Lost Little Sahara Ledge

If you have ever visited the Little Sahara National Recreation Area in east central Juab County, Utah, then you know it is an area of more than 100 square miles of shifting and flowing sand dunes. You may also know its a great weekend getaway place for thousands of modern day 4-wheeler, motorcycle, sand rail, and dune buggy enthusiasts. What you may not know is that somewhere in all that flowing and shifting sand is a fortune in lost silver.

Long before Little Sahara became the “recreation” area it is today, it was just another vast expanse of dry and dangerous desert land. It was something to be avoided if possible. Something you went around, rather than passed through. 

The old settlements of Cherry Creek, Jericho, Lynndyl, and Leamington skirted the dunes to the south and east, old ranches and the mining properties of the West Tintic District skirt it to the north and west. Roads through the dunes, though they exist today, were little more than pack trails over a hundred years ago. 

It was common practice for people traveling the area back then to skirt the dunes to the south and west as the modern day highway and railway do. Still, every so often a rancher or a prospector would shortcut through the dunes to cut travel time. It was an old prospector from the Tintic District that was doing just that back in the early 1900’s when he came upon an exposed outcropping of rich Galena type lead-silver ore out there in that sea of sand. 

As a prospector, he knew what he had found, but it was where he had found it that would be the problem. He was out there alone and a long way from anywhere. He stuffed his pockets with as much of the rich ore as he could carry, then took his bearings from the visible surrounding mountain peaks and landmarks and headed back to the settlement of Jericho. 

He would make it back to Jericho and within a few days have an assay report showing that the ore was in fact very rich in both lead and silver. Certain he had struck it rich, the prospector outfitted and headed back to the dunes to find his fortune. 

It had only been a week since he first located the outcropping, so he was positive he could find it again. He returned to the approximate location, lined up all of his reference points and landmarks, but day after day and try as he might, the silver ledge eluded him.

Did the same winds that had exposed the ledge in the first place drive the sand and cover it back up again, or was the old prospector just looking in the wrong place? Nobody will ever know. Though he searched for weeks, in time, he would eventually give up and leave the area altogether.  

He never told anybody the exact location, but according to legend, popular folklore, and the story I was told, these are the clues he did share:

It was some distance south west of the old town of Jericho. 

Tintic Mountain and Buckhorn Peak could be clearly seen in the distance to the north and east, but farther north than the town of Jericho.

Black Mountain was almost due east.

Sand Mountain was to the south south-east.

The West Tintic Mountains were to the north.

Desert Mountain was to the west.

Finally, it was about five miles roughly south of Indian Springs. 

  That’s it. That’s all the information that my old scoutmaster shared with us way back when.(1) 

It seems everybody in that area knew the story, but nobody knew the man. There was never a name associated with this old prospector, and no one knows what happened to him. In the end, it’s a mystery… just as much a mystery as where that silver ledge is hidden!



(1)  Verbal communication - Scoutmaster Larry Hartly, Scout camp 1973, Settlement Canyon, Utah