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Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains

Discovering the Gold Canyon

By Robert Zucker

The Tucson Gold Rush started in the Cañada del Oro. After the explorers left, the prospectors arrived. Then the businessmen came and extracted millions of dollars of gold from this river of gold.

American prospectors came to the Santa Catalina Mountains after the end of the California Gold Rush in the 1850s. These miners and cavalry troops regularly discovered gold nuggets in the “Canyon of Gold” where gold literally flowed out of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

It wasn’t always easy to recover the gold because for centuries the canyon and the Catalinas were controlled by the Apache Indians.

Once the hostile Apaches had been cleared from the mountains in the late 1800s, this deep canyon became a major passage from Tucson to Camp Grant for stagecoach travelers and the U.S. Cavalry. It was a quicker route to haul supplies to Oracle and the Old Hat mining district and bring back ore to Tucson. It also opened the gateway into the Catalina Mountains for mining ventures and settlers.

Prospectors immediately laid claims to extract gold from the mouth of the Canyon of Gold. Homesteaders, like Mariano G. Samaniego and Francisco Romero, settled along the riverbanks in the mid and late 1800s.

Early newspaper articles and authors used either “Cañon de Oro” or “Canyon del Oro” through the end of the 1890s. The Canyon spelling appeared in print in 1870, while the Cañon use was much earlier. The more popular name, “Cañada del Oro,” became more common in the early 1900s.

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Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains

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