Old Map, 1930s Tale Spurs Modern Hunt for Gold

'Los Angeles Times' digs into the fabled treasure of Mount Kokoweef in the Mojave Desert
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2023 8:45 AM CDT
Believers in 1930s Tale Hunt for a River of Gold
Stock photo of a treasure map.   (Getty/olgakr)

It's a great American yarn. Whether there's any actual gold at the heart of it is a whole other matter. Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Daniel Miller digs into the legend of a veritable river of gold said to exist somewhere in the caverns beneath Mount Kokoweef in the Mojave Desert. A miner in the 1930s reported finding it, though for one reason or another—perhaps because it didn't actually exist—never managed to extract any of it. For the record, geologists don't think any gold is there. But a modern mining outfit, backed by roughly 900 investors, believes otherwise and is in the midst of a painstaking exploration after leasing the land from the private company that owns it. The expedition is led by an 84-year-old who has spent decades hunting for the fabled riches.

Miller visits the site—alas, no gold is found on his watch—and explains that he got wind of the legend when he looked at a 1952 map (the "American Treasure Map") created by a part-time actor named John D. Lawrence. The story of Lawrence and his wife, Marvel, a regular extra on The Andy Griffith Show, is an entirely separate yarn, one that speaks to the early days of Hollywood. Neither Lawrence nor his wife achieved fame in the movie business, but they were on the fringes of it. "The tale of that man, his map, and the place it led to is really one about Southern California's twin mirages—fame and fortune—and the people who seek one or the other. Or both." Read the full story for more on them and the ongoing treasure hunt at Mount Kokoweef. (Or read other Longform stories.)

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