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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Treasure Hunting in the Colorado Rockies


Chacuaco Canyon Treasure
In 1858, there was a wagon train traveling through the southeast part of Colorado, in what is now Las Animas County, which was carrying 1,500 pounds of gold Ingots. Suddenly, the wagon train was attacked by a group of outlaws and renegadeIndians. At first, the wagon train prevailed, driving off the would-be thieves and, in an effort to elude their tormentors; the travelers detoured through Chacuaco Canyon.
However, the outlaw gang continued to pursue the wagon train with a vengeance. Three members of the wagon train quickly loaded the gold ingots onto six mules and led the loaded animals to a rock outcropping along a nearby creek. While the three were hiding the gold, the outlaws caught up with the wagon train and, furious, they slaughtered each and every member of the party.

While the massacre was taking place, the three men escaped to a Mexican nearby village. However, when they returned to retrieve the gold, they were killed by Ute Indiansbefore ever reaching their destination.
To this day, the treasure has never been found.
Update! June, 2009 - From one of our reader's, Legends of America has learned that though the facts of our tale are partially incorrect, the legend of the treasure is true. Doing his own research for a number of years, our reader has determined the "real story" and has located the vast majority of the treasure which included small gold bars with Spanish insignias.
Round Mountain
indians imageLong ago, a party of four French Canadians were said to have been trapping on the Snake River near Round Mountain. However, the Canadians were discovered by American trappers who took their furs and traps and ran them off. The four traveled south into western Colorado and one of them found a gold nugget in the headwaters of the Gunnison River.

Here, they spent the next month successfully panning the gravel in the creek beds. Ute Indians discovered the Frenchmen and attacked them. In the running battle, which lasted several days, three Frenchmen were killed. The fourth managed to escape over Cochetopa Pass (just west of Saguache). Sensing that his pursuers were closing in, he buried the gold on Round Mountain with the hopes of later returning for it. The Indians caught and killed the lone French-Canadian near the summit of Poncha Pass.   
The treasure was never found, but the story endures, hundreds of years later.

Irish Canyon
butch cassidyIn the late 1800’s Irish Canyon was a popular hideout of outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Wild BunchMatt Warner, Isom Dart, and many others as they spent time in the Browns Park vicinity in Moffat County. Supposedly, $30,000 in silver coins remains buried somewhere in the canyon. 
While you are looking for the treasure, you can also enjoy many excellent trails, hiking and mountain opportunities. You can also visit the Irish Canyon Rock Art Site, where you can see the Fremont rock art from an elevated platform.

Moffat County is in the extreme northwest part of Colorado. Irish Canyon is northwest of Maybell. From Maybell, take US-40 to Colorado 318. Turn northwest onto 318 and continue to Moffat County Road 10N, which runs through the canyon.


In 1863, a stagecoach along the Overland Trail carrying an army payroll of $60,000 (which would be about $1 million dollars today) in ten and twenty dollar gold coins was destined for Fort Sanders inWyoming Territory. The gold shipment represented several months of back pay for the soldiers at Fort Sanders; however, the unfortunate soldiers never saw the gold.

Only about a mile from the Virginia Dale Station, the stage was robbed by six masked outlaws at Long View Hill. The gang took the strongbox from the stage and headed west towards the wooded foothills, where they blew the lock off of the box, removed the gold coins, and buried the treasure.

However, before they could spend their ill-gained wealth, the bandits were pursued and killed by the U.S. Cavalry. The Cavalry later found the iron strong box in a nearby creek, the sides and bottom gone, riddled with bullet holes – and, obviously, empty.

Overland Trail Stage Team
Stage Coach on the Overland Trail
The Overland Trail stage line was regularly terrorized by outlaws, where the surrounding area provided multiple opportunistic hideouts. One hideout, labeled the Robbers Roost atop Table Mountain, was so popular that the outlaws built a cabin there. Table Mountain, only about a mile northeast of the Virginia Dale Stage Station, was a perfect hideout, as it is difficult to climb with practically perpendicular cliffs and a rim of shale.

At the time, it was rumored that Joseph "Jack" Slade, the Station Master was the leader of the gang. Jack Slade, not as famous as many other outlaw characters, was nevertheless, as notorious as many of them. Slade was said to have had an uncontrollable temper, was a heavy drinker, had murdered in the past, and was eventually hanged in Montana. Though the stage line suspected Slade, they could not prove it, so they just fired him. Uncharacteristically, the bad-tempered Slade, left without any problems.

Later Jack Slade moved on to Virginia CityMontana. A heavy drinker with a bad temper, he wrecked a saloon soon after his arrival. Jack was arrested but he tore up the arrest and threatened the judge. Though he pleaded for his life, he was immediately hanged.
Virginia Dale, his girlfriend (or common law wife) was brought to town by one of Jack'sfriends, took his body home, pickled it in alcohol in a metal casket, and kept it under her bed for several months. She then took it to Salt Lake City, Utah and buried him in the old Mormon Cemetery where his body remains today.
The gold taken by the robbers at Virginia Dale has never been found.
Today, Virginia Dale is nothing more than a ghost town, located in the northern part of Larimer County, about 45 miles northwest of Fort Collins, and just about four miles south of the Wyoming border on US Highway 287. The old Overland Trail Stage Station is listed on the National Register of Historical sites and recently efforts have been made to preserve the old station.

The stage station is situated at the very end of County Road 43F, about 1 mile east of US 287. A monument erected for the station marks the beginning of CR 43F. Follow the county road through a narrow gorge beneath Lover’s Leap, past a ranch, and it will take you right to the door. The station itself is on private property, but the access to the site is on a county road. If you intend to visit the Stage Station, you can take pictures of the grounds and the exterior of the building, but please do not trespass onto the private property.Kathy Weiser/Legends of America




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