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City of Rocks Treasures

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City of Rock in southern IdahoNumerous treasures are said to be hidden along the granite spires, sculptured boulders, and canyons of the City of Rocks National Reserve. Hundreds of thousands of people passed through here on their way westward, especially after the discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California.


Among these hardy pioneers were travelers of the Oregon and California Trails, and later thousands of prospectors when gold was discovered in northern Idaho and Montana. Though the City of Rocks Reserve is off the beaten path and rather isolated today, it was once a busy crossroads of the northern trails from the 1840s through the 1890s.


One treasure tale that is often told is that of a massacre that occurred at Almo Creek. Though the site is depicted by a historical marker, this tale is now thought by many to be untrue. As the legend goes, an emigrant caravan of about 60 wagons took the Sublette Cutoff for the California Road and was attacked by Indians.



Allegedly, the 300 some pioneers held off the attack for days, but in the end all were massacred with the exception of five who escaped. Massacre sites are often found to contain numerous relics and hidden caches. However, historians today believe the massacre is nothing more than campfire folklore. Because there are no military records, nor newspaper reports that even briefly mention what would have been the second largest Indian massacre in the 19th century, it is now believed the historical marker, erected in 1938, was done so purely to attract tourists to the area.


However, numerous other treasures are said to be hidden here, primarily along the roadways and trails that led from the gold camps of northern Idaho and Montana to Salt Lake City.

Gold was first discovered on the Clearwater River in northern Idaho in 1860, then the Salmon River in 1861, the Boise River in 1862 and, both silver and gold, near the Owyhee River in 1863. In nearby Montana Territory, richer veins were found along Grasshopper Creek in 1860 and still richer placers at Alder Gulch in 1861. Before long, word spread and prospectors flooded the area as the boomtowns of Idaho City, Silver City, and Florence, Idaho, as well as Virginia City, Nevada City, and Bannack, Montana sprang up to accommodate the many men.

However, the gold strikes brought not only miners and businessmen to the area; it also attracted numerous outlaws, with their minds set upon making an easier living than those toiling in the mines. In no time, the boomtown cities that were built during these strikes were known to have been rough and lawless places where gold dust was the primary monetary exchange. By 1863, a substantial number of outlaws had arrived and organized themselves in groups for the sole purpose of robbing stages, freight wagons and individuals. Leader of one of these notorious bands was said to have been non other than Henry Plumber, duly elected sheriff of Virginia City and Bannack, Montana in 1863. Though Plumber was hanged by vigilantes in January, 1864, he claimed to have hidden more than $100,000 in stolen loot somewhere along the trail from Virginia City through Idaho.


In 1863, a man named Ed Long, along with a partner, stole almost $100,000 in gold dust and nuggets from a stagecoach in Portneuf Canyon in eastern Idaho. The stage, headed from the gold camps of Montana, was bound for Salt Lake City when it was waylaid between Pocatello and McCammon, Idaho. Though Long, who had formerly been a stage driver in the area, had spent the previous month attempting to learn about planned gold shipments, he and his partner were amazed to find so many gold filled leather pouches in the stagecoach strong box.



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Portneuf Canyon, Idaho

Portneuf Canyon vintage postcard.


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