AZentertain: Arizona Gold Rush

Hunt for Gold and Legends of the Santa Catalinas

By Robert Zucker
Contributed by William Flint Carter

The Arizona Gold Rush is still going on!

The gold rush has lasted hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

The search for gold in the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of Tucson, Arizona, may have started as early as the 1500s with the expedition of Coronado.

The arrival of the Spaniards in the 1700s also contributed to the legends of lost Spanish mines and the bullions of gold buried in the Catalina mountains.

Gold placer deposits in the Cañada del Oro, (Cañon of Gold) which runs through the Catalinas, were well exploited by the Spaniards. 1

Read sample chapters from the Treasure of the Santa Catalinas.

This new book is now available. Purchase Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains online for a discount at or locally in Tucson at Mostly Books, Oracle Inn, Buzz Café and other locations to be announced. Keep checking back for announcements and new chapters to read online.

The Gold Rush of the 1880s

During the Arizona gold rush of the 1880s, numerous newspaper accounts described the "gold bearing quartz" found in the mountains that helped spark the rush.

The Santa Catalina mountains had been extensively mined for copper, silver and gold by some of Tucson's community leaders of the 1900s, like E.O. Stratton, Sheriff Bob Leatherwood. Even William "Buffalo Bill" Cody invested and explored the mines in search of precious minerals.

Prospectors and wealthy industrialists staked multiple mining camps and hauled out thousands of pounds of gold from the hills well before Arizona became a state in 1912. This gold, encrusted in quartz, was not far from the legendary lost mine.

Gold placering sites in the Catalinas had a reported production as much as 1,000 ounces of gold from 1904 to 1949. One nugget found weighed over 6 ounces. 2

In 1982, a reported 230 oz of gold was recovered in a resource assessment test on "placer gravels allegedly near 200-year-old placer sites of the Spaniards. 3

Gold mining the Catalina Mountains still has some lucrative prospects, according to a mining assessment report published by the US Bureau of Mines in 1994. 4

Is there any gold left?

Some prospectors and gold hunting groups insist that the patient hobbyist, or entrepreneur can recover some gold, mostly in the form of flakes and occasional nugget. There are some claims that plenty of gold is still available if properly mined.

Recently mining operations has been revived on the Oracle Ridge by Gold Hawk Resources, a Canadian mining company.

Read about the discovery of gold in the Catalinas.

A lost city, lost mines and buried treasure

While American mining ventures have been extracting as much of the gold and copper it could from the Catalina mountains for over a century, there are still some spots that haven't been explored in a long, long time.

The lost mine and the lost city are among the most well known legends. Somewhere deep inside the basin of that mountain range, some of those great treasures may still be hidden, according to legends. Read about the Lost Mine in the Catalinas.

The Treasure in the Catalinas

The real treasure is what the Spaniards supposedly hidden, or took with them, when and what's left in those mountains.

This is where the legend of the treasure in the Santa Catalina begins. These are the stories, histories and legends of one of the biggest secrets in Southern Arizona- Arizona's rush for gold.

Discover the history of Arizona's rush for gold through old newspaper articles and personal accounts recorded from pioneers who helped spark Arizona's golden treasures.

The Santa Catalinas

Catalina Mountains Tucsn Arizona- the Lost City Treasure

The Santa Catalina mountains rises north of Tucson, Arizona. Its peak near Mt. Lemmon reaches over 9,000 feet above sea level. This earns its name as a "sky island" as it juts out in the middle of the Sonoran desert. The Catalina mountains are also the source of lost treasure legends and a long, documented history of gold and precious metal mining for centuries.

The history of inhabitation of the Tucson basin spans over ten thousand years. Ancient canals and artifacts provide the evidence of Tucson being the longest inhabited "civilization" in the North America.

The majesty of the sky island mountain range has lured foreigners and native residents of the dusty desert valley to the towering pines of the Santa Catalinas.

Today, the road to Mt. Lemmon provides a quick way to get to the top of the Santa Catalinas within a hour. Flowing out of the north end of the Catalinas is the Cañada del Oro (Canyon of Gold or gold gulch), a now dry riverbed that once had year round running water.

Authors: This research project is conducted by the following Tucson, Arizona residents fascinated with the history and legends of the Old West.

Robert Zucker, a Tucson, Arizona native, author, former journalism instructor and newspaper publisher, is the CEO of Entertainment Magazine network, publisher of Zucker has researched and explored the Santa Catalina mountains.

William "Flint" Carter is a local miner who has been prospecting the Santa Catalinas and surrounding areas for decades. Carter has held dozens of mining claims and has been in persuit of the lure of the legends.


1-4. "Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest," Mineral Land Assessment, 1994. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines (Heylmun, E. B., 1989, Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona: California Mining Journal, vol. 69, No. 1, p. 11-15.).

Read the original newspaper articles digitized by the Chronicaling America Newspaper Project, a National Endowment for the Humanities project of the Library of Congress. Select a link to open the newspaper page in a new window. Choose from several viewing formats from PDF to JPG.

"Treasure in the Santa Catalinas: Unraveling the History and Legends of the Iron Door Mine, Lost City and Lost Mission"

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Exploring the Treasures of the Santa Catalinas

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Arizona Gold Rush Time Line

The Arizona Gold Rush Time Line diagrams the major events that sparked and continued the Arizona Gold Rush for hundreds of years. View year by year and by century to explore the historic records, newspaper articles and accounts of mining and prospecting for gold, the lost city and the lost mine.

Arizona Gold Rush Map let you see historic locations pin pointed by Google Map. Zoom close to examine surroundings. Read newspaper accounts of explorations, prospecting and experiences in the Santa Catalina mountains over the past several hundred years.

Articles & Videos

Lost civilizations of the mountains

The Legend of the Iron Door Mine

Videos on the Santa Catalinas

Cody Stone is mined and designed as jewelry grade gold and silver in quartz from the mountains of the Santa Catalinas. Cody stone specimens and hand made items are on display at the Oracle Inn Steakhouse & Saloon in Oracle, Arizona. Get a tour of the area, see artifacts of the Iron Door Mine and Southwest, and mine for gold with Flint Carter. The only source for Cody Stone. Call Flint at 520-289-4566.

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