Nugget Wranglers
Quartzsite, Arizona


Jane Alene Boyles


It is no secret that the area around Quartzsite has produced a lot of gold.  Since the 1860’s, prospectors have combed the hills looking for the valuable stuff.  Some of the earlier findings were in the LaPaz District on the western flank of the Dome Mountains west of Quartzsite.  Part of this land is now the Colorado Indian Reservation.  Placer gold which is different from hard rock mining is usually found on or near the surface, often sent down washes by the infrequent heavy rains.  Tracing this gold to its source can be difficult and frustrating as much of the movement happened over millions of years.  One of my favorite mountain men was Paulino Weaver, a true adventurer.  He traveled up from Yuma and discovered large nuggets in 1862 in El Arollo de la Tenaja in the Dome Mountains.  He returned to Yuma and brought back several prospectors and the rush was on.  LaPaz district placers were discovered in the Goodman Arroyo, LaPaz Wash, Farrer Gulch, which runs into Gonzales Wash, the wash that I10 crosses over on the way west to Ehrenburg.  A prospector named Jose Redondo recovered a nugget weighing more then two ounces and the rest is history.  About a million dollars in gold was found the first year.  The LaPaz District placers were known for the large nuggets that it produced, with the largest one found weighing 65 ounces.  The gold found in the placers is attributed to erosion of the metamorphic rocks in the area.


Jane Alene Boyles

When one goes prospecting for gold around the Quartzsite area, you must be cautious not only of snakes but mine shafts.  It is a known fact that the old timers dug a shaft down to bedrock which could be as little as five feet or as deep as 30 or 40 feet.  Then the digger went after the gold along lateral trenches at the bedrock level.  Most of these holes are square and neat with a level rock filled area around the opening while others are just heaps of dirt and rock scattered like craters on the moon.  Mostly dug in old river beds, the shafts need little support or cribbing to keep the sides from caving in due to the rocky layered dirt.

There are several theories as to how the holes were dug and by whom.  The original gold prospectors were Spanish explorers in the fifteen hundreds.  Gold was taken back to Mexico and shipped off to the royalty in Spain.  Then along came the Indians and Mexican miners, packing their finds on burros back to Mexico.  The time line gets a little fuzzy then as some old timers here will tell you that the Chinese drifted in and dug for gold.  None of the historical papers prove this theory.  We know the Chinese came to Arizona, working on the railroad but nowhere does it mention any gold prospecting.  However, the Chinese were notorious for their neatness.  They were small in physique and could dig in a small space, put their dirt into baskets and pass it out hand to hand.  Did they dig the neat shafts, squared off at the corners and leveled out around the top?  One would think this to be true.  They carried their gold with them in a poke and used it to barter for food or necessities.  The only historical references to the Chinese are listed in the Prescott paper about 1864.  The Chinese were not welcome in the mines so turned to other skills such as laundries and restaurants.  It is said they were not even allowed in the Bisbee area. The other prevalent theory was that during the depression era, man would do what ever necessary to make a dollar to put food on the table.  So the prospectors were early settlers in the west where living was cheap and a job was what you made it.  Did the depression era prospectors make the neat holes?  Or did the Chinese?  I really don’t know, but it is a fun thing to speculate over a cup of coffee.


Being a non- believer of all “witchery” I have always blown off the act of dowsing.  That is until I met my future husband, John, who was dowsing for water at a fire department proposed site in Alaska.  Those two willow sticks crossed and he said “Drill Here”.  Imagine, they found water right on that spot.  This was forty years ago and far in the back of my mind.  In modern days, the same two bent rods, often made of brazing rod, held in a person’s hands can cross without any urging from the holder.  Dowsing is an old method, used by Chinese and Egyptians to find water.  In more modern times it has been used to find coal, water, buried treasure and archaeological artifacts-even buried bodies. Brass is used to prevent interference with the earth’s magnetic field.  Expert dowsers are allegedly capable of dowsing exact measurements of water veins, electromagnetism, currents and telluric phenomenon.   A few years ago while prospecting in Quartzsite we met some very nice people from the Midwest.  Now Brenda, looking as sharp as an LL Bean catalog model, was bored with metal detecting.  She was approaching me coming down a dry wash, holding two rods out in front of her.  So this “non believer” thinks, what is this tourist doing?  We struck up a conversation and she explained her dowsing experience. Then she demonstrated her rods and low and behold they crossed right near where we were standing.  Eight inches down, she dug up a nugget. “Luck,” I thought.  Well, Brenda went on to find several more nuggets over the winter and I had no choice but to believe in those silly rods and in the process made a very good friend.

By chance I later met a Quartzsite man named Forest.  He has a local claim and spent some time talking to me about finding the gold and he also used the dowsing rod method.  And he also found gold so now again I had to believe.


Later in the spring we were camped up by the Octave Cemetery.  This cemetery had been renovated by the Motorola 4-Wheel Drive Club years before.  The cemetery holds remains of many of the early prospectors and local families.  One afternoon a vehicle drove up and out got four ladies, one of which was carrying two metal rods in her hand.  John watched for a while and curiosity got the better of him so he went over to see what she was doing.  She was witching for graves.  The other ladies were marking the spots.  After the ladies had gone, John went over to see if what she was doing was what she said.  And rightfully so, with his brass welding rod, he was able to find the same graves as the ladies had marked.  It appears the cemetery is much larger then the fence would indicate.  And the rock outlined graves were not exactly correct. Nothing to do with prospecting, but could be interesting entertainment on lazy day.


Time has passed and places have changed.  The little bent rods still go everywhere with the old prospector.  This year out here in the desert, things are different and when the eightieth year came and went, and the back began to be bothersome, activity slowed down with all sorts of excuses.  A little time in the wash with his Mine Lab and a nice big nugget to show for it, gave a jump start to the old guy and he took off with the brass rods and his favorite tool, the vacuum forgetting all his aches.  A few hours later he was back grinning from ear to ear.  He panned out his concentrates and low and behold! Eight nice pickers appeared, right where the brass rods had told him there was gold. One of which he actually saw as he vacuumed the hole out.  He is totally convinced the dowsing rods work.  Not just for witching water, but for his favorite mineral, gold.


 Now Brenda’s story is a believer also and I saw it happen. Go try it.  If you should get bored with your detector or dry washer, try a new method as old as the Middle Ages, dowsing.  You never know what you might dig up!!  You just have to believe!!! 


Jane Alene Boyles

Modify Website

© 2000 - 2019 powered by
Doteasy Web Hosting