7 Lost Treasures of Utah (Aztec Gold Awaits)

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Cory Haasnoot

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Utah is home to the Great Salt Lake Desert and many valleys and canyons. The Mormon faith calls Utah home. Utah also is home to a few lost treasure legends that have been passed down through the generations. In this article lost treasures of Utah, we will be exploring 7 of these lost treasure legends and the stories behind them.

You will learn of outlaw loot hidden away in Utah, the lost Aztec treasure of Montezuma, a buried treasure chest left by the Donner Party in the Great Salt Lake Desert, and more! So if you are in the mood for some good lost treasure stories then you will want to read on!


7 Lost Treasures of Utah

TREASUREAMOUNTLOCATION
Buried Loot of Butch Cassidy$7,000 in gold coinsSomewhere around Robbers Roost or possibly Up North Springs Canyon.
Lost Silver Coins in the Ghost Town of StandardvilleSilver DollarsGhost Town of Standardville
Hidden Montezuma TreasureBillions of dollars in gold, silver, and gemsIn an underwater cave on Three Lakes Ranch near Kanab in Southern Utah!
Lost Mormon Gold in Bloomington CaveUnknow amount of goldIn Bloomington Cave near St. George, Utah
Lost Spanish Treasure of The Golden Jesus20 burros loads of gold artifacts including a three-foot gold cross and silver bullionNorth end of the Kaiparowits Plateau In the Fifty Mile Mountains of Utah.
Lost Treasure in Johnson CanyonAncient weapons, precious stones, gold nuggets and dust, silver plate, gold and silver coins, and some jewelry. Between Black Rock Peak and the Paria River in Johnson Canyon about twenty miles northeast of Kanab, Utah.
Lost Treasure of The Donner Party$15,000 in gold coinsSomewhere at a small spring near Pilot Peak which is 15 miles south of the ghost town of Lucin, Utah.

Buried Loot of Butch Cassidy

Butch Cassidy and The Wild Bunch Circa 1900
Butch Cassidy and The Wild Bunch Circa 1900

The famous outlaw Butch Cassidy was born on April 13, 1866, as Robert LeRoy Parker in Beaver, Utah. He was the ring leader of the Wild Bunch outlaw gang that robbed trains and banks during the Wild West days. Harry Alonzo Longabaugh or better known as the Sundance Kid was Cassidy’s main partner in crime during their latter days of robbery.

On April 21, 1897, a daytime robbery took place at the Pleasant Valley Coal Company in Castle Gate, Utah.  On that day a train carrying the payroll for the workers of the Pleasant Valley Coal company stopped in Castle Gate to deliver the payroll. Butch Cassidy and his accomplice Elza Lay a member of the Wild Bunch were waiting in town to steal the payroll.

When the train rolled into town one of the outlaws made his way to the train while the other was waiting near the stairway of the Coal Companies office building. As the paymaster, two guards, and two other men made their way to the Coal company office with the payroll the outlaw that was waiting near the train held them up by gunpoint.

He took the largest bag that contained the payroll. Then the other outlaw showed up and he took the other two bags. Pursued by a few angry citizens Cassidy and Lay took off south but the outlaws quickly lost the pursuing citizens in the deserts and Canyons of Utah.

It is said that they made their way through North Springs Canyon and were seen in Cleveland and Huntington Utah where they got on the Outlaw trail and made their way to Robbers Roost where they had a hideout.

Legend has it that buried somewhere around Robbers Roost or possibly north springs canyon is the loot from the Castle Gate robbery and possibly other robberies that the Wild Bunch committed. It is said that Butch Cassidy got away with $7,000 in gold coins from the Castle Gate robbery.

Today that gold would be worth around $250,000 and along with the loot from their other robberies there could be millions of dollars worth of gold and silver buried or hidden in the Canyons of southeastern, Utah!


Digging Deeper: Butch Cassidy’s Buried Gold In Montana


Lost Silver Coins in the Ghost Town of Standardville

Ghost Town of Standardville
Ghost Town of Standardville – By The Utahraptor created this work entirely by myself., CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Standardville was one of the coal mining towns in Spring Canyon in the early 20th century. The town was named because it was the standard of coal mining towns in that area. Standardville became a thriving community in the coal mining days of Utah with a general store, butcher shop, elementary school, and even tennis courts.

This story is about a little girl who got ahold of one of her father’s cigar boxes. In this particular cigar box, her father would keep some of his freshly minted silver dollars. As the story goes the little girl took her father’s cigar box of silver dollars out to play with her one day.

Back then there were pipes throughout the town that protruded from the ground and they were not capped. These pipes were used to bring fresh air into the mines and allow for harmful gases to escape.

The girl decided to drop one by one her father’s silver dollars down one of these pipes until they were all gone. She took the empty cigar box back home and when her father found that the coins were missing he was furious. He made the girl bring him to the pipe that she dropped the coins in but she couldn’t remember which pipe she was playing near because there were many of them in the area.

