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Lost Silver Ledge of the Chocolate Mountains


The Chocolate Mountains of southeast California have been prospected since the days of the early Spaniards. As early as 1780, Spanish prospectors discovered gold at Picacho and at the "Potholes", a small district located at the southern end of the range. In 1861, Mexican prospectors rediscovered the placer deposits at Picacho. Virtually every canyon, dry wash, and arroyo in the Picacho Basin yielded placer gold. Shortly thereafter, Jose Maria Mendivil discovered the source of most of this placer gold on the mountain slopes near Picacho Peak. The famous Apache lode had been missed by the Spaniards but Mendivil's careful tracing of the gold-bearing float had led him to the vein. In 1880, placer gold was discovered in the washes and ravines that drain the western flank of the Chocolate Mountains. The richest deposits were located east and northeast of Glamis Station. The area came to be known as the Mesquite Diggings and by 1881 was crawling with prospectors. The placers were more or less exhausted by 1885, but prospectors have continued to work the deposits on a limited basis ever since.

In 1920, an old German prospector known only as "Desert John" was working his claim in the foothills

northeast of Glamis Station. This area contained some of the richest pockets of placer gold along the entire western flank of the Chocolate Mountains. One day, the old prospector found himself with visitors in his camp. A man named Harpending and a friend were on their way to a natural spring in the mountains when they decided to visit the old man. Harpending and his companion decided to continue their search the next morning. The two set out the following day, hiking through the foothills on the western flank of the mountains. They eventually camped near the confluence of several dry washes, each one descending from the slopes of the mountains. Within one of the dry washes, Harpending stumbled on a ledge of silver-bearing quartz. Harpending collected some of the heavy dark ore and eventually had it assayed in Los Angeles. It turned out to be extremely rich in silver! Harpending returned to the Chocolate Mountains many times in search of the silver ledge but was never able to find it again. It still lies hidden in those barren mountains.


The history of mining in the southern Chocolates extends back to at least 1780. It was during that year that Spanish prospectors discovered gold at Picacho, at the "Potholes", and in the neighboring Cargo Muchacho Mountains. In 1861, Mexican prospectors rediscovered the Spanish workings at Picacho and then made a few big strikes of their own. Jose Maria Mendivil discovered the source of the placer gold near Picacho Peak. Prospectors swarmed into the area, an old stamp mill was moved nearby, and the camp boomed. Picacho held on till the early 1900's, but by 1904 operations finally ceased. The Mesquite Diggings were discovered in 1880 in the western foothills of the

Chocolate Mountains, about 7 miles east of Glamis Station. The placers were dry washed for a few years, but like all placer deposits they were quickly depleted.

Modern-day prospectors have found the Chocolate Mountains to be quite productive. Using metal-detectors, prospectors have found placer gold in most of the dry washes and arroyos draining the northern flank of the Chocolate Mountains near the site of the old mining town of Picacho. Not known for large nuggets, the area is still a rewarding experience for the electronic prospector.