The Peraltas, Placer Gold, and the Superstitions

 (Arizona's Rio Salado.)

(Note: As gold miners I thought this post might interest you just as much as treasure hunters. J.R.)

The legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine in Arizona's Superstition Mountains is probably the most enduring treasure legend in the United States. Although I'm no expert (or true believer either) when it comes to the Lost Dutchman, I have read about this tale of lost gold, researched it, and studied it off and on for over 30 years. I even have in my possession some authentic, hand-written notes from the past that may shed a bit of new light on the entire matter.

However, I'm not here to talk about the Lost Dutchman itself. Instead, I want to bring your attention to another form of golden treasure...placer gold.

Gold from Stream-Borne Gravels

Those of you who have studied the Lost Dutchman Mine legend know full well who the Peraltas were and just how prominently they figure into this treasure legend. Miguel Peralta, along with his sons Pedro, Ramon, and Manuel, owned very rich silver mines in the state of Chihuahua, Mexico and was no "newbie" when it came to all things mining.

Gold Pans
Gold Panning Kits
Although Miguel Peralta was supervising the mining and extraction of silver from veins or lodes on his properties, he knew a great deal about placer mining as well. For those of you have little gold prospecting or mining experience, placer mining is the art of recovering fine gold, flakes, and gold nuggets from stream-borne gravels or bedrock.

"Trace This Gold to Its Source"

So where do the Lost Dutchman and the Superstitions fit into this placer gold mining thing? Listen to the instructions Miguel Peralta gave Pedro, Ramon, and Manuel in 1846 after the elder Peralta had returned to Chihuahua from an "exploration" of the headwaters of Arizona's Salt River region:

"The Rio Salado drains a virgin wilderness in which gold anywhere nearby will give clues to itself as placer in the form of particles in the riverbeds and arroyos. If you follow the Rio until you find such placer gold, you will then be able to trace this gold to its source."

Best Showing of Gold

You see, the Peralta boys were every bit as adventurous (or greedy?) as Miguel, and were dead set on striking it rich in the area their father had just returned from. Not long after their father's instructions, Manuel and Ramon set out in the company of various family members and workers to find placer gold along the Rio Salado and ultimately, the source of that gold.

 (Selection of water-worn gold placer nuggets.)

For weeks the boys and their entourage followed the Rio Salado, stopping occasionally to sample its gravels or the gravels of nearby "feeder" streams and washes using their bateas, a crude type of gold pan carved from wood. Whenever they could, Pedro, Ramon, and Manuel gathered gravels from riffled bedrock, knowing that these samples would give the best showing of gold...were it there.

There's more to come, so stay tuned. In the mean time, best of luck to you and good hunting out there.

If you liked this post, you may want to read:"Butler's Lost Gold: a Fortune in Placer Nuggets (Part 1)"

(c)  Jim Rocha (J.R.)  2012

Questions? E-mail me at


  1. My understanding of the Lost Dutchman's mine is that it never existed. It seems he worked at one time in the Vulture Mine and must have taken a few samples home in his lunch pail. In order to cover up his theft, he had to make up a story of where the gold came from.
    Rattlesnake Jim

  2. I've never been a fan of the Lost Dutchman and doubt it ever existed. By saying that, I'll undoubtedly get some nasty comments or e-mails from LDM true believers. That said, there is placer gold in and along the Rio Salado (Salt River area). That gold came from veins or outcrops...but not from the Superstitions. My view, anyway....thanks for commenting Jim. J.R.

  3. This was very interesting and informative, I wish I could find some gold lol.

  4. You CAN find some gold my friend. Just commit the time and effort and learn as much about gold and gold prospecting as you can. Let me know if I can be of help. J.R.

  5. Is this thread still active? I am a newbie and want to learn so much more.

  6. Is this thread still active? I am a newbie and want to learn so much more.

  7. The blog is active, yes. Comments are provided from various readers from time-to-time.


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