Colorado the centennial state was admitted to the Union on August 1, 1876, making it the 38th state of the Union. Colorado has many treasure stories to tell from buried loot to lost treasure troves. We will discuss each of these treasure tails in 9 lost treasures of Colorado.
So sit back take a deep breath and soak in all of the fascinating treasure stories Colorado has to offer. Maybe you will be the one to find one of these lost treasures! Before treasure hunting anywhere make sure you have permission or you could get yourself into hot water.
9 Lost Treasures of Colorado
|Buried Reynolds Gang Loot||$40,000 cash and 3 cans of gold dust||Near Geneva Gulch in Colorado|
|Lost Deadmans Cave of Gold Bars||400 Gold Bars||Sangre de Cristo mountain range|
|Virginia Dale Station Treasure||$60,000 in $10 & $20 Double Gold Eagles||Somewhere near Virginia Dale Station|
|La Caverna del Oro – The Cave of Gold||Gold||Caverna del Oro is found at about 3 miles above sea level on Marble Mountain.|
|12 Lost Chests of Spanish Gold Coins in Purgatory Canyon||12 chests of Spanish gold coins||Purgatory Canyon|
|$33 Million in Gold Ore Lost On Treasure Mountain||$33 million worth of gold||In the Mountains near Summitville, Colorado|
|Butch Cassidy’s Buried Treasures In Irish Canyon and Wild Mountain||$30,000 & $50,000 in silver coins and loot||Irish Canyon & Wild Mountain|
|Arapaho Princess Treasure||50-lbs. in gold bars||Various locations rumored|
|Kegs of Denver Mint Dimes Lost Along The Gunnison River||6 Kegs of 1907 Barber Dimes||the north rim of Black Canyon along the Gunnison River|
Buried Reynolds Gang Loot
Third Texas Cavalry Flag
The Reynolds Gang consisted of 22 ex-members of the Confederate Calverymen of Company A of Wells Battalion, Third Texas Cavalry at its peak. The gang was named Reynolds because of two brothers who were members John and Jim Reynolds. The Reynolds gang is said to have been commissioned by the Confederacy Military to break up the Union’s supply chains. They were also ordered to steal from the gold mine in Colorado.
In the summer of 1864, it is said that the Reynolds gang only consisting of 9 members at this point had started pillaging and plundering the Fairplay and South Park areas of Colorado. On July 24, 1864, they started their spree at Adolph Guirand’s ranch. They took his cash, horses and even molested his wife.
They then went to Dan Mclaughlin’s Stage Station which was eight miles from Fairplay, Colorado modern-day Como. Here they stole more horses, cash, and a gold watch. All in all, they got away with about $3,000. Next, they went on to steal more horses from the Michigan House Stage Stop which was located on the Kenosha Pass.
Jim Reynolds Buries The Loot
Jim Reynolds noticing many scouting parties in the area decided to bury some of the stolen loot and gold dust. According to an autobiography of a Colorado lawman David J. Cook of a conversation Jim Reynolds had with Alfred Brown another member of the posse is as quotes:
“Jim and me buried the treasure the morning before the posse attack on Geneva Gulch. You go up above there a little ways and find where one of our horses mired down in a swamp. On up at the head of the gulch we turned to the right and followed the mountain around a little farther, and just above the head of Deer Creek, we found an old prospect hole at about timberline. There, we placed $40,000 in greenbacks, wrapped in silk oil cloth, and three cans of gold dust. We filled the mouth of the hole up with stones, and ten steps below, struck a butcher knife into a tree about four feet from the ground and broke the handle off, and left it pointing toward the mouth of the hole.”
A Posse is Formed
People started to get wind of the Reynold gang exploits after the Kenosha Pass theft. A posse was formed led by Jack Sparks. The posse consisted of outraged citizens and marshalls from Jefferson, Fairplay, and Montgomery. On July 31, 1864, the posse came upon the Reynolds Gang as they camped near Geneva Gulch.
