Louise Speaks: Well today starts an 8 day trip to visit several State Parks and a few National Monuments. As I have mentioned before, we are trying to visit ALL the State Parks in Arizona (32 at the present time) and all the National Monuments (29 although two are not open to the public). We are more than halfway done and this trip is going to cross 8 attractions off our list. Of the 32 State Parks, 10 of them offer camping. We can’t say we’ve visited them unless we camp at them, so that’s what brings us to our first stop.
Lost Dutchman State Park is only about 25 miles from our Mesa home, but we have to camp here so this is where we are starting this weeks adventure. Lost Dutchman State Park is at the base of the Superstition Mountains. The Superstition Mountains have been a source of mystery and legend since early times. The area is dotted with ancient cliff dwellings and caves, many showing signs of former habitation by a number of different Native American groups, up until the 1800’s. Even the name is inspired by Pima Indian legends.
During the 1840’s, the Peralta family of northern Mexico supposedly developed a rich gold mine in the Superstitions. According to legend, an Apache ambush ended the family’s last expedition, and the gold remained in the area. In the 1870’s, Jacob Waltz (“the Dutchman”) was said to have located the mine through the aid of the Peralta descendant. Waltz and his partner, Jacob Weiser, worked in the mine and allegedly hid one or more caches of gold in the Superstitions. Most stories place the gold in the vicinity of Weaver’s Needle. After Waltz’s death in 1891, several people attempted to seek out the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, all without luck. Later searchers have sometimes met with foul play or even death, contributing to the superstition and legend of these mountains. The legend of the “lost mine” has been fueled by a number of people who were supposed to have known the mine’s location or even worked it. Maps have surfaced over the years, only to become lost or misplaced.
The park area was first developed as a day use recreation area in 1972. The 292 acres butting up to the Tonto National Forest was transferred in 1977 to the state of Arizona, creating the Lost Dutchman State Park. The park was expanded to 320 acres in 1983. The area offers many activities, hiking being the main attraction. Hiking should not be attempted in summer. There is no water along the routes, and very little shade, and the amount of water that must be consumed may exceed the carrying capacity of even the strongest hikers. Even in winter or shoulder season, each hiker should carry between one and two gallons of pure water. Can you imagine carrying two gallons of water as well as other provisions while you are hiking up a mountain?
The park was scheduled to close on June 3, 2010. A man from Katy Texas donated $8,000 so the park could stay open. In January of 2017 Lost Dutchman State Park was named the best state park in Arizona. As if camping and enjoying nature isn’t enough, there are many other attractions close by. Superstition Mountain Lost Dutchman Museum is located on 12 acres near the park, this non-profit museum helps to preserve and protect the history and legends of Arizona’s Susperstition Mountains. The museum features a variety of exhibits and is open Daily from 9 am to 4 pm. Goldfield Ghost Town and Scenic railroad and mine tour is located down the street from the park. This 1890s period town features a saloon, rock shop, an ice cream parlor, Native American art and crafts, the Goldfield Museum, live “gunfights” on weekends, and more. This is a must see. I’ve been here many times in the past, but had we been staying here longer, it definitely would have made our list of things to do once again. Canyon Lake is just up the road from the park and offers Steamboat Cruises. Here you can cruise the secluded inner waterways of Canyon Lake on an old-fashioned steamboat. And finally Tortilla Flat the last remaining stage coach stop along the Apache Trail, is just two miles past Canyon Lake.
This park is so close to home that we never thought of coming here to camp, but with so much to do and just being out in the open we found a new appreciation for camping close to home. We enjoyed it so much, that we’re planning on coming back…of course when it gets cooler.
Lost Dutchman State Park gets an A rating for sure. It’s a great park for those that live in Arizona and it would be a FANTASTIC park for those visiting.