Pegleg's Gold Found?

Black Gold Nuggets

One sunny day in February 1965, the mailman delivered an unusual package with the regular subscription fees and manuscript submissions received daily at the office of Desert Magazine. The small package caught the eye of the editor. Little did she know that the contents of that package would spur a modern day gold rush that would last for years to come.

The package contained a short letter, a manuscript and two gold nuggets sent by a man who claimed to have found Pegleg's lost mine. Following is a reprint of the letter contained in the package.

Dear Desert Editor:

Although the enclosed story has no byline, I believe it and the photographs will be of interest to you. After you have read the story, you will understand why the reasons for my remaining anonymous are too obvious to enumerate.

You have my full permission to publish the story and this letter if you wish. They may be of minor interest to the readers of Desert Magazine.

More important, I am also enclosing two of the Peg Leg's nuggets. One is still black, exactly as found, and the other has had the black copper oxides removed by the process mentioned in the story and is now native "gold" in color. You will have these nuggets to show one and all who have doubted the story of Peg Leg's black nuggets. You may keep them with my compliments for Desert Magazine's collection of desert artifacts, in this case you can start a new collection of items from lost mines that have been found.

Very sincerely yours,

The Man Who Found
Peg Leg's Black Gold

This letter touched off an unbelievable fervor of treasure hunting activity and excitement when it was first printed in the March 1965 issue of Desert Magazine. Desert Magazine is no longer in publication, but the letters and stories they published about Pegleg's lost mine continue to be retold to this day.

black gold

If you did not get a chance to read our story on Pegleg's Lost Mine, published in October, 1997 of DesertUSA, then you may want to read it now. It is a prelude to the following story of a man who claims to have found the famous Pegleg mine.

The complete manuscript submitted to Desert Magazine is linked at the end of this article. In short, the man claims to have found about $315,000 in black gold nuggets between 1955 and 1965 (about $3 million at today's price of gold). He says the nuggets were found, by accident, within 30 miles of the Salton Sea, while looking for rocks and flowers in the desert. The gold nuggets were coated with a black varnish which may have been created from the oxidation of copper. DesertUSA's article on desert varnish may provide additional information on why the nuggets were covered with a black coating.

After Desert Magazine published the original letter and manuscript, metal detector sales soared, which may be directly related to the modern-day rush to find Pegleg's lost nuggets. Many articles from treasure hunters, and more letters from the man who claims to have found Pegleg's gold were published during the next few years. Clues to the location of the mine were gathered from these articles and letters. The location of the site has been narrowed down to the general vicinity of Tule Wash and the Pole Line Road, which is BLM land located just outside Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Map of gold areaToday, desert recreationalists are cruising through the area, unaware of what may or may not lie below the ground. If you have not visited this part of the desert, it may be hard to understand why it is so difficult to locate a lost mine.

Almost every hill in the area is covered with black nugget-shaped rocks. The hills and valleys all look familiar and it is easy to become disoriented.

When out in the desert about 10 years ago I found a unique petrified tree and marked the location with a rock cairn. I left the area to find my companions and tried to bring them back to the tree and was unable to find it. Today all I would have to do is take a picture with my iPhone and it would encode its GPS location.

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In 1943, the Tule Wash area was used as training grounds for the Army's tank units. Thousands of metal pieces ranging from empty shells to 50-caliber clips can still be found there. The scrap pieces make metal detecting for gold nuggets quite a challenge. You will spend most of your time digging up old shells and clips left behind by the Army.

In today's world of smart phones and GPS devices, we can now pinpoint locations within a few hundred feet. Once a location is documented with longitude and latitude positions, you can easily return to the site. In addition to GPS technology, metal detectors are far more powerful and sophisticated than those previously available.

If you use a metal detector to search for gold, it is important to know that it is illegal to use metal detectors within Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. You can be fined and have your equipment confiscated. There are many areas where you can use a detector such as BLM lands. There are always some exceptions, so make sure you check with a local Ranger or authority prior to using a metal detector in any desert area.

Did the man who sent the nuggets really find Pegleg's gold or was it just a tall tale? The nuggets he sent were on display at the Desert Magazine office and were confirmed as real gold. It is also interesting to note that at least four other black nuggets have been found in the Colorado Desert area. While each was found in a different location, they were all found within 30 miles of each other.

In short, there may be more black nuggets. If we find them we will let you know, if you find them will you let us know?

Do you believe this man really discovered Pegleg's lost mine? Let us know your opinion and tell us why you believe this story to be true or a false. Share your comments with DesertUSA on our Forum on Pegleg.

by Jim Bremner

Click here for the complete manuscript from "The Man Who Found Pegleg's Black Gold."

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