(Gold mining and treasure hunting are full of characters...Earl Dorr was certainly one of those.)
It's time to conclude Earl Dorr's tall tale about a river rich in gold flowing underneath Kokoweef Peak in California's Mojave Desert. Like most treasure tales, Earl's has no real ending and begs as many questions as it answers. Was Earl Dorr onto something big? Or was he simply a con artist looking to make a score?
Holes, Holes, and More Holes
I stated in my previous post that I thought Earl Dorr's story had more holes in it than a tin can used for shotgun practice. I'll stand by that assessment because of an interview Earl gave to the Los Angeles (L.A.) Times back in 1936, two years after his purported "discovery" of the river of gold underneath Kokoweef. At the time, Dorr told the interviewer that he found the underground river following up on a story someone had told him about three men depositing $57,000 in placer gold in a bank in Needles, California.
See anything wrong with the picture Dorr is painting to the press here? Remember, in his 1934 affidavit he said it was he and and his engineer pal Morton who made the initial discovery of the river of gold. The three men he mentions to the L.A. Times are...yep...the Paysert brothers from back home...friends since childhood. Why is it now that his good childhood buddies in the signed affidavit, the Paysert brothers, are simply unknown figures drawn from a story he overheard someone else tell?
(The view around Kokoweef.)
Now get this. Dorr's nephew told the L.A. times in 2006 that his uncle Earl had spun a different tale to him. Earl told his nephew that he'd come across the underground river and its riches after befriending three American Indian brothers who told him about the river of gold they themselves had found underneath Kokoweef. One brother fell from an underground cliff and was killed and after his death, the other two brothers refused to venture beneath Kokoweef again. This is the tale they supposedly told Dorr who, in turn, passed along to his nephew. Earl then told the L.A. Times interviewer that after finding the river of gold (all by his lonesome evidently), he dynamited the cavern entrance shut to prevent others from plundering the riches he'd found. The he filed a mining claim on his find.
Constant Changes and a Lack of Consistency
Earl's story has more changes in it than a baby's diapers. First it's this and next it's that and then it's something else. There is little consistency to his tall tale and the details tends to vary according to whoever Dorr was speaking to at the moment. I'm telling you right now that the devil is in the consistency of the details when it comes to tracking down a treasure legend and proving it to be real or a phony. Earl's story? There's little in the way of consistency, that much is apparent. Also, if he filed a valid claim on his find there would be a record of that fact in the San Bernadino County clerk's or assessor's office. Where's the proof that Earl actually filed a claim? He'd need those claim papers to work a scam, or at least make it easier to perpetrate down the road a piece.
What eventually happened to Earl Dorr? He died (of all things) in a mining accident in 1957 unrelated to Kokoweef as far as I can tell. I have a question here. In the years after his amazing discovery up until his death why wasn't Earl digging up the rich river of gold he'd found? I mean, after all, why mess around with some borderline hard-rock venture elsewhere in the Mojave when you could have all the gold you ever wanted beneath Kokoweef Peak? It just doesn't add up, brothers and sisters.
(Caverns like this do exist in the area.)
However, in the 1940s or early 1950s, self-proclaimed cave explorers (nice euphemism for claim jumpers) found the letters "D-O-R-R" scratched into a rock wall inside Kokoweef. Many "true believers" of Earl's story use this fact as absolute proof that Dorr's story is true. Hogwash! All this proves is that someone entered the caverns at a certain point and etched those four letters into the surrounding cavern wall. It could have been Dorr himself...so that later on he could use that evidence to validate his story (perpetrate a scam), or his name could have been left there by someone else as a joke or ruse. One question pops out first and foremost here. Where's the underground river and the gold it's supposed to contain? It's also interesting to note here that there was a mining venture on Kokoweef during the '40s but not for gold...metals needed for the war (WWII) effort.
And Still They Search...
During the 1960s and 1970s various and sundry treasure hunters, miners, and groups took shots at Earl's lost river of gold, but interestingly enough none of the aforementioned folks were able to locate it. Suprise, suprise. In the 1980s a Las Vegas, Nevada businessman named Hahn managed to get around 500 investors lined up to pay for drilling, blasting, and even zapping the sides of Kokoweef with electrical current to determine the best place too drill for the treasure but that didn't pan out either. Most of his investors eventually soured on Hahn and called him a "thief" and a "con artist." More recently, a retired construction manager named Randy Stenberg and his wife Bernice have dumped money into Kokoweef trying to hit Earl's river of gold. So far it's been no dice for them as well.
(Hand-drawn map of Kokoweef and Dorr Peak.)
Trained geologists don't think too much of Earl Dorr's tall tale. They scoff at the legend and provide a united scientific front against any possibility that the underground river of gold exists. The PhDs think that the existence of an underground river on the scale Dorr described to be sheer fantasy on Earl's part...especially in the Mojave Desert.
An Element of Truth
Here's what I think. My view is that Earl Dorr pulled a fast one...maybe to gain a measure of fame (after all, we're still talking about him) or to pull a scam to gain money. There are just too many holes in Dorr's tall tale. If you were to examine the records on this treasure legend, I'm sure you yourself could add dozens more inconsistencies and odd-ball holes to Earl's story. Again, like I always say there's an element of truth in every tall tale. In this one, it's the simple fact that there were (and are) caverns along Kokoweef's flanks. But an underground river rich in placer gold? As Earl Dorr's own nephew quoted to the press (paraphrased), "My uncle either found more gold than anyone could imagine or he was one hell of a liar."
There it is pard...
(c) Jim Rocha (J.R.) 2016
Questions? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org