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Thread: The Bluff Excitement of 1892, a gold rush on the San Juan River of Southeastern Utah

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2006

    Default The Bluff Excitement of 1892, a gold rush on the San Juan River of Southeastern Utah

    In 1891, stories began to circulate out of Bluff, Utah that rich deposits of gold nuggets had been discovered in the sand and gravel bars of the San Juan River. Those stories were picked up and amplified by newspaper articles like the one posted in The Salt Lake Herald on December 16th1892 that stated that “Such excitement was never known to prevail before and it is interfering with all kinds of business”. The article quoted an A.T. Mills, an old miner: “that it is the richest thing ever found on the slope”.

    Apparently there were soon 1200 people working on the bars and terraces of the river from Bluff to Glen Canyon. Some gold was found, but it was in the form of flour gold. The precious metal was in such small grains that it was extremely difficult to recover. That, together with the rugged nature of the San Juan River Canyon made almost every operation unprofitable to continue. Very soon, there were as many people leaving the area as there were folks arriving.

    Just a month after publishing articles extolling the quality of the San Juan Placers, The Salt Lake Herald began to wonder whether the original stories may have been fake!

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    Apparently, not everyone got the word that the gold deposit stories may have been just rumors. Several miners spent considerable effort in their attempt to strike it rich. The results of their activity can be seen today.

    The Mendenhall Cabin:

    Walter Mendenhall, his father and brother, came to the area in 1893 and made a claim down in a deep part of the San Juan Canyon at the first gooseneck below the town of Mexican Hat. At some point, the family realized that specialized machinery was going to be needed to recover any gold. Walter left the group over the winter to pick up the machinery. During his absence, his father and brother built a cabin on the gooseneck high above the river and waited for Walter to return in the spring. Once the machinery arrived, it was only in operation for a few days before it was washed away. The Mendenhalls soon abandoned the site.
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    Other photo of our trip down the river can be seen at:

    Last edited by Toysx2; 11-05-2012 at 10:15 AM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2006


    Another miner who left his mark on the San Juan River Country was Augustus Honaker. He arrived in 1894 and made claim at the river’s edge at mile 45. This was in one of the deepest areas of the canyon. So that he could access his claim from the rim, he constructed a 2.5 mile trail down the 1200’ canyon side, switchbacking from one rock layer to the other. For all this effort, he supposedly only recovered enough gold to make a ring for his wife! The trail is still passable today. It is the only trail to exit the San Juan River canyon in its middle reaches.

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    Last edited by Toysx2; 11-05-2012 at 10:16 AM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2009


    Thanks for posting this. Very interesting, I'd never heard this story before. Great pictures. I've only briefly been in that general area and would really like to get back up there.


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