$2,000+ in a Shovelful of Dirt (Part 4)

 (Earl Dorr's underground river was supposedly rich in placer gold.)

In this post I'll be cotinuing Earl Dorr's fantastic story of an underground river of gold in California's Mojave Desert. In my mind, Earl's story gets curiouser and curiouser, not unlike little Alice's adventures in Wonderland. But I'll let you be the judge of what I find curious.

In the last part of his signed affidavit, Earl states the following:

I last spoke with with the Paysert brothers in my home about November 10th, 1934, at which time they repeated their former statements, giving information as to how they discovered the river and more of their experiences in mining. They recovered several of the largest nuggets of gold ever found in California.

 (Large or exceptionally beautiful or unique placer nuggets command top dollar...and draw a lot of attention.)

(J.R.: Boy, oh boy, oh boy. My head is swirling with questions right now. Questions like just exactly who discovered the river of gold? Earl and Morton, or the Paysert brothers, now minus one? Dorr implies in the first part of his affidavit that he and Morton found the underground river of gold. Then out of thin air the Payserts arrive on scene and proceed to cash out a huge amount of gold by working the river for weeks on end. This just doesn't make sense to me from either a treasure hunting or a mining standpoint. If you're the discoverer (Earl or the Payserts) why in the hell would you start telling others about your find if it truly was real? You're opening Pandora's Box by doing so and even the dumbest "down-n'-outer" of the Depression Era could understand the rationale behind what I'm saying here. You'd have to be A) crazy; B) stupid; C) your ego is out of control; or D) you're working some sort of scam. 

Why else would you give away the location to riches you'd just discovered? It's both "C" and "D" that I'm thinking seriously about. Why? Because I've known a number of treasure hunters and miners over the course of three and half decades who just couldn't damp down their egos after a good find. They strutted around like peacocks shooting off their mouths and acting like big shots because they didn't have the maturity or discipline to keep their pie holes shut. In terms of a possible scam, what better way to build interest and possible investors or buyers than cooking up some fantastic story about an underground river of gold so rich it defied the imagination. You claim the spot or get the rights to it and then unload it for big bucks on some unwary or gullible person. Hell, that sort of scam went on time and time again in the American West during the major gold and silver strikes. One thing I've determined thus far in my limited research of this tall tale is that Earl Dorr wasn't stupid. Not by a long shot. Shrewd and conniving maybe, but not stupid.

And how about the Paysert boys and their huge nuggets? What did they do with those magnificent and potentially remunerative specimens? Melt them down? If they had shipped them to the U.S. Mint all hell would've broken loose with lots of interested people (including bureaucrats, collectors, and museum directors) wanting to know where such unbelievable specimens came from. One glance by one other person of those nuggets (if indeed they were real) would've had the media of the day roaring, not mention all the average Joe Blow hangers on of the day. Following hard on the heels of them would've been the lawyers and their clients who claimed Kokoweef Mountain as their own...or at least the part of it containing the river of gold. Do you see now why you have to play the devil's advocate when it comes to treasure tales? I'm telling you right here and now that Earls' story is riddled with more holes than a tin can used for shotgun practice. Of course this statement will infuriate the "true believers" out there, but I could care less about people who can't see any other angle than their own delusions.)

Both Morton and myself filled our pockets with the sands from with the sands from the ledges, carried it out, and had it  assayed. Just what Mr. Morton's sand assayed, I do not know, but it was approximately $2,000 per ton. I carried out ten pounds and two ounces of the ledge sand and panned seven pounds, recovering more than $7.00 in gold with gold at $20.00 an ounce. I sold the gold for $18.00 an ounce.

 (FDR and his banker friends fixed gold at $35.00 a troy ounce in 1933.)

(JR: OK, once more. The spot rate for gold in 1934 was $35.00 a troy ounce...fixed to that price by FDR's administration or regime...whichever you prefer. Yet Dorr says the going rate for gold was $20.00 an ounce. Sorry, but that just doesn't add up. Any miner of the day (placer or hard rock) would be well-versed on the going price for gold, especially with the economic factors of the Great Depression figured in. Granted, in a rush to unload his gold Earl may have sold cheap since he claimed he had untold riches he could tap into. We'd all do well to remember here that the prices Dorr received in payment were factored in 1934 dollars, not the price of gold today. If you do the math, the underground river was indeed rich in placer gold. That is, if indeed it ever existed in the first place. I dunno...this whole tale smells fishy but then again, there's always an element of truth even in the most outlandish of treasure legends.)

In my next (and last) post on Earl Dorr's desert river of gold I'll fill you in on the happenings after all this hoo-hah got into the wind and what sorts of events transpired over the years since Earl's suspect discovery (or was it the Payserts borthers who found it? Toss a coin...)

(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2016

Questions? E-mail me at jr872vt90@yahoo.com


  1. HHHMMMMmmmmm........been gone a few days, and behind enough at work that I haven't looked at this. Very interesting, but I think you are right calling BS on this one.
    A few years back, I talked to a guy who claimed to have "a little geyser that shoots out diamonds".....he looked mighty poor to have such a thing!! Ha!!

  2. Thoroughly enjoy reading here, you're an excellent writer. I write poetry and short stories, description, creativity, and captivating a reader with a mental image is key. Well done.

    I've been digging, dredging along the east fork of the San Gabriel mountains for years. Found a half ounce nugget in a bedrock crack in about 3 feet of water before they shut dredging down in this liberal state.

    I found your page researching lode mining. I recently picked up a couple lode and placer claims in California, Arizona, and new Mexico. I've never worked lode claims and I need to learn much. Took your advice picked up some books, and researching all the information I find in your articles. Can't tell you how fortunate I feel having discovered this site. Was it by accident or providence? Who knows? But it is turning out to be very beneficial. Keep up the good work.

    Regards Jeff

  3. Jeff, thank you very7 much for the kind words. I try in my own way. A half-ouncer ain't small potatoes brother, so congrats on that find. Let me know if you have any questions.

  4. Yep Gary, too many holes in Dorr's story. I smell something stinky here!

  5. This story is True! It's actually $2,500 a scoop now. I have the only existing map to the portal. You can purchase this map from me for a cheap lump sum of $10,000!
    My story has less holes than Dorr & Morton's story, lol.

  6. There ya go Josh! That's the way to be thinking...be a dream merchant!


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