AZentertain: Arizona Gold Rush: Gold

Mining for gold and silver in the Santa Catalinas and the Canyon of Gold

Gold and Silver from the Santa Catalina Mountains

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By Robert Zucker
Contributed by William Flint Carter

Gold trapped in quartz is a valuable commodity that helped spur the Arizona Gold Rush of the 1880s. Quartz is an abundant mineral in the Santa Catalina mountains, north of Tucson.

Americans came to the Catalinas at the end of the California Gold Rush. Waves of settlers homesteaded on the northside of the Catalina mountains. They dug for precious metals like gold, copper and silver.

While much of the gold has been hauled away from the mountains, fortunate prospectors can still find gold and quartz bearing gold and silver, in select areas of the mountains.

"Treasures of the Santa Catalinas"
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Learn the legends and history of the Santa Catalina Mountains- including the Tucson Gold & Silver Rush, the Iron Door Mine, and Buffalo Bill Cody's mine. Read sample chapters, and download free PDF sample from the new book "Treasures of the Santa Catalina Mountains" with over 600 pages and more than 1,200 footnotes to the source material.

Quartz bearing gold leads the discovery

"The mine is one of the few in the Santa Catalina Mountains which has produced any significant quantity of auriferous ore. Otherwise known as Fools Gold," from 1881 to 1906, 18,666 st of auriferous quartz vein were mined." (A41)

The report says that "there are an estimated 85,200 st of indicated resources of auriferous vein material along the full strike length" (A41). The report suggests that it was not economically viable to leach out the remaining gold. That was when the mid-1994 price of gold was $387 an ounce. 1

As early as January 1882 adventurous developers were building roads and railroads to haul out the newly discovered gold ore:

"another railroad project is on foot which promises to add to the importance of Tucson and bring our city in direct communication with the rich mines of the Santa Catarinas." 2

Dr. K. Kane spearheaded the movement to build a three foot guage road along the route now traveled by the Santa Catarina stage line round the point of the mountains to the Oracle mine. In the vicinity, ex-Tucson Maor R. N. Leatherwood had a large ranch. At that time, the Santa Catalina mountains were called the Santa Catarinas.

"From the Oracle camp the road will be run by the most feasible route to the American Flag mine; from the American Glag to the camp of the Santa Catarina Copper; from that point, over the road already built by the Santa Catarina Company to the San Pedro valley."

The road was expected to continue until it "reaches the Atlantic & Pacific" and that it would open up one of the richest mineral sections in the territory. 2

But, by February 1886, the old Apache copper smelter in the Santa Catalinas had closed because of financial difficulties. Although, the Southern Belle gold mine, which started a few months earlier has already shipped about $7,000 worth of gold. 3

It wasn't until December 1887, that "work has again started upon the well-known American Flag mine and things are likely to boom in the Santa Catalinas," according to the Mohave County Miner reporting on an article in the Tucson Citizen. "Mr. Armstrong, who represents the syndicate bonding the property has ten men employed taking out such ore as will prove available for shipment and the recent outlook of the property is an extremely favorable one." 4

By November 1900, the Cañada del Oro river was being worked on for placer and lode gold mining.

"The Canada del Oro gold mines or field, situated 35 miles from Tucson, on the north foothills of the Catalina mountains, comprise over 400 acres, are now being worked with an average of $14 free milling ore, with large veins of low grade ore. Its name was given the Canyon of Gold. The owners are Tucson citizens." 5

Even by 1901, gold was discovered in the Cañada del Oro:

"Rich gold strikes are becoming frequent in Arizona. They are so numerous and so rich that some hesitancy Is made In recording them for the public interest It might be thought they were over drawn, says the Citizen, but if there are those who entertain doubts, all that is nessary to dispel a disbelief Is to examine the specimens referred to, or, better still, visit the mines themselves.

The latest strike comes from Canada del Oro. Mr. Charles Bauer, at a depth of ten feet has uncovered a 2 1/2 foot ledge of very rich gold reck. The ore has the appearance of honey-combed rock having ben tilled with melted. gold; when broken the particle1 of rock are held together by wire gold, and is, in fact nearly, pure. Mr. Bauer does not exaggerate his property, being content to say that he has taken out only 100 pounds of the precious rock. The claim is known as the Ella, and adjoins the group of mines lately bonded by hlmself and Mayor Schumacher, and Is also adjoining the mines owned by Dr. Mattas of this city.

The Ella Is the personal property of Mr. Bauer, who has been very successful in mining throughout Colorado as well as Arizona. The Canada del Oro district is one of the most, promising mining fields in Arizona, and the public may look for more cheering news from that section as development work progresses." 6

  • Photo above: Cody Stone showing the detail of the gold in the quartz.

Read the original newspaper articles digitized by the Chronicling 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.

1. "Mineral Appraisal of Coronado National Forest, Part 5" Mineral Land Assessment, 1994. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Mines, Santa Catalina-Rincon District.

2. Tombstone Epitaph, January 23, 1882, image 6

3. Tombstone Daily Epitaph, February 20, 1886.

4. Mohave County Miner, December 24, 1887.

5. Arizona Republic, November 13, 1900, image 1

6. Arizona Republican, August 12, 1901, "STRIKES IN PIMA COUNTY Glittering Yellow Metal Found at Canada Del Oro.

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.