"Mysteries in the Santa Catalinas" a new book about legends and history

08/08/2014 - 10:17
08/08/2019 - 10:17
By Bob Zucker

The Catalinas are filled with rich legends– the Iron Door Mine, the Lost City and the Lost Mission. The mountains are also filled with gold, silver and copper.

Much of those treasures are already extracted from mining ventures over the past few hundred years, dating from Spanish colonial times in Pimeria Alta. Those massive mountains are not as serene as you might think. The Santa Catalina Mountains are shrouded in history and immersed in legends. For thousands of years, the mountains have been the source of water, food and essentials for many nomadic groups who lived in the valley and foothills.

In the past few hundred years, the mountains were exploited and bled for its mineral wealth. The bloodstains of natives and settlers who tried, and failed, to extract its riches overshadow those who made fortunes hedging the Catalina’s secret lode.

Besides its beauty, the Catalina Mountains are also the source of mystique, lost treasure legends and a long documented history of precious metal mining. A substantial amount of gold and other minerals has been extracted from the mountains over the last few centuries. As prospectors staked out claims around the mountains in hopes to find its riches, they retold the legends of the Santa Catalinas. Those stories became part of Arizona’s history.

The Tucson Gold Rush of the 1870s brought American prospectors and investors to the Santa Catalina’s after the California Gold Rush. Prospectors heard stories about a lost treasure of Spaniards, the legend of the Iron Door Mine and gold dripping from the Canyon of Gold– the Cañada del Oro.

The discoveries of early Spanish placer mining sites and ruins in the mountains only fueled speculation about the riches that may have been left behind.

The folklore, and rich samples collected from the mountains, prompted many explorations into the mountains. Adventure seekers combed the hills and canyons digging for treasures and prospecting for minerals. There were numerous strikes of gold, silver and copper. It was enough for investors, including William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars towards massive mining ventures.

One factor stood in the way of these aspiring prospectors– the Apache Indians who guarded the mountains and defended it with blood for hundreds of years.

After the Apaches were finally subdued, the hub of early American mining in the Catalina Mountains developed in five areas: the Cañada del Oro, the town of Oracle, including Campo Bonito and Old Hat Mining Districts, Marble Peak near Mt. Lemmon and along the southern base near La Ventaña.

Not far from these sites are the remains, and reports, of previous occupations. This is where the legends and history of the Santa Catalina Mountains begin.

Read pages from a new book about the history and legends of the Santa Catalinas. called "Mysteries in the Santa Catalinas." Available on amazon.com.