So they never did find those silver dollars and they are probably sitting somewhere in an old mine shaft in the town of Standardville. Although this would be a small treasure it still would be an amazing find albeit a dangerous treasure hunt.


Hidden Montezuma Treasure

Montezuma II
Montezuma II

Montezuma II was the last great emperor of the Aztec people of Mexico from 1502-1520. During his reign, the Aztec people in Mexico witnessed the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors led by Hernan Cortes in 1519. Many battles took place between the Aztecs and the Spanish in the year to follow. Montezuma was killed in one of these battles in 1520.

Legend has it that before Montezuma’s death he ordered a group of his men to take all the riches of Mexico which is estimated to be worth billions of dollars in gold, silver, and gems north to the Aztecs ancestral homeland Aztlan that some believe was in Utah.

It’s here in Utah’s southern canyons and deserts where some believe Montezumas treasure is hidden away. Some also believe that the treasure is cursed. One such place some believe the treasure is hiding is in an underwater cavern system near Kanab, Utah on Three Lakes Ranch.

The Treasure Hunt Begins

Interest in the Montezuma treasure in Utah started in 1914 when a treasure hunter by the name of Freddie Crystal came to Johnson Canyon in southern Utah with a treasure map that he claimed marked the spot where the treasure could possibly be found. Amazingly in 1920, Mr. Crystal found a few caves that were sealed off. 

Finding these caves sparked interest in what Mr. Crystal was doing and others joined him in search of the lost treasure. Unfortunately, after breaking the seals on these caverns they found them empty but someone had made them wider by carving them out further possibly to hide treasure. Crystal finally gave up the search.

Fast forward to 1989 when Brandt Child a local resident of Kanab bought some land he ended up calling Three Lake Ranch. He believed that the caves in Johnson Canyon were there as decoys and that the treasure actually was hidden in an underwater cavern on his ranch.

Some Believe The Treasure is Cursed

On a cliff above the cave he found a petroglyph of a circle with a line through it which is believed to be the markings of the Aztec people that were placed there as a marker for the location of the lost treasure. Child believed the treasure is located in a water trap 36 feet below the pond on his property. 

Some divers were brought in to dive into the cave but after detecting metal at the entrance they said that they saw an apparition of Aztecs guarding the cave. One of the divers even found that their mask was tugged on as if something was trying to rip it off. Another diver reported that her tank air was turned off while on the dive. Believing that the treasure was cursed the divers left and never came back.

When they tried to drill into the cave the drill bit came up with gold on the end of the tip. So Mr. Child wanted to drill with a wider drill bit. They came back the next day with a 10 inch bit but it broke off about halfway to the cave. The guy who was doing the drilling went home and died of a heart attack the next day. Further cementing the idea that the treasure is cursed.

Pond Holds Rare Amber Snail

Mr. Child then decided he wanted to drain the pond to gain access to the caverns below but he found out that there was a rare snail called the amber snail that only exists in this area of Utah and the snail is a protected endangered species. Killing just one of these snails will bag you a $50,000 fine. So draining the pond was out of the question. This even further begs the question is Montezuma’s treasure protected supernaturally.

Is Montezuma’s treasure real and if so is it hiding in an underwater cave in southern Utah? Some believe it to be so. It’s a pretty far-fetched lost treasure tale but it’s still an interesting one and makes you wonder if it’s really hidden in that underwater cave on Three Lakes Ranch in Southern Utah!


Lost Mormon Gold in Bloomington Cave

Brigham Young
Brigham Young circa 1870

Brigham Young was the leader of the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He led his congregation to the Salt Lake Valley of Utah in the mid-1800s and founded the town of Salt Lake City.

In the early days, Mormons didn’t believe in the idea of prospecting for gold and you would be thrown out of the faith if you did so. But when the gold rush of 1849 hit Utah that thinking changed possibly because Brigham Young realized that he needed lots of money to run his institutions and be successful in Utah.

So as time went on the Mormons attained a great deal of gold owning about 40 goldmines in the Uinta Mountains. Legend has it that Brigham Young ordered some of his vast gold treasure hidden away in Bloomington Cave which is the fifth largest cave system in Utah.

Bloomington Cave is located near St. George, Utah where many of the upper echelons of the Morman church had their homes. So it makes sense that they would hide their gold in the caves here so they could guard it and have easy access to it. While many have searched for this treasure in Bloomington Cave it has yet to be found.


Lost Treasure of The Golden Jesus

Fifty Mile Mountain
Fifty Mile Mountain

This story takes place in 1810 at the beginning of the Mexican War of Independence. A Spanish mission in Mexico was under attack by Indians when the Padre of the mission and a group of soldiers decided to flee. The Padre was a mine owner who had used the Mexican people as workers in the mine and many of them died as a result. The Padre had accumulated great wealth.

