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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Platinum of the Uintas

It was early 1940’s when two boys about 12 years of age, Richard and Lee, while staying at the old Ranch House near the mouth of the canyon, decided one day to take a ride on the old horses up the canyon. It was just like any other day the boys explored the canyons, following the river sometimes fishing and other times just hiking around exploring.

This day the boys followed the old river on the east side up the canyon to where a tributary entered it from the east. The boys crossed the tributary and found a nice flat spot where it appeared many had stopped years before to fish or camp.

The boys tied the horses here at the flat and headed for the timbers. Hiking around the boys came to a small clearing, and on the far side of the clearing they entered the brush and trees again and at one particular place under a bluff like ledge, Richard spotted a hole back in some rose like sticker bushes. The boys dug through the bushes to gain access to the hole and was able to clean it out enough to just access the entrance and peak into the hole that had captured their attention.

Looking into the hole, the boys could see several leather bags filled with some strange dark colored rock. Reaching in as best they could, Richard tried to pull one of the leather bags closer to him but the leather just crumbled in his grasp. Pushing in a little harder he managed to grab several handfuls of the dark ore filling both their pockets.
Satisfied with their efforts the boys returned to their horses and began the long ride back to the Ranch House, all along the way throwing the rocks at birds, and into the river just like boys do… Getting back to the ranch house, the boys still having a few of the rocks left, threw them into an old tin bucket and forgot about it.

A couple of months later one of the boy’s father who owned the ranch house went to get the bucket for some chore and in it were these dark heavy rocks. Juggling one of the rocks back and forth in his hand, he thought, these are some heavy stones and wondering why. Not saying anything to the boys, he decided to take a couple of the stones to Salt Lake with him on his next trip and visit the assayer.

The father visited the assayer as planned and having left to take care of other business and having returned to the assayer office before heading back home to the Basin, the assayer told him the rocks were near pure platinum. Anxious to get back home the father hurried on his way. When the father returned home he called for his boy and asked him where he got the rocks, the boy said we got them up by the river a couple months ago, and the boy told him about the leather bags and the hole they found them in. The father asked if he could find it again and the boy certain he could, said yes.

Well, the father and the two boys returned to the same area and spent days searching but to no avail, since this time one of the boys returned in later years to search and again could not find the same spot. Both boys had a good memory of the original event and in their later years both told the same story with the same details and one of the boys in later years even made a map.

After hearing this story several years ago, I didn’t think too much about it simply because it was just another story without original source material or details. Not to many weeks ago, a friend was going through his father’s journal and came across the story I just gave you. Having heard the story from me some time ago, he recognized the story and quickly called me. He had no idea that this original story was in his own possession and documented by his late father many years prior. Two other old references to platinum in the Uinta Mountains exists, strangely enough, all three are in this same small area of the vast Uinta Mountain area.

In these times we have access to things those of the past did not, and it becomes clear as to why sometimes what you were certain you could find something again, often does not work out that way due to “changes”.

This is just another of the many projects I hope to get to. Due to the details given in the story and the copy of the original map, this one will likely be moved to the top of the list of projects.

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