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Search for a Small Prospect Northeast of Benson Arizona

Last Updated: 28th Jul 2019

By Rolf Luetcke

Search for Small Prospects Northeast of Benson Arizona
By Rolf Luetcke

About the year 2000, my wife and I went looking for a small prospect that listed perite as a mineral species found there. Well, I should be a bit more specific, I wanted to look for this location and Mary went along. I had an ATV so the searching was also fun since we went in nice weather.
I had even found two specimens of perite that came from this location at the Tucson mineral show. In the literature all that was said was that it was about 8 miles NE of Benson Arizona. I have lived in this area since 1986 an thought I knew the area quite well. In fact one of my favorite small prospects was a bit farther out from Benson, maybe 15 miles or so. This perite location was somewhere in between.
I even knew a fellow who had been to the prospect and had told me a few things about his going there. In the end it didn't help at all. Trouble was the friend had not been driving himself and been a passenger. He had told several conflicting stories of how they had gotten to the prospect. He did say that once you saw it you could tell since there was a dump to show the location was there. The friend was also in his 80’s when they went so his memory was not as good as it could have been.
The first clue from the friend was the Tres Alamos Wash I was very familiar with. I rode my ATV up the wash and took any side roads that entered the wash going south. The wash goes for many miles and on the plateau above to the south are a number of dirt roads that crisscross the area. One by one I traveled every small road to be found. Not one mine tailing to be seen anywhere. On one road that went back toward Tres Alamos Wash the road got worse and worse and we decided to turn around because the road had not been maintained at all and started becoming dangerous. It was the only road we never traveled all of its length but it was not within the area the prospect was supposed to be so we crossed it off of our list. The problem was that the use of Tres Alamos Wash as location information was something that was not right since it was farther than the listed 8 miles northeast of Benson.
Another talk with the friend who had been there was that they had driven up to a big green metal gate that was chained and locked near a cattle enclosure and then walked a little way to the dumps. There was only one problem, the green metal gates were on every road in the area and we had seen a dozen or more of the green gates on our explorations. None had any mine dumps nearby. We even found one with a cattle enclosure by it but the gate was not locked. In fact we never came across any gate that was locked on our searches.
Every trip I decided to give up and after a month or two the urge to try again surfaced and Mary reluctantly went along. It was fun riding every inch of dirt road in a number of square miles but no mine was ever encountered. We did see a lot of wildlife on our trips so the rides were not entirely in vain. I was beginning to think that the place never did actually exist and it was from somewhere else, some other Benson, in some other part of Arizona. No other Benson in the way of a town that I know of though. It was the most elusive mineral location I have ever searched for. In our searches, the one thing I had found was there were other side dirt roads that went off the main paved road closer to Benson and we even tried taking those but none had the right combination of green gate and corral.
I never did find anyone else who had ever been there to give a bit of guidance and the friend who had been there was not able to go back to the area again due to health problems. His memory was also getting worse and any further questions simply went to "I don't really remember" or the green gate. It has been several years now and we have truly given up finding this place. In our collecting in the area we did find the one interesting location at the sides of Tres Alamos Wash and at this location found many minerals including one specimen with perite but it didn’t resemble the material we had purchased at the Tucson mineral show. So, we don’t believe this was the place since it is not within the range of the 8 mile distance given on the information with the specimens.
There is one other wild goose chase in the same area, or nearby. The Tres Alamos Wash goes basically from west toward the east and on the south side way up the wash one encounters the Little Dragoon Mountains. To the north are the Johnny Lyon Hills. There is a mine way up on top of the Johnny Lyon Hills that is supposed to have a couple of rare mineral species, friedrichite and nordstromite. Here they listed the Northeast Flank of the Johnny Lyon Hills. Again the search went on. The several attempts to find this location also ended up futile. The problem was the dirt roads to the area from the west were on private land and the gates were locked with menacing signs to keep out. The only approach to the area was from the southeast side of the mountain the mine was supposedly on. There is a very rough dirt road that circumnavigates the mountain but never gets close to where the actual mine is supposed to be. The country here is steep, very steep, rocky, covered with brush and cacti that have vicious thorns. I rode up the Tres Alamos Wash far enough one gets away from the Johnny Lyon Hills and saw one small dirt road that went up onto the east flank of the hills and we rode the ATV up to a small mine. The mine didn't have much of anything I considered worth picking up on any of the dump material and what I did take home had nothing in it that was interesting. The other problem is that the rare mineral species can look like a whole lot of other things and to be able to identify them would most likely need analysis.
