History of Gold Canyon Arizona
Gold Canyon and Apache Junction have some of the richest and most colorful history in Arizona. Nestled at the base of the famed Superstition Mountains, dramatic views can be seen in every direction, along with hints of a colorful past.
In the late 1800s, the area was focused on mining. Apache Junction’s unique location along the Apache Trail put it in the center of the transportation industry and, believe it or not, tourism, as travelers stopped to rest or take in the sights of the wild, wild west.
The Legend of the Lost Dutchman Gold Mine
The Superstition Mountains themselves are home to much of the area’s history. Now a federal wilderness area and home to the Bulldog Recreation Area, the Superstitions are best known for being the legendary home of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine. German immigrant Jacob Waltz (the infamous ‘lost Deutchman’ who became the heart of the legend) supposedly located a rich gold mine in the mountains. As the story goes, an angry band of local Native Americans attacked Waltz to prevent him from sharing the location of the mine with the world. Just before he died, Waltz was rumored to have shared the location of the mine with another person (either one Dr. Walker or Mrs. Julia Thomas, depending on which version of the story you hear), drawing a crude map to indicate its location. The story goes on to portray Dr. Walker or Julia Thomas engaging in efforts to locate the mine around 1892. Unsuccessful after several attempts, the group began selling maps to tourists for the rather hefty sum of $7.
Over the years, countless treasure hunters have scoured the area in search of the Lost Dutchman’s mine, all in vain. Many have even lost their lives in the harsh, mountainous wilderness, three as recent as the Spring of 2011. (NB: It’s an area of amazing beauty with many recreational opportunities, however it is still the wild west. Don’t venture forth without water, GPS, and a first aid kit, and be sure to tell someone where you’re going. Talk to any local and get the low-down before you head out!)
The Apacheland Movie Studios
Gold Canyon began as a large cattle ranch in the late 1800s. One of its greatest claims to fame is the number of Westerns that were shot there in the mid 1900s. The Apacheland Studios hosted the filming of many a famous Oater, including the television series Stagecoach West, and the feature films Wanted: Dead or Alive, Death Valley Days, Blind Justice, Charro!, Have Gun Will Travel, and Ballad of Cable Hogue. As late as 1994, HBO filmed the movie Blind Justice with Armand Assante, Elizabeth Shue and Jack Black. Apacheland suffered two very mysterious fires, one in 1969 and another one in 2004. The cause of the fires was never determined and the facility closed permanently after the fire in 2004. If you catch some Gold Canyon natives in the right mood, they may be eager to tell you some of the many colorful stories of John Wayne, Gene Autrey, and other famous tough guys as they spent time in the area.
History Comes Alive Today in Gold Canyon
Today, the area uniquely straddles the county line between Maricopa and Pinal counties. Approximately 40,000 people populate the area, representing a diverse set of demographics. The Arizona Renaissance Festival, one of the largest in the world, is held just east of Gold Canyon for six weeks each spring and people come from all over the world to visit the festival. Major golf tournaments are held in Gold Canyon each year, at the Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club. The area has a world-class resort and a variety of exceptional dining, shopping, arts and cultural opportunities. Canyon Lake and the Goldfield Ghost Town are two very popular area attractions that draw many visitors each year. With so much history, beauty, and so many fun activities, the Apache Junction and Gold Canyon areas are definitely worth a visit!
One of the local landmarks, Silly Mountain, even has an interesting website and video. Check it out here!
Apache Junction “Things to Do” site
Apache Junction’s Chamber of Commerce Tourism page