Nature Notes banner
January 1934Volume 8, Number 10


By Park Ranger H. R. Lauzon

A great many visitors, as they stand on the rim, ask if there have ever been any valuable minerals such as gold, copper, or the like, found in the Grand Canyon.

The "Old Timers" who invaded the Canyon Country in the early nineties asked the same question and then proceeded to answer the question for themselves with the help of pack burros and a side of bacon.

Two men of that day who had visions of immense veins of rich ore in the Canyon were W. W. Bass and John Waltenburg. These men found a way to get into the Canyon at a point that is now known as Bass Trail. This is twenty-five miles west of El Tovar Hotel. Mr. Bass was in the Canyon one winter with Chickapanage, a Supai Indian. (Chickapanage in the Havasupai language means Bat-Face.)

While prospecting in a side canyon which is now recorded as Copper Canyon on the United States Geological Survey map of Grand Canyon, they discovered a fair showing of copper ore in a well defined fissure vein. Later Mr. Bass opened the vein by driving in a tunnel over one hundred feet in length and also sinking a shaft on the vein to the depth of fifty feet.

This development work was in a good grade of sulphide ore (1) all the way. The copper values were carried in ores such as bornite, calcocite, calcopyrite, with some galena carrying silver values. This ore occurs in fissure veins in the Vishnu schist eight hundred feet above the Colorado River.

(1) See Noble, L. F., "The Shinumo Quadrangle", U.S.G.S.Bulletin 549, pp 94-96, 1914.

About 1908, Mr. Bass packed out twenty-five tons of this ore on burros to Bass Camp at the head of the trail. He then hauled it twenty miles in wagons to the railway for shipment.

Across the river and three miles down from Bass Trail in Hakatai Canyon, Bass and Waltenburg discovered and opened a deposit of asbestos (2). This asbestos was found in serpentine between layers of limestone, and near diabase. It is a fine grade of chrysotile. The fiber is from one inch to four inches in length and is of great tensile strength. From tests made it was found that one strand three hundredths of an inch in diameter would sustain fifteen and a half pounds. In 1917 several tons of this asbestos were packed out of the Canyon, hauled to the railway and sold to eastern buyers at fifteen hundred dollars per ton.

(2) See Diller, J. S., U. S. Geol. Survey Mineral Resources, 1907, pt. 2, pp. 720-721, 1908.

Also idem. 1908, pt. 2, p. 705, 1909.

Miners say, "Silver lies in veins and gold is where you find it". In answer to the question about the finding of gold in Grand Canyon, let me say that the sand along the Colorado River will show a few colors of flour gold when washed with a gold pan. Between Pipe Creek and Horn Creek and about one hundred feet above the high water mark of the Colorado lies an ancient gravel bar. One time I spent several hours panning gravel from this deposit. Each pan produced a string of fine gold. The panning effort netted enough gold and black sand, the sand and the gold being about equally divided, to fill a very small perfume bottle. A prospector would say, "Yes, there is placer gold along the Colorado but there is too much sand mixed with it to make it worth recovering".

<<< Previous
> Cover <
Next >>>