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Kidney Lake Cache

He was walking along the lake shore which was at its lowest level after several years of drought when he saw the sun's rays reflecting from some metal bars in water about six feet deep. He was able to hook onto one of those bars with a forked pine pole, but the others slid away into deeper water. There isn't any doubt about Wash's find, for both Ed and Roy Boron saw and handled that silver bar. There is some question of what became of that bar, for Wash never seemed to prosper because of its discovery.

During the fall of 1974 when the lake was again at a low level, a fisherman recovered two more of those silver bars. Unsure of what he had found, he took them to the Ute Research Laboratory for analysis, which firm assayed those bars and reported they were 99.9% silver. The author has that original certificate of analysis.

[...]John Ofstad is a fisherman and backwoods explorer from California, whose enthusiasm and love of wilderness takes him into back country where others hesitate to follow...

Before he reached Kidney Lake, Ofstad met a "rough looking character" riding horseback and leading two pack animals. The "character" had a large revolver stuck under his belt. Ofstad called a greeting, but the "character" was definitely unfriendly, and never returned his call. Ofstad couldn't help but notice that those pack animals were loaded down with something very heavy, even though their packs weren't large. Those pack animals left a much deeper track in the soft ground than did the horse carrying the "character." Several days later Ofstad met another rider, who judging from his description, was probably the late Duane Meriwether, a horse wrangler from the Rock Creek Resort. That rider was friendly, and after they exchanged a few words, Ofstad told him of his encounter with the "character." Meriwether told him that he had rented some pack horses to several men who were scuba diving at Kidney Lake, and added that he was sorry he had done so. He told Ofstad that those divers had recovered something from the lake which they packed down to Moon Lake, something they never let him see. But whatever they found, it was very heavy, for Meriwether said that when they loaded it into his horse trailer, the weight buckled the trailer's floor and heavy channel-iron frame. Meriwether told Ofstad that he later heard that those divers had taken 900 bars of silver from Kidney Lake!

Ofstad remembered something else, there was a lot of shooting at Kidney Lake, but only whenever he started around the lake to where those scuba divers were working. He said it may only have been target practice, but somehow he couldn't get it out of his mind that he was the target! One might chalk up Ofstad's story to exaggeration, except that others have encountered the same rough characters in the Kidney Lake area.--Faded Footprints, pp. 127-128

When his grandfather, Tabby, was a young man, Wash explained, and Walker was chief of the Sanpete Utes, the O'uatz, or Mexicans, camped in the mountains one summer to mine gold near the headwaters of Rock Creek, and to process the ore into bars for transport by mule train out of the mountains. The year was about "two snows" before the Mormons came., i.e. about 1845.

This was the year of the destruction of Fort Uintah, and the Utes were fired up with a desire to drive the infestations of intruders from their lands. The hated Q'uatz had chosen a bad time to steal the Utes' gold. A tremendous battle ensued on the flat and the Mexicans, greatly outnumbered (according to Wash, there were about 15 Mexicans and perhaps 75 Utes), nevertheless fought a valiant fight. They had the advantage of armor and a 12-pound "grapeshot" cannon, but the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The Mexican miners were killed to a man.

The battle took place near the middle of the flat, about a hundred yards north of the creek. The Indians were led by Tabby, who ordered that all traces of the massacre site be obliterated. The gold bars, six in number, were turned over to squaws, who returned the bars to the mountains near the mine from whence the gold had come, and tossed them into a nearby lake.

The story does not end there, however, for Wash told me the sequel. When he was a young man, the fire of adventure burned in his soul. He remembered the story of the massacre, repeated over many a council fire, and he recalled how the squaws had thrown the gold bars into the lake near the mine. He determined to go there and see for himself, and even retrieve them if possible. It was a foolish mission, done in the passion of his youth, for the gold was sacred and forbidden to be touched. Nevertheless he went.

The year had been one of drought, and the glaciers and massive snow banks which fed the lakes had receded, making the deep ends of the lakes accessible for the first time in years. Wash indicated that the lake containing the gold bars was one of the three Brown Duck Lakes, which appear on Caleb Rhoades' "Pine Tree" map, which are within visual distance of the Bullock discovery.

Wash made it clear that the deep end of the lake, where the gold bars were deposited, was accessible only during years of drought, because a glacier covered the end of the lake during a majority of years. He described the lake as being deep at one end, where it abutted some high ledges, and shallow on the other end, where an outlet traversed a meadow.

Because the glacier had receded, Wash was able to wade out a distance in the icy cold water by stepping on large sliderock, until the water was up to his armpits. By stooping and immersing his head under water, he could see the rectangular shapes of several gold bars laying deep in the submerged sliderock.

Wash was a strong swimmer, but he confessed that the water was too murky and cold to make a bare-skin dive. Anyone who has stood in the waters of these alpine lakes will understand his meaning, for within minutes the freezing waters bring on a stingingly painful numbness.

So Wash went on a "fishing" trip. He retrieved a lodgepole about ten feet in length, to the end of which he tied a piece of baling wire, making a sliding loop. He then probed the water, trying to snag a gold bar. It proved a formidable task. He was compelled to stand on a sliderock about the size of a table, and bend over, submerging his head in the water, barely making out the rectangular shapes in the murky water. He would frequently return to shore to warm himself by a campfire before trying again.

At last he looped one of the gold bars, but he was surprised at how heavy it was. It slipped the loop once, but fell to a shelf near his feet, and so he was able to again retrieve it and finally get it on shore.

Wash then told a most unusual story. He said he was about to return to the water for another bar when he heard a strange sound emanating from beneath the ledges at the deepest part of the lake. Looking up, he saw a creature swimming towards him, an aquatic creature that resembled a dinosaur. Wash swore it was a spirit guardian of the sacred gold, and it so frightened him that he packed his camp and hastily departed.

I have often wondered whether Wash's "monster" story was calculated to scare the curious-such as myself-away, but he told the story in all seriousness, without the usual wily smile that accompanied his occasional dry jests. One thing is certain beyond doubt: Wash had a gold bar in his possession; I have seen it and handled it. It was rectangular in shape, stamped with a Spanish cross, and weighed 84 pounds! Wash never disposed of this bar and still had it in his possession the last I saw him, when he was in his nineties (I have been told that Wash lived past 100, though I lost track of him in later years). The gold was sacred to the Utes and so he would never give a thought to cashing it in, though he might have been wealthy by so doing. A little calculation quickly reveals the immense value of the cache. According to Wash there was a total of six bars, all identical in size and weight, and so each weighed 84 pounds; this means that a total of 504 pounds of pure gold was thrown into the lake. A single bar, at today's values, would net over half a million dollars, and all six would be worth more than three million dollars!--Gold of Carre-Shinob, pg. 158

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