TORTILLA FLAT AND THE LOST DUTCHMAN MINE.
January 12, 2011
This is Superstition Mountain, a range of sharp pinnacles that rises from the flat desert floor right here in Apache Junction. This is Apache territory, these mountains, and Geronimo ranged over this barely hospitable range that is now partly Tonto National Forest, and Lost Dutchman State Park. The Roosevelt dam, brought a string of lakes to the area and its a much valued recreation area, along with the privately owned town of Tortilla Flat.
We drove up the Apache Trail which is nicely paved, now. Much of the Apache Trail was inundated by the Roosevelt Dam, but we did see portions of the foot and horse paths used by the Indians. Its interesting terrain puts water and cactus in close proximity.
We enjoyed the drive to Tortilla Flat, basically a tourist town now. It was once a valuable stage stop. It served the builders of the dam with supplies and recreation in the 1940’s. It has a colorful history of the many owners who basically went broke here. Each bought the whole town. Part of that history feeds upon the stories of the Lost Dutchman Mine. Stories, plural because there are so many tales one can count on it being a fake. Yet, in the years after the identified Dutchman, a German named Jacob Waltz (an American spelling) supposedly convinced some people there was a rich mine. No one has ever found it, though thousands have searched, some losing their lives in the process, which is how legends are built.
Tortilla Flat has a population of six people and about six buildings. A saloon, gift shop with books and souvenirs, a restaurant and small general store and a small school museum. Probably not the original school. We watched a band set up on the patio of the saloon. The area is subject to flash floods and a man named John Cline, with some people from the Tonto Basin were stranded at this spot when the flood waters cut them off from the roads. With nothing but flour and water, they made tortillas to eat and Cline christened the place Tortilla Flat. That fact is fairly well documented unlike the Dutchman’s mine.
The restaurant and bar has wall after wall of dollar bills as wallpaper, a tradition that started in about 1950 or so. The building burned once with all of its dollars. It was robbed once of its dollars. But, the custom flourishes and it is estimated that approximately 160,000 dollars are stapled to the walls. Some get damaged as you brush by them; many have signatures or are accompanied with a business card.
The place has a number of murals suggestive of its more notorious past.
Plenty of old rusty relics decorate the grounds and buildings.
We drove past the town headed for Fish Camp. We got by this flooded section of road easily, but the road is under repair and closed ahead of this spot and we only ventured a few miles farther.
On the way out, we stopped at the State Camp Grounds and got close to some of the saguaro cactus, not very big ones, but fat and healthy looking.
We drove by forests of Cholla, some in bloom making a white dotted hillside. And, at the end of the day, we stopped by Jim’s home lodge of the VFW for a hamburger and a beer. Good stuff. And, here, they serve the beer COLD!
And, I always thought that indentation in the bottom of the mug was to give you the idea you had more than you actually got, kind of a “packaging” trick.