The country out here is quite wild and the only people that venture into the area are the ranchers that run a few cattle here or hunters in the various seasons. We only encountered people in the area one time and that was during a hunting season and it was a couple in an ATV also. Going into this country it is always wise to go with someone in a separate vehicle in case one has trouble the other can go for help. I did use my cell phone when collecting so I do know the cell phones get service out there but it is a long way for anyone to come to help you if you get stuck or the vehicle breaks down. Walking to any place with people is about ten miles through rugged terrain. Four wheel drive vehicles can navigate the area but the ATV has proven the most enjoyable for us.
One trip with several friends to look for the small mine was to the last place one could drive close to the tops of the mountains and then hike for several miles up and down mountains. I had an idea where the mine should be and we did find a few small prospects along the hills but never got to the larger one we were looking for. Every ridge we crossed and nothing visible. We always kept in mind we had the same distance to go back so when we all got tired we gave up and trudged back the way we had come There were no short cuts in this unforgiving country. This hike was in summer and on a pleasant temperature day. As we walked through the brush one of the fellows said something had gotten on his neck and his neck was on fire. He was flipping out since it burned so much and I went to have a look. As I approached him I saw what it was and took one of the wholly caterpillars off of his back pack to show him. I knew the caterpillars and that when they were squished onto ones skin the tiny needle like hairs injected a poison into anything trying to harm them. Fortunately my knowledge of biology helped here and I was able to tell the friend what it was and that the burn would last maybe ten or fifteen minutes and then slowly go away.
The others all took off their packs and picked off the caterpillars from them. They also had them on their clothes and hats. The bushes called sumac we had walked through had them all over and all of us had them on us. The caterpillar spines are not tough enough to pierce ones calloused hands but on soft skin like the friends neck it set him on fire. The caterpillar had fallen onto his neck and when he turned his head it squished the caterpillar into his soft neck skin. He kept saying that it burned like hell but I kept assuring him it would go away and after about the time I had said he stopped complaining and the pain was going away. Lucky for them I knew exactly what it was that set him on fire and I know what he felt since I had an encounter with them years before and knew how it hurt.
While on a couple of the small mine dumps we turned over rocks to look for any interesting minerals and pretty much all we turned up were scorpions. One had to be very careful this time of year since the area was ideal for rattlesnakes. The small dumps had very little of interest. There was only one small prospect that had interesting minerals. This little hole had no listing on any maps but it was a small quartz vein that had been dug a few feet down and had galena and associated minerals. It was right on top of a ridge and I picked up material from this prospect to check out at home. Besides the galena there was a green mineral that resembled pyromorphite but I never did have anything analyzed from there since the dump is so small.
There is one more unnamed prospect that also shows a couple of species I am not very familiar with, stetefeldtite and mercurian tetrahedrite but we have never been able to find this small prospect either, at least not that we could say was the right place, it is listed for the east side of the Johnny Lyon Hills. We have been to a prospect or two on the east side of the hills but never found any identifiable minerals besides calcite and quartz.
In the Mineralogy of Arizona there is a description of one small prospect that had the green mica they called fuchsite and they think that the people who discovered it assumed the green was from copper and dug into the material but eventually realized the minerals didn't have any copper and were worthless. I have found the fuchsite mica at a few places but never in the quantity they described in the book so I assume I never found this prospect either.
I have found the map pages on mindat useful since they give a lot of information but for the Johnny Lyon Hills there are map pages with little showing so nothing listed or shows where these obscure places are. I have seen topographic maps with the symbols in place but on those no names are given so it is not possible to link the mines locations with names. I have seen this in other places where little research has been done, a virtual black hole of information for those searching for mines.
A friend sent me the original topographic map he had taken a photo of that had belonged to Sid Williams and on it were dozens and dozens of red circles that were presumably places Sid had been and collected material from. Sid had a full lab set up at his home in Douglas so for him it was easy to analyze any specimens he brought home. I assume it was Sid who found the locations with the perite and other rare species listed for the Johnny Lyon Hills. The map was on my computer and unfortunately the computer crashed and the map was lost. My wife also said that she was done with the searches for those places and I was not going to run all over by myself to search. The looking for the small prospects in the Benson area have had success in some respects and been a total bust in others.
We have been to a number of small prospects and mines in the area and have found very little. The only exception is the one prospect on the banks of the Tres Alamos Wash we discovered a number of years ago which has quite a number of interesting minerals for such a small mine, 38 species I have been able to identify but I wrote about this one in another article so I won't expand on it here. An even larger mine only a quarter mile away that has a much larger dump has virtually no mineralization we were able to find.
The searches we have done for a few small places show how some places one looks for only give one nice outings but no results in running down a particular place. I am sure the places actually are there somewhere, we have just not been able to find them.

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