Bradshaw Mountain Gold

Written by on August 14, 2007 in AZ Outdoor Adventures - 2 Comments

In the 1870s, gold was discovered in the Bradshaw Mountains. Unlike the gold in California and other locations, finding gold in Arizona is a hit or miss proposition. In most locations, gold lies in pockets called stringers. In the early days of mining, prospectors looked for gold showing on the surface and followed the pockets down. Then is was just a matter of lots and lots of digging to get it out.

The mill site (and small town) of Humbug was built to refine the ore dug from numerous locations. In 1882, Charles Champie discovered one of those prime locations — now called the El Paro Bonito Mine (in English, The Pretty Dog).

The El Paro Bonito is perched on the side of one of the steepest ravines in the area. It is a pristine wildness area and a beautiful example of completely unspoiled Sonoran Desert. Giant saguaros push their arms to the sun and lone hawks glide on the thermals. On a clear day, you’ll catch glints of sky blue water in the distance — the waters of Lake Pleasant Regional Park.

Miners worked the El Paro Bonito mine off and on from 1882 until 1934 and the mine passed through numerous hands. Throughout the years, the residents have left their legacy and memories in the area — now just tumbled ruins and grave markers. With Windwalker Expeditions Guide Dave Burns, you will visit the mine, the homesteads and the gravesites of the first settlers who found gold in the area. A prospector and miner in his own right, Dave can tell you everything you want to know about where and how to find gold, how to get it out of the ground and some fantastic stories of the early prospectors in the Bradshaw Mountains.

“About a half mile away from El Paro Bonito, a prospector named Joe Stockdale sunk a test trench after discovering ‘color,’ (traces of gold on the surface),” Dave says, smiling as he remembers one of his favorite stories. “For days he dug and dug and found nothing. Then a couple of greenhorns from Boston came along and told Stockdale they thought it looked like a promising site. In a fit of anger, Stockdale tossed down his shovel and told them they could have the location and walked off. The two Bostonians started digging and in less than a foot, they had struck one of the richest pockets of gold ever found in the area, much to the chagrin of Stockdale.”

The Windwalker Expedition Gold Mine Adventure is a full day excursion. The El Paro Bonito is located deep in one of the most remote and pristine areas of the Bradshaw mountains so you’ll be driven to the mine by jeep — and it is a bouncy ride so be prepared. After exploring, you will enjoy a gourmet lunch provided by AJs Fine Foods. Then you’ll hear more stories, see more of the site and even explore the 550 feet into one of the three mine shafts dug before the mine closed.

Inside the mine, Dave will show you what miners look for as they prospect for promising pockets of gold. After the heat of the desert and harsh sun, the cool rush of air from the tunnel is a welcome change.

“It’s not nearly as easy to find gold these days as it was back in 1870s,” says Dave. “Some interesting work has been done with ground-penetrating radar, but currently, we just don’t have the technology to see deep into the earth with any certainty. All the surface traces of gold have been located long ago, so miners like me have to look for other telltale signs and do a lot of digging and hoping.”

“In the 1870s, the streams also carried more water than they do these days, so placer mining was more practical,” Dave adds.

The El Paro Bonito is still a workable mine, but only if the price of gold ever climbs high enough to make its extraction financially feasible. Since there are currently no traces of gold showing in the mine, that means blasting and hand digging with picks or other rock drilling equipment.

The crowning event of your Gold Mine Excursion is prospecting for your own gold. Dave will help you dig a bucket of sand and gravel from a promising location in a nearby dry streambed. Then he will let you run the bucket through his sluice. With a little luck, you’ll find a few flakes or nuggets of gold — and you get to keep whatever you find!

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2 Comments on "Bradshaw Mountain Gold"

  1. Walter Stuart March 18, 2011 at 5:17 am ·

    Does anyone know how much micron gold runs per gallon in any of the streams in Bradshaw mountains?

  2. Walter Stuart March 18, 2011 at 5:25 am ·

    Are there any dry washing possibilities for gold in the Bradshaw mountains? Enough to make it worth while to travel from Texas to drywash there?

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