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Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains

American’s Mining Gold From The Canyon Of Gold

The Catalina Mountains had a reported production of 1,000 ounces of gold from 1904 to 1949. Today it would be valued at over $1.3 million. [1] One nugget weighed over six ounces. [2]

In 1982, a reported two hundred and thirty ounces of gold was recovered in a resource assessment test on “placer gravels allegedly near two hundred year old placer sites of the Spaniards.” [3] At today’s prices, it would be worth over $300,000.

From the 1880s into the mid-1900s, Americans extensively mined copper, silver, and gold in the Santa Catalina Mountains. Some of Tucson’s pioneer community leaders like Mariano Samaniego, E.O. Stratton and Sheriff Bob Leatherwood were prominent prospectors who lived and worked around the Catalina Mountains.

Even William “Buffalo Bill” Cody heavily invested and explored the hills in search of precious minerals, and for the Mine With The Iron Door with his friend William Neal. Gold mining the Catalina Mountains still has some lucrative prospects according to a mining assessment report published by the U.S. Bureau of Mines in 1994. [4]

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

Today the Oracle Ridge Mine near Mt. Lemmon and the Mammoth Mines near Oracle have both resumed operations. The Little Hills Mine near Oracle has been running for decades. Only one prospector [5] still holds an active mining claim to a remote spot in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

On most weekends amateur prospectors still roam the mountains for that precious mineral. While most of the substantial gold bearing quartz ore has been hauled away from the mountains, fortunate prospectors can still find quartz bearing gold and silver in select areas of the mountains.

“Prior to 1932, this county, which ranks sixth among the gold-producing counties of Arizona, yielded approximately $5,474,000 worth of gold of which about $3,120,000 worth came from lode gold mines.

The Mammoth district made most of this production, in the Quartz is an abundant mineral in the Santa Catalina Mountains, north of Tucson. Gold trapped in quartz is a valuable commodity that helped spur the Arizona Gold Rush of the 1880s.” [6]

The Cañada del Oro has been a consistent source of gold and mineral ore. [7] The Spanish name– Cañon de Oro– means the “Canyon of Gold.” This golden gulch sparked the Tucson gold rush in the mid-1850s. At different times the creek was also called Canyon del Oro and Gold Canyon Creek. [8]


Footnotes:

[1] Based on $1,340 value of gold in 2013. Gold values remained a constant $18.93 starting in 1993 a troy ounce through 1871 when it had increased a penny and continued to fluctuate a few pennies each year throughout most of the 1880-1890s. Source: Prices from 1883-1994, World Gold Council, from Timothy Green’s Historical Gold Price Table.

[2] Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest, Part 5, 1994. Page 25. The Spanish placer sites were suggested by Edgar Heylmun, 1989, Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona: California Mining Journal, vol. 69, No. 1, p. 11-15.

[3] Ibid, page 25.

[4] Ibid, pages 12-14.

[5] William T. Carter has the only current, individual mining claim in the Santa Catalina Mountains.

[6] Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest, Part 5. Page 25. Reprinted 1983. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, MLA 25-94, 1994.

[7] Mining claims in the Cañada del Oro date back into the 1870s, but prospecting had been conducted for centuries.

Arizona Bureau of Mines Bulletin, No. 132 (1932), Arizona Gold Placers and Placering, by G.M. Butler. Pages 59-61; Arizona Bureau of Mines Bulletin, No. 142 (1937); Arizona Gold Placers and Placering, pages 74-77; Gold Placers and Placering in Arizona, by E.D. Wilson, page 61. 1978; and the Arizona Department of Mineral Resources Gold Channel placer, #1T036 file. Cañada del Oro Mine (Old Hat placers; Gold Canyon placers; Gold Channel Placer #1-3), in the Cañada del Oro Wash, Oracle District (Control District; Old Hat District; Santa Catalina District), Santa Catalina Mts, Pinal and Pima Counties, Arizona, USA (mindat.org).

[8] Gold Canyon Creek is cited in the Official Map of the Territory of Arizona, compiled from Surveys, Reconnaissance’s and other sources, by E.A. Eckhoff and P. Riecker, Civil Engineers, 1880. From the David Ramsey Collection, Cartography Associates. Publisher, The Graphic Co., Photo-Lith. NY.