After a gunfight with the posse, only one man was killed named Owen “Single-Shot-Terry” Singleterry and Jim Reynolds was wounded in the arm. Jim Reynolds and the rest of the gang got away. But a man from the posse named Dr. Cooper cut off Owen Singleterry’s head so that he could display it in a jar of alcohol in Fairplay for all to see.
Tom Holliman and four others from the gang were rounded up days later. Jim and John Reynolds another of the gang got away to New Mexico.
The Search For The Buried Loot
Copy of John Reynolds drawn treasure map in 1871.
Years later Albert Brown and some friends of his went back to South Park to search for the treasure with a map that John Reynolds gave him before he died. When they got to the location they noticed there had been a forest fire that destroyed all the landmarks on the map.
After finding horse bones in a swamp and a white hat that belonged to Owen Singleterry they couldn’t find the prospectors hole that the stolen loot was buried in. After going back three different times they finally gave up. The Reynolds Gang buried loot has never been recovered.
BOOK: Hands Up: Thirty-Five Years of Detective Life in the Mountains and On The Plains AUTHOR: David J. Cook PAPERBACK: 363 pages WEIGHT: 1.37 pounds DIMENSIONS: 6 x 0.91 x 9 inches Available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.
Lost Deadmans Cave of Gold Bars
It is said that there is a lost cave in the rugged Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range in Southern Colorado called Deadmans Cave. This cave is reported to hold millions of dollars worth of Spanish gold bars.
In October of 1880 three geologists and gold prospectors named S.J. Harkman, H.A. Melton and E.J Oliver from Silver Cliff were out prospecting in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range when a blizzard hit.
They took shelter under a ledge in the canyon. As they stood there they noticed an opening across the canyon. They made their way to the opening and went in. They walked a long corridor and came into a huge room. What they saw on some homemade shelves in that room were rows upon rows of bars of gold. They counted 400 gold bars in all.
The gold bars had been there for a long time because they had layers of dust covering them. They also noticed that the gold bars had a cross and inverted carat imprinted on them. This meant that it was Spanish gold that they had found. Another thing they noticed was five skeletons strewn across the floor of the cave giving the cave’s name Deadmans Cave.
They quickly took five of the gold bars back with them to Silver Cliff. The gold bars appraised at $900 a piece. News of this discovery became well known. Even the Denver Post did a piece on them.
Search For The Deadman’s Cave
The three men sold their share of the gold so they could fund an expedition to try and find the cave in the Spring. In April of 1881 they went out in search of the cave but because of the melting of the snow, they couldn’t recall where the cave was located. They climbed for days but couldn’t find the cave. After two years of on and off searching they finally gave up.
The legend of the Deadman’s Cave has enthralled treasure seekers for over a century. This is a very believable story because there were many eyewitnesses to the gold bars found and the Spanish did mine the area 400 years earlier. The lost cave has yet to be found. It’s just waiting for discovery somewhere in the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.
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Virginia Dale Station Treasure
In 1863 an Overland Trail stagecoach was approaching Virginia Dale Station at Long View Hill when a gang of six bandits showed up and robbed the stage. They got away with $60,000 in $10 $20 Double Gold Eagles which would be in the millions of dollars in today’s economy. The coins were reportedly back pay headed to soldiers at Fort Sanders in the Wyoming Territory.
Being close to the Wyoming Territory border a posse was soon sent out after them. The bandits decided to bury the gold coins because it was slowing them down and they would come back later to recover the coins.
The posse caught up with five of the bandits and killed them but the sixth bandit got away. All they found was a shot-up strongbox by a creek that held the gold coins.
Jack Slade Suspected of being the Lead Gunman
Everyone involved thought the gunman that got away was a man by the name of Joseph “Jack” Slade. Jack was the former station manager for the Virginia Dale Station and he was by all accounts a crooked man who even had murdered in the past. But they could never pin the robbery on him.
Jack finally moved away to Virginia City, Montana. In Montana, they ended up hanging Jack for tearing up a saloon and threatening a Judge.
With Slade dead, no one knows where the gold coins are buried. Virginia Dale is now a ghost town and is located four miles south of the Wyoming border. The Overland Trail Stage Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites. The buried gold coins have never been found. Will you be the lucky one to find them?
