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Fish Lake Mine

40.76276, -110.94224

Spanish miners may have worked a gold placer high on the Duchesne River, in the shadow of 12,433-foot Mt. Agassiz. The late Cliff Roberts of Tabiona was one of the first men to herd livestock in that rough, boulder-strewn wilderness, back when a lean-to of pine boughs was the herder's only shelter and his supplies those he packed in on horseback. Close to one of those lone mountain camps, Roberts discovered some rotted sections of long abandoned wooden sluice boxes along the river, and faint but well-worn trails leading off into the rocky canyons which scar the broken sides of Mt. Agassiz. In an interview I had with Roberts when he was well over ninety years of age, but his mind still clear enough to describe landmarks by the names he knew seventy years before, the old man gave me the following directions:

Go up the Duchesne River until you come to the forks. Follow up the East Fork to Fish Lake #3 and pass it on the north side. Go on to Fish Lake #2, but go past it on the south side. When you come to Fish Lake #1, go back on the north side. Go straight down that creek, don't ever cross it, to where it meets the next stream, then go right up there. That's where the gold is! I know gold when I see it, and that's where it's at. There's a big rock ledge which the stream washes against, and I could see gold shining in the water there. I picked up some pieces, and they were heavy and shiny. I saw it, but I guess I was a damn fool, for I never kept any except for a few pieces I put in my pocket. I was young then and thought I could go back any time I wanted to, but before long I had a large family and time just got away from me. But I know gold when I see it, and that's where it's at!

Recently taken high-altitude infra-red photos reveal two mineralized areas in almost exactly the same areas Cliff Roberts described, but they are outside the Primitive Area. Field work on the ground was slow in that rugged terrain, but one of those ore zones was found last fall just as the first snow of winter whitened the ground, leaving its investigation for another day. But while searching that area, what may be an even more important find was made. On a ridge over-looking the Duchesne River Canyon, with Mt. Agassiz standing guard from within the Primitive Area, a strange and enigmatic treasure map was discovered, its features cut into a giant granite boulder! Lines and figures on that stone map clearly show the forks of the Duchesne River and the physical features of the mountains from Naturalist Basin to Murdock Mountain. Not as clearly understood are the meanings of several yet un-deciphered symbols, among them several letters, numbers and a square box figure. Could that strange stone map be connected in some way with the quartz ledge and placer discovered by Cliff Roberts?

Even more intriguing than the stone map is a crude sketch map drawn by Caleb Rhoads on a scrap of brown paper shortly before his death. That map shows what appears to be the Mirror Lake Basin and some "glacial peaks," with several lakes and the major streams which drain that high country. Several mines are marked with "Xs" and there is what appears to be a cabin site. That map bears the inscription, "This country is dangerous!" (See Map K) One of Rhoads' Indian prospecting partners, Happy Jack, was given that map by Sidsie Rhoads after her husband's death, and he in turn gave it to the outlaw, Matt Warner, for whom Rhoads had sketched it. Before doing so, Happy Jack copied that map in one of the small journal notebooks he always carried. The Rhoads-Warner connection will be explained later. Because the landmarks on that map do not fit the Mirror Lake Basin exactly, some have tried to orient it with the Rock Creek and Brown Duck Lakes country, but it doesn't match that area any better. Because it is hard to tell what area it depicts, some have called it the "Mystery Map." But if you study it closely, you'll see it really isn't a mystery at all.

Many geologists are in agreement that the most likely places where the Uinta Mountains might be mineralized are those few places where quartz intrusions cut through the limestone-sandstone core of that range. Not many of those ore-bearing intrusions have been found, but the 1969 Intermountain Geologists Association map of the Uinta Mountains pin-points one of them. The text accompanying that map states: "Near Mt. Agassiz there is a fine-grained quartzite, seventy-five to one-hundred feet thick, thinning as it approaches King's Peak." That's very close to the area shown on the stone map, very similar to Caleb Rhoads' "Mystery Map," and not far from where Cliff Roberts found gold!--Faded Footprints, pg. 74

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