find the mine, many of us cannot resist the urge to return.


As for experts on the Lost Dutchman gold mine, there are a handful of real ones.  Clay Worst, Bob Corbin, Tom Kollenborn usually top any list, along with Dr Thomas Glover, and a few others are still around for us to bother with questions.  My wife and I have been lucky enough to have met all of them in person, thanks to the efforts of Joe Ribaudo and his wife Carolyn, for they started the now annual Dutch Hunters Rendezvous held at the Dons Club camp outside Apache Junction.  Joe and his wife are two of the most gracious and friendly people imaginable, and served as hosts for the first several rendezvous, which has now grown beyond what two people could act as hosts for.  Joe deserves a lot of credit for founding this tradition, a rendezvous of treasure hunters with simple rules to prevent problems and rather similar to the rendezvous of the Mountain Men of old.   For anyone interested in the legend of the Lost Dutchman, I highly recommend attending one of these annual meets, scheduled for the third weekend in October each year.


Is there gold in the Superstition mountains?  I have to say yes – a qualified affirmation to be sure, for it is not a case of the gold being available just anywhere throughout the range, but small traces of gold can be panned out in a number of places.  One such place is Fish creek, but before you start counting your millions, I should add that the amount of gold in that picturesque and rugged creek bed is very far from enough to pay you wages.  Two government studies done on the geology of the range came up with the most  discouraging sort of conclusions, and it is certainly true that the rock types you see over most of the range are hardly the right type to find rich gold veins.   Only one test showed any hint that supports the theory of a rich gold mine, a mercury vapor test, which type of test will not serve to pinpoint the location at all, but it did hint that a rich gold deposit may lie under the Superstitions, perhaps deeply buried.


Now dear reader, before you get a few treasure maps and start hiking, take into consideration that the man who had the gold mine, namely Jacob Waltz, never made any map to the mine.  All of the maps available to the public have been tried and tested by several treasure hunters before us, and none were successful in leading to the fabulous gold mine.  The clues and directions are almost as questionable, for it seems almost a certainty that something in them is wrong; perhaps something has gotten garbled, or mis-remembered or even deliberately falsified to throw off competitors.  Your search ought to be based on solid ground and there is precious little in this legend that fits that standard.

Get the best topographic maps you can, and yes satellite images and aerial photos to study the area before you set off.  Don’t go in the summer – the heat is a very real killer, and temperatures can get well over 100 degrees F in the shade, and there is precious little shade anywhere in the Superstitions.  Study a book on geology so you know what gold looks like and what the ores look like, so that you won’t be fooled by finding one of the numerous old empty prospect holes dug by earlier Dutch hunters, for there are quite a few of these and they fool people all the time.  The damage done by the early treasure hunters helped to cause the very restrictive regulations we now have, for they were not hesitant to use dynamite in the quest, blasting away where there was no trace of any gold.  Don’t expect that you are just going to walk up and stumble onto the mine, for old Jacob Waltz worked hard to conceal it – it may even have trees or cactus growing on top of it by now.  Trails criss-cross the wilderness and while some lead you somewhere, others are old cow paths, game trails and so on but it is just possible that some ancient or well hidden trail might lead to the legendary Peralta mines or at least to the camp of the Dutchman.  It is not going to be an easy task by any measure, and if you are easily discouraged then you should forget this subject right now.


Here are a few book suggestions to get you started, to go along with Helen’s excellent book mentioned above; if you can read these and not feel the urge to visit the Superstition mountains, you are a stronger person than I am.  There are hundreds of other books and articles available, many of which are very good, and at least one movie “Lust for Gold” starring Glenn Ford and Ida Lupino.

The Lost Dutchman Gold  Mine by Sims Ely <Sims is quite possibly our best source, as he actually interviewed friends of Waltz>

The Golden Dream (The Lost Dutchman Mine of Jacob Waltz Pt 1) by Dr Thomas E. Glover <Dr Glover is the only living person to have done any kind of scientific tests on surviving ore specimens)

The Holmes Manuscript (the Lost Dutchman Mine of Jacob Waltz Pt 2) by Dr Thomas E. Glover

Superstition Mountain; A Ride Through Time by Tom Kollenborn <Tom is a local historian and geologist, spent his life in these mountains along with his partner Bob Corbin, a regular gold mine of historical information>

Hikers Guide to the Superstition Wilderness: With History and Legends of Arizona’s Lost Dutchman Gold Mine by Jack C. Carlson and Elizabeth Stewart <they have hiked pretty much every inch of the trails and this guide could save your life!>

And the ‘grandaddy’ of them all,

Trail of the Lost Dutchman by Barry Storm; Storm may not be a fact filled source but did more than any previous author to popularize the legend, and his books are a great read.   May be a bit difficult to find a copy but worth the effort.


Wishing you all a very Happy New Year, and should you be the lucky person to find the Lost Dutchman gold mine – please save me a specimen of that rich ore!  Good luck and good hunting amigos, I hope you find the treasures that you seek.






~ by Oroblanco on December 31, 2011.

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