La Caverna del Oro – The Cave of Gold
Native Americans were the first ones to pass the story of the Cave of Gold generation by generation. In the 15th century, Spanish explorers came to the Sangre de Cristo range and were told about the Cave of Gold by monks who translated the legend for them.
Caverna del Oro is found at about 3 miles above sea level on Marble Mountain. The natives of the areas believed the cave was infested by demon spirits so they wouldn’t go near it. The Coronado Expedition had three monks who in 1541 ended up forcing the natives to work in the mine.
However, the natives revolted against the Spanish monks and killed two of them but de la Cruz the third monk survived and explained to the Indians that he had subdued the demons in the mine and the natives believed him. With their help de la Cruz brought the gold out of the mine. After the gold was out of the cave de la Cruz and some of the other Spaniards with him murdered the natives and took their gold on mules south to Mexico.
The Cave is Rediscovered
In 1869 a pioneer of Colorado by the name of Elisha P. Horn was exploring Marble Mountain. She came upon a skeleton that had Spanish armor on it. On a rock above the skeleton was a red cross right above the entrance to a cave. This was the Caverna del Oro Cave.
U.S. Forrest Ranger Paul Gilbert and a club of Colorado mountain men stumbled upon the cave again in the 1920s. Paul had been told about the cave by a 105 year old descendent of the first Spanish explorers who were in the area named Apollonia Apadaca about gold buried in the cave. He was told that when she was a child she witnessed miners taking tons of gold out of that cave.
She also mentioned that there would be doors made of oak 500 to 700 feet in front of the entrance and behind the doors would be the entrance to what was called the Three Steps Mine.
Paul Gilbert and the mountain men explored the cave going down some 500 feet but never found any gold or wooden doors. They did find various items of interest is a ladder and hammer from the 1600s. They also found old ruins of a fort that once stood there and arrowheads all over the hillside.
The Search Goes On
Many treasure hunters over the years have explored the La Caverna Del Oro and many interesting items have been found such as a human skeleton chained by the next deep in the cave. Others have found an old shovel from when the first explorers were there, a clay jar, rope, and a bucket but no gold has ever been found.
Some think that the wooden doors have been blocked by a landslide. But who knows the gold and the wooden doors could possibly still be waiting for discovery in that huge cave system on Marble Mountain!
12 Lost Chests of Spanish Gold Coins in Purgatory Canyon
In 1539 a band of Humana and Bonilla expedition who were led by Portuguese don and a Spaniard first came upon El Rio de las Animas Perididas en Purgatoir or the River of Lost Souls. The group consisted of miners, priests, and soldiers who made their way into Colorado.
The second in command the Spaniard was jealous of the Portuguese leader and killed him. Now he was in charge of the group. The Priests were angered by the killing of the leader and they returned to Mexico. The rest of the group was subsequently killed by Apache Indians.
Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came to the area a year later in search of the seven cities of gold but they left never to return.
Story of Lost Treasure
In the 1700s a man by the name of Carrasco Rodriguez was leading a regiment from Santa Fe, New Mexico to St. Augustine, Florida. They had with them 12 chests of Spanish gold coins that were the payroll and garrison expenses needed in Florida.
For some reason, they were traveling through Colorado and got stuck for the winter near modern-day Trinidad, Colorado. They waited until Spring and tried to leave but Rodriguez led them in the wrong direction and they were never heard of again.
The rest of the story is speculation but makes for a good lost treasure story. Some think that Rodriguez and his men buried the gold near the Purgatory River. Others think that the Apache Indians killed them for their weapons and animals and put their chest of gold coins in a cave somewhere.
Evidence of the Spanish Expedition
Some items have been found in the Purgatory Canyon including a Spanish suit of Armor located on the banks of the Purgatory River. In 1924 there was a skeleton and ancient weapon found in a cave east of the Willow-Vogel Canyon Junction.