Before the Padre and soldiers fled they packed up 20 burros loaded down with gold artifacts including a three-foot gold cross and silver bullion from his mine. They headed north to avoid apache attacks. Their goal was to reach the old Spanish trail onto Sante Fe, New Mexico so they proceeded up the north side of the Colorado River.

With their burros loaded down with treasure and many of the soldiers being killed by their pursuers, they couldn’t go any further. The only men that were left were the Padre and two Spanish soldiers. They had made it to the north end of the Kaiparowits Plateau knowing that they would surely die if they crossed the desert they decided to cache their treasures in a small cave on the fifty-mile mountain.

They believed one day they could return and retrieve their treasure including a solid gold three-foot crucifix with a symbol of Jesus on it. But Mexico ended up with the land that is now Utah and later the United States acquired Utah from Mexico making it a state in 1896.

Years later in 1870, a man named Llewellyn Harris came to the area to look for the treasure of the Golden Jesus. He had a map that he got from the Zuni Indians that supposedly showed where the treasure was hidden. Although he did find bones from dead burros and some Spanish artifacts he never did find the treasure.

By all accounts, the treasure of the Golden Jesus has never been located and is still being searched for to this day.


Lost Treasure in Johnson Canyon

Paria River
Paria River – By Seth G. Cowdery, CC BY 2.0, Link

Legend has it that a rich politician fled Mexico during the Mexican fight for Independence. He ended up in Johnson Canyon about twenty miles northeast of Kanab, Utah. This is where he is said to have buried his great wealth which consisted of ancient weapons, precious stones, gold nuggets and dust, silver plate, gold and silver coins, and some jewelry.

It is said that the treasure lies between Black Rock Peak and the Paria River. Soon after he hid his treasure he was shot and killed. But before he died he left a crude map that showed the whereabouts of his hidden treasure. The treasure map couldn’t be deciphered and this lost treasure remains hidden somewhere in Johnson Canyon close to Kanab, Utah. The treasure is reported to be worth several million dollars!


Lost Treasure of The Donner Party

The Great Salt Lake Desert
The Great Salt Lake Desert – By Mav at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

The famous Donner Party left Illinois in the spring of 1846 to head west to California for a better life. Unfortunately, they didn’t make it and died in the Sierra Nevadas in the winter of 1846/47. On their journey west they decided to veer off the well-traveled Oregon trail onto what was called Hastings Cutoff to save time. This was a mistake that they paid with their lives.

They took the Hastings Cutoff that led them through the Great Salt Lake Desert which is a dry lake in Northern Utah. It’s here that their troubles began knowing that they had a rough road ahead of them George Donner and James Reed the leaders of the wagon train at this point decided to start leaving some of their possessions behind.

On the fifth day through the Great Salt Lake Desert George Donner is said to have buried a chest of $15,000 in gold coins that he was hauling when they camped near a place called Floating Island. George believed he would return one day to retrieve the chest. That day never came because 42 of the 87 people of the Donner party including George Donner died on their journey west.

Many people believe that his buried treasure chest is located somewhere at a small spring near Pilot Peak which is 15 miles south of the ghost town of Lucin, Utah. As far as is known George Donner’s treasure chest of gold coins has never been found and could still be buried in the salt flats of Utah in what is called the Great Salt Lake Desert.


Digging Deeper: Lost Treasures of Nevada


Conclusion – Lost Treasures of Utah

Utah is a state with its share of lost treasure legends. Some of them are a little over the top but nonetheless interesting and they make you wonder if they are really out there waiting to be found. I hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any questions or comments please leave them below. Until next time Happy Treasure Hunting!

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Author: Cory Haasnoot

Cory Haasnoot is an author, entrepreneur, metal detecting enthusiast, antique, coin collector, and founder of Treasure Seekr.

4 thoughts on “7 Lost Treasures of Utah (Aztec Gold Awaits)”

  1. Every single TV series made about finding gold and other treasures attached with a legend has never found anything!
    All these Legends, I believe are just that…old legends…probably made up eons ago….to make interesting stories. Again, I watched many treasure tv shows with legends involved and all have proved nothing.
    Its all about making money by these tv producers ….to just lead us on.
    Enough of that for me!

    Reply
    • Hey Rick,

      Yeah, that’s how they make their money by being excellent storytellers at least it keeps people entertained and is much better than the other garbage that is on tv nowadays! Most of these lost treasures are tales that have been told throughout the generations but once in a while you get some that have rings of truth and fact in them. There is treasure out there to find it just might not be worth the millions of dollars one would hope for. But once in blue moon someone digs up something amazing. Thanks for your comment it’s appreciated!!

      Reply
  2. Have a pic. Of donner treasure
    Site …how it was buryed..but to old to walk.and dig…92.years..will show or tell or give. The pic and info. For a percent.if i show..and you are intrested.

    Reply

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