Lost Cricket Mountains Gold


From scout camps in the 1970’s (1) to present day conversations, I have heard different versions of this story, yet they are all similar. I summarize them here:

The Lost Cricket Mountains Gold legend:

In the late 1800’s a cowboy is tending cattle on the flatlands of the Black Rock Desert in central Millard County, Utah. As can happen in that area, driving winds from an approaching storm stirred up the black desert sand and fine dust. It wasn’t long before it was a blinding sandstorm. 

In no time he lost sight of his livestock. To make things worse, while leading his horse on foot, he stumbled and fell, lost the reins, and the animal bolted. The cowboy was on his own. 

Seeking shelter from the choking and stinging sand and with no real sense of direction, he made his way over the rough ground and random sagebrush, sometimes crawling on all fours. As he would later discover, he had traveled south into the foothills at the north end of the Cricket Mountains. Encountering a number of small rock ledges, his salvation would come when he happened upon the entrance of a shallow cave and crawled in.

Out of the fury of the storm, despite his raw hands & face and stinging eyes, he relaxed as best as he could, but only briefly. Prepared to wait out the storm, but not knowing how long that might be, he began exploring the cave that was now his shelter. In those days caves such as this could be home to everything from rattlesnakes to cougars. It was wise to find out if he was in there alone.

Moving deeper into the cave, his eyes had not fully adjusted to the dim light, he tripped over an old leather bag that was almost completely buried in the sand. Cracked and aged, the bag crumbled as he tried to lift it, spilling out the contents.

What spilled from that bag is the stuff of this legend. Grain sized placer gold, pounds of it. The excitement of the find was overwhelming. He began scooping the gold, and filling his pockets, first his pants, and then his jacket. As he scooped gold from the first bag, he unearthed more bags. They were still intact and also loaded with gold.

This inspired him to dig deeper. Below the bags he began to unearth bars, crude metal bars that appeared to be silver, but according to him far to heavy to lift on his own. Excited at the find, but still hostage to the storm, all he could do was wait, explore, and dig for more. Exactly how much he uncovered is not known. 

This is where the “LOST” portion of the story begins. 

In time, the storm subsided and the cowboy was able to exit the cave. It was late in the evening. Finding his horse was the first priority, figuring out where he was came next. He never did find his horse, but in the fading light, he was able to identify a familiar landmark locally known as “The Cinders”, a series of volcanic cones some 20 miles distant to the southeast. Seeing them, he knew the Mormon settlement of Fillmore was not far away, just a bit farther east, and that meant safety. 

A decision had to be made. With no provisions, just pockets full of gold, the options were to spend a cold night on the high desert huddled in a cave with no fire or food, or set out and begin the long walk to Fillmore. 

The advantages of staying; he could better document the cave’s exact location in the light of day. The disadvantage, a real possibility of freezing to death or another storm keeping him trapped in the cave for who knows how long. 

According to the legend, he decided to leave that night. After mentally landmarking the cave, and with his pockets loaded with gold, he set out on what would be a more than 30-mile trek.

Though he knew the direction, getting there would not be as easy as you might think. The cactus and sage covered foothills, alkali flats, sand dunes, and ancient broken lava flows. Throw in a few rock ledges, a number of dry washes, a couple of shallow stream crossings, and the dark of an almost moonless night, and you have some idea of what this cowboy faced in making his way to the distant settlement. 

He had barely set out when the weight of gold in his pants pockets ripped his suspender button and he began loosing his pants, and his gold. In the darkness, it was impossible to find the lost grains, but knowing the great amount still hidden in the cave, he did not give this loss much thought. 

The hike would take its toll on both the man and the gold. With each up & over, and down & around, a little more gold was lost from both his pants pockets and jacket pockets. The extra weight of the gold though lessening with each loss, was still estimated by some at nearly 20 pounds. (2) 

Slow but steady in his progress, daylight would come long before he made it to town. Still, by late afternoon he was there. Though bruised, exhausted, and thirsty, his first stop was to a merchant that dealt in gold as well as cash for payment. 

The exact dollar amount is not known, but legend tells that the cowboy walked away with the equivalent of “Several years top wages” after selling what gold remained in his pockets. Like any good merchant, the store owner had paid only a portion of the gold’s value to Hill, making a tidy profit for himself when he in-turn re-sold the gold to a local assayer. 

With his new found wealth and a bit of recovery time, the cowboy re-provisioned himself and set out to take possession the bags of gold and hundreds of pounds of silver bars he had left behind just a few nights earlier.

Where's the gold? 

Would that it were so easy. He wandered the northern end of the Cricket Mountains for weeks never finding the cave that had sheltered him that stormy night.

Though frustrated, he was not prepared to give up. Reasoning that if he could see the cinder cones from the ledge, why then could he not see the ledge from the top of the cones. Crossing the wide valley yet again, he made his way to the top of the tallest cone and had relatively clear view of the distant valley. 

Spending hours at the top, the cowboy scanned the region over and over again, searching for the low ridge that held the cave entrance. Knowing it had to be there, but never able to locate it, he was finally forced to give up this first attempt. 

He returned to Fillmore, resting for a few days before buying more provisions. After a day or two he set out once again. For weeks on end he scoured the region, searching relentlessly for the cave and its riches. He knew it was there, but try as he might, he never could find it. 

It would be months before he would give up altogether, but eventually he was forced to. Sadly, the legend tells nothing of his ultimate fate. 

He never found it, but that doesn’t mean that someone didn’t. 

More than 50 years later a Mexican sheepherder appeared in Delta, Utah, telling a very similar story. He too had found gold, placer gold, and a lot of it (at least 20 pounds). His find was supposedly in the House Mountains range, another 30 miles west of the Cricket Mountains. That story is told in “The Lost Mexican Placer” legend also profiled on this site. 

Did these two men find the same gold 50 years apart or is there more than one lost cache in Utah’s west desert? If it is the same, the sheepherder probably got it all. If not, then a small fortune waits for someone, tucked away in a shallow cave somewhere at the north end of the Cricket Mountains.



(1) Scout camp stories, Beartrap (Left Hand Fork), Settlement Canyon, Oquirrh Mountains, Utah Scoutmaster Larry Hartley 1975. 

(2) Personal conversation, Jon Rush, 2003.