A man was discovered alive but with a broken leg in 1924 by a couple of people. The man told them that he had fallen from a cave. While he lay there dying he told how he found some Spanish coins and gold ingots along a trail he was on in Purgatory Canyon.
He had also seen a chest in a cave that had gold coins in it. He also found an old harness that had detailed carvings on it and silver trim. Before he died he said he had put a knife into a tree outside of the cave. It’s possible the twelve chests of Spanish gold coins are still out there hidden in a cave in Purgatory Canyon.
$33 Million in Gold Ore Lost On Treasure Mountain
Legend has it that 350 French men with a team of 450 horses made their way from an outpost that was located in modern-day Leavenworth, Kansas to Wolf Creek Pass close to modern-day Summitville, Colorado. They were out there prospecting for gold. They made camp near Wolf Creek Pass.
It is said that the men discovered a treasure trove of gold on Treasure Mountain. Some say it was worth $33 million worth of gold in today’s gold prices. They ended up storing the gold ore in three different places and drew a map that the commanding officer was in charge of safekeeping.
Eventually, the Frenchmen were attacked by Indians and they buried their gold ore and made a map of its location. Out of the 350 men, only 17 to 35 got away but they were attacked once again at the Front Range. Out of those men, only five made it out alive. But after a brutal winter, only two of the men made it back to Kansas.
In the end, only one man named Le Blanc survived the ordeal and he went back to France. He had two copies of the map. He gave one to the French government and kept the other.
Expedition Formed to Recover The Buried Gold
An expedition of 50 men headed to Summitville area to recover the buried gold. They hired a guide in Taos, New Mexico but only the guide returned to Tao claiming all the men were killed by hostile Indians. Many of the towns fold accused the guide of murder. He was set on trial which was the last Mexican trial held in the U.S. He was acquitted and let go.
Others think that the Frenchmen found the gold and went back to France.
The Treasure Map
A man by the of William Yule claimed to have the map to the buried gold. He searched north of Saguache and never found the gold. He then gave the map to Asa Poor and it is said that he and his partners were able to locate many of the landmarks on the map. But they never did find any gold.
Direct descendants of Le Blanc said they had the original map that was written in French and they had been searching for the buried gold for 3 generations. They are said to have located seven of the eight landmarks on the map.
Le Blanc Family Find a Tunnel
One of the Le Blanc family members was out elk hunting in 1993 in the mountains south of Del Norte. He took shelter in a 3-foot hole in the mountain to get out of the rain. Turns out it was a man-made tunnel about 4 by 5 foot wide.
He found the eighth clue on the map at the end of that tunnel. The next day the man came back with more family members who dug another twelve feet into the mountainside. But when they were going to aluminate the whole tunnel a rattlesnake came out and almost bit one of the family members.
Then a swarm of bats flew out of the side of the mountain. One of the lights they had placed in the back of the cave flickered on by itself and then an owl flew out at them. The family members left the tunnel thinking it was cursed.
The family did obtain the legal rights to whatever treasure might be in that cave. But as of yet, no gold has been recovered. A rich cache of gold ore could still be waiting for discovery somewhere in the mountains around Summitville, Colorado.
Butch Cassidy’s Buried Treasures In Irish Canyon and Wild Mountain
Butch Cassidy and The Wild Bunch Circa 1900
Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch originally named the Hole-In-The Wall-Gang because they operated out of a cave system near Kaycee, Wyoming. They were outlaws who robbed trains and banks all over the west in the late 1800s to early 1900s. As a matter of fact, they were the most successful train robbers in history.
Butch Cassidy’s real name Robert Leroy Parker and the Wild Bunch were made famous by the 1969 movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Robert Redford.
Legend has it that Butch and the Wild Bunch had hideouts in Colorado. When they were traveling through the Irish Canyon in Moffat County Colorado they reportedly buried $30,000 in silver coins there.
Another story suggests that Cassidy and the Wild Bunch buried another $50,000 of stolen loot near Powder Springs, Colorado near Wild Mountain. The gang was on the run from the law most of the time and was never able to go back and retrieve the buried loot.
