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The deserts of the American southwest have long been the discussion of lost mines and buried treasures. For hundreds of years, man has scoured the desert floor searching for any signs of the countless tales of lost riches. Some have claimed to have found the elusive treasures but only to be lost again, while others grew old or died trying. None the less, the legends live on as they are passed down from generation to generation. Maybe you will be the lucky one...

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Caches made by Durivage and the doctor are undoubtedly still there, along with many others. For more than a century, burning sands and greasewood have kept them hidden.

The amount of gold a man from New Orleans and his physician friend were forced to cache in the sunscorched desert near Yuma, Arizona, in 1849, was never disclosed. It likely was small, consisting only of what the two had left on the last leg of their long journey to the California gold fields.

Even so, it is well worth hunting, for the gold seekers also left behind many relics which would bring a good price today. Preserved by the and atmosphere and desert sand, there is a good chance that a lucky treasure hunter, armed with his detector, might just unearth some of these valuable relics-and maybe the gold!

These caches were made just west of the Colorado River by J. F. Durivage. He and the doctor were traveling a road commonly called El Jornado del Muerto, Spanish for "The journey of Death", at the time.

Miles from Yuma, the mules pulling their wagons began dropping in their tracks. They reached the Colorado River near Yuma with one mule remaining. After crossing the river, the lone mule showed signs of weakness and the men unloaded every last possession, except a little food and water.

Many valuables were simply thrown out of the wagon and left where they fell. Soon they were covered with sand by the evening winds. Others, more prized, were carefully cached--the two men hoping to return that way later to retrieve them, but they never did. For more than a century the burning sands and the lonely greasewood clumps have kept them hidden.

Durivage and the doctor had left New Orleans with a small party of helpers, their hopes built on growing rich off of the gold discoveries out West. In Arizona they had dropped south to travel the notorious El Camino del Diablo, which was located on the U.S.-Mexico boundary. This killing, 150-mile trail over the barren desert began at an oasis called Quitobaquito, and ended in Yuma. It bad earned its name, The Devil's Road, from reports that some 3,000 travelers had perished on it. The party lost no lives on this leg, but they were down to just one mule.

At Yuma they wasted no time, and made ready for the last leg of their journey to the gold fields. This leg would take them over the Jornada del Muerto. Despite its ominous name, the party held no fear of the road as water was more available and its location better known than on previous parts of the trip. Having gotten this far, Durivage and the doctor anticipated no further difficulties. How wrong they were -the worst was yet to come.

After negotiating the Colorado River and reaching the west bank, everything went wrong. The mule staggered weakly on its legs, and if it were to complete the trip the wagon would have to be lightened.

The animal was too weak to pull "Tour heavy load," Durivage said later. "The wagon had to be lightened of everything if we were to continue. We left every article we could dispense with on the Colorado, and still, we deemed it necessary to make further sacrifices. Everything went out!"

Many days later, more dead than alive, the party reached California. Soon Durivage recounted the experience to newspapers. Though careful not to reveal the precise locations of the caches-except to say that they were "on the Colorado"--he did tell what some of the caches contained.

After throwing out gunny sacks filled with food, bundles of clothes, books that today would be extremely rare, the men parted with other items which, if uncovered, would bring the finder large sums of money.

Many of these items--considered expendable then, but valuable relics now-were cached with an undetermined amount of gold, or in caches nearby. These included a metal cannister of quicksilver, leather pouches crammed with bullets, powder flasks, rifles, Durivage's prized double-barrelled shotgun, and even his cumbersome holster pistols. The doctor had buried a case of surgical instruments carefully wrapped in protective canvas.

Before next dawn, the mule died in its harness. The party went on -but on foot now. Slowly and tortuously, they made their way across the desert. Eventually, they were found by other travelers and taken to California. This information Durivage revealed in his interviews with the press.

All that the party ditched is still there, and Durivage never gave any further clues as to exact locations. The same area, purportedly, is the resting place of hundreds of similar caches.

"The entire crossing was literally an aisle of discarded personal belongings of those who had gone before us-abandoned wagons, fragments of harness, gun barrels, trunks, wearing apparel, barrels and quantities of articles too numerous to mention," was a statement made by Durivage which certainly gives credence to his claim about the area.

The treasure hunter who is willing to spend some time and energy has a good chance of finding some of these little-looked-for caches as he travels west of the Colorado along El Jornada del Muerto. It is an area where there is a mighty good chance to strike pay dirt.

--Ben Townsend