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Lost Butler Mine


Part of the extensive Peninsular Ranges mountain system, the Santa Rosa Mountains are located northwest of the Salton Sea in extreme south-central California. Stretching for nearly 40 miles in a northwest-southeast direction, the Santa Rosas are bounded on the east by Coachella Valley and on the west by Clark Valley. The mountains begin as a range of low hills just west of the Salton Sea. As they climb to the northwest, they reach their highest point at Toro Peak (8717 feet). The southern spur of the range merges with the famous Borrego Badlands while in the north, the Santa Rosas terminate at Palm Canyon.

This rugged, nearly waterless range of mountains harbors a secret. Within this vast wilderness of

peaks and canyons is the occasional rich pocket of gold! During the early 1900's, a prospector named Nicholas Schwartz is said to have discovered a small "blowout" or pocket of gold-bearing ore near Rockhouse Canyon. During that same time, another prospector named Butler (or possibly Buckley) stumbled on a very rich pocket somewhere in the heart of the range. Butler worked the deposit for a short time, but ill-health forced him to leave the mountains. Before he died, Butler told his tale to a long-time resident of the area named Fred Clark. The mine has never been found.


The Santa Rosa Mountains contain no major ore-bearing deposits, either precious or base-metal. The nearest mining districts lie 35 miles to the southwest, in the Volcan Mountains. The Mesa Grande District was located between present-day Lake Henshaw and the little town of Mesa Grande. During the 1880's, prospectors discovered gold-bearing ore in the area, but the deposits never amounted to much. The district quickly faded. The Julian District, which includes the mining towns of

Julian and Banner, is located about 15 miles southeast of Mesa Grande. The Julian District produced nearly a quarter of a million ounces of gold in its lifetime, more than any other mining district in San Diego County. Although amazingly rich, the veins and ore bodies at Julian tended to pinch out at depth. Some were quite shallow. The Julian District lingered until the turn of the century, when most of the mines closed down.