If you are ever in Colorado you might want to take a metal detector and shovel with you and visit Irish Canyon and Wild Mountain. There might be a fortune waiting to be discovered. I hear the area of Irish Canyon is gorgeous with a vast amount of hiking trails that you can explore while you are there.
Arapaho Princess Treasure
In the early 1800s, there was a group of Spanish Pioneers who lived in close proximity with the Arapaho tribe in Southern Colorado. The Spanish relied on the Arapaho for helping them as laborers in the gold mines and help stave off the hostile Ute Indians. This took place in what is now Walsenburg, Colorado.
In 1823 a group of the Spanish prospectors decided to load up 50 lbs. in gold bars on mules and head for Mexico City. They were led by Spanish Lieutenant named Carlos Montenegro. Soon after they left they were attacked by Ute Warriors. Knowing they couldn’t get very far carrying all that gold they decided to bury it. Only three of the men made it out alive and went to Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Determined to go back
The three men were determined to go back for the gold. Montenegro needed to go back not only for the gold but he had married an Arapaho Chiefs’ daughter and they had a daughter together. It took a decade before he returned. He found out his wife died of fever. He also found his now 13-year-old daughter that he tried to convince to go back with him to Spain.
He told his daughter about the story of the buried gold bars but Montenegro became convinced that the gold was now cursed and the natives said that rattlesnakes were protecting the gold.
There are a few legends of where the gold is buried. The first is that the gold is buried near a 30-foot high outcropping of rocks known by the Spanish as La Muneca or the Doll. You can find this outcropping on the Northwest slope of the West Spanish Peak close to La Veta, a short distance from U.S. Highway 160.
The daughter of Montenegro thought her father meant that the buried gold was above the Purgatory River about 10 miles east of Las Animas. Yet historical records indicate that the treasure is buried close to the Eastern Spanish Peak.
So there are contradicting accounts of where the gold might be buried. But if you want to do a thorough search of all possibilities you will want to start at the Purgatory River and work your way west. Who knows 50 lbs. of gold bars could still be out there waiting for you to find it.
Kegs of Denver Mint Dimes Lost Along The Gunnison River
By Terry Foote – I took this photograph while visiting Black Canyon National Park, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=94106686
This story of lost treasure has a lot of truth to it. In the early 1900s around about 1907, a wagon train left the Denver Mint hauling six kegs of newly minted 1907 Barber dimes. The wagon train was headed to Phoenix, Arizona. They got lost around the north rim of Black Caynon near the Gunnison River. The four wagons and the crew were never heard from again.
Until years later some people were walking along a trail and found four smashed-up wagons at the rim of the canyon. Part of the trail had washed away into the river below. Along the Gunnison river, they found gallons of dimes. But that was only a small fraction of the number of dimes that were lost.
Most of the dimes are still out there somewhere about the north rim of Black Canyon along the Gunnison River. The 1907-D mint Barber dimes are quite valuable and hard to find in mint state conditions. If they are still in the Denver Mints kegs they would be in great condition. The dimes could have broken from the kegs and spilled into Gunnison River. Who knows but it would be a thrill to find even one of those dimes out there.
The Black Canyon and Gunnison River is now part of a National Park called the Black Canyon of The Gunnison. I’m not sure it’s legal to metal detect there I’m thinking not so due some due diligence and find out before you get there. But you don’t need a permit or permission to look and looking for shiny dimes is all you might need!
Is Treasure Waiting For You In Colorado?
Well, there you have it the top 9 lost treasures of Colorado. Is there treasure waiting for you in Colorado? If your willing to navigate some rough terrain you just might find yourself a fortune in lost treasure. But before you go metal detecting in Colorado make sure it’s legal to do so and you have permission. Otherwise, you might get yourself in a heap of trouble and nobody wants that.
But if nothing else Colorado is a beautiful state with many canyons and sites that it’s worth a visit treasure or not. I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions or comments please leave them in the comments section below. I would love to hear from you. Until next time Happy Treasure Hunting!
By the way, if you enjoyed these lost treasure stories you might enjoy the 12 Lost Treasures of Arkansas.
Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.