Bullion Canyon ~ Canyon Of Gold Auto Tour

Cross the veil of time and discover the secrets of a canyon riddled with gold and the saga of men who sought her riches.

This webpage is based on an informative brochure created in a partnership involving the Fishlake National Forest; the town of Marysvale, Utah; Piute County, Utah; and volunteers involved in the Passport in Time volunteer project for the restoration of trails and artifacts in Bullion Canyon. While this web site closely matches the brochure, it has been changed slightly to take advantage of the interactive nature of the World Wide Web. There are enlargements of the photographs and drawings, which often show much more detail than the smaller version on the web page or the smaller version in the printed brochure. There are also links within each page to direct the reader to other pages within the site or to external sites that have related information.

Use the list below to access each of the stops along the Canyon of Gold Driving Tour.

  1. Trailhead - This is the beginning of the auto tour
  2. Toll Road
  3. Mill Stables - .85 miles from trailhead
  4. Witt Tate Mine - 1.5 miles from trailhead
  5. Dalton Mill and Boarding House - 1.75 miles from trailhead
  6. Arrastra - 1.8 miles from trailhead
  7. Bullion City - 2.15 miles from  trailhead
  8. Gibbs Cabin Site - 2.2 miles from trailhead
  9. Bully Boy Mill - 2.25 miles from  trailhead
  10. Miner's park Historical Trail - 2.5 miles from trailhead

This is a driving tour along national forest roads that passes many buildings, mines, and other cultural history artifacts. A brochure is available at the beginning of the driving trail and in all Fishlake National Forest offices.

Printable Map

Help preserve our heritage, do not collect artifacts or deface buildings.

It is illegal to remove artifacts from federal lands. Please do not bring your metal detectors or digging tools in order to collect artifacts. If you see this type of activity, please report it to the Piute County Sherrif's Office. They can be reached at 435-577-2893 or dial 911. Thank you for your help.

The Bullion Canyon "Canyon of Gold" Driving Tour is a Passport in Time project.

Copies of this brochure are available in trailboxes along the trail. They may be borrowed at no cost if you return them to a trailbox for others to borrow. If you want to keep a brochure please put one dollar (U.S. Currency please) in the fee tube near the map box.

Contact Us

Beaver Ranger District
P.O. Box E
575 South Main St.
Beaver, UT 84713
(435) 438-2436

Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold
Molten, graven, hammered, rolled,
Heavy to get and light to hold.
(Thomas Hood, 1799-1845)

From as early as 1865, flecks of gold in the creek and veins of gold inside the walls of Bullion Canyon have drawn the hopeful by the thousands.

The mouth of Utah's "Canyon of Gold" driving tour stretches 2.5 miles from the trailhead. The tour takes an hour or two to complete and will introduce you to the life and times of the miners of Bullion Canyon. The road is rough in spots but is passable by most two-wheel drive vehicles.

Copies of this brochure are available in trailboxes along the trail. They may be borrowed at no cost if you return them to a trailbox for others to borrow. If you want to keep a brochure please put one dollar (U.S. Currency please) in the fee tube near the map box.

Toll Road

Without the heavy earth-moving equipment we take for granted today; road building during the 19th century was a slow, tedious, and back-wrenching job.

In mining communities, it was often the enterprising people of the time who struck it rich. They became wealthy not be swinging a pick or hefting a shovel, but by providing services to miners. Shovels could cost $50 and bartenders often made hundreds and even thousands of dollars profit on a single barrel of whiskey.

In 1869, several men built the first road into Bullion Canyon and then set up a toll station. At this time there were several rich claims being worked in the canyon and it was now possible to haul ore by wagon. To the dismay of the toll road operators, the miners built a second road into the canyon to avoid paying a toll their teamsters considered unreasonable.

This second road closely follows the route of the "Canyon of Gold Driving Tour". The remains of the toll road are visible on the right side of the Bullion Canyon Road (north) and lie about 25 feet above the road. Look for short, graded sections of roadbed now overgrown with oak. All of these early roads were built by pick, shovel, and dynamite.

Mill Stables

Because mules played such an important part in a successful mining operation, they were generally well cared for. Over the mountain from Bullion Canyon, in the Kimberly Gold District, a well liked mule was accidentally killed while underground. Distraught, the mule skinner refused to allow anyone to cut up the body of the animal which would have eased her removal from the mine.

In the late 1800's, the flat open area on the ride side of Bullion Canyon Road (north) was occupied by stables which housed the mules of the Dalton Mill. Located about a mile into the driving tour, the mill used mules to pull cars full of gold ore from the mines still further up the canyon. Although the sleepers and rails have long since been removed, the bed of this narrow gauge railroad can still be found along the north facing slopes of the canyon.

Life in the gold mines of Bullion Canyon was tough for man and beast alike. Mules were worked long and hard, but they did enjoy corrals open to the sky and fresh water from a spring against the hillside. In the California gold country, many mules spent their entire lives underground in mines which were indescribably dark, cold and wet. In the early 1900's mules were replaced with "motors" (locomotives) powered by batteries or Model T gasoline engines.

Witt Tate Mine

The log buildings on both sides of the Bullion Canyon Road near the Tate Mine were built by a prospector named Witt Tate sometime around 1920. Tate constructed the cabin and out-buildings to support his mining operation in the rocky ledges on the north side of the canyon.

Tate raised a one-room log cabin, a barn with a hayloft, a storage shed, an outhouse and log fences. Trails and a wagon road, which led to the "workings," are located behind the cabin.
Tate was intrigued by this area of the canyon, because he had found small traces of lead and silver in layers of sandstone and quartz in the cliffs above the road.

Gold is almost always associated with lead and silver and this alloy or combination of metals is always found with quartz. Millions of years ago, hot volcanic magma and mineralized fluids pushed up through the layers of the earth. Pockets of gold, lead and silver were left behind with quartz in the sandstone of Bullion Canyon.

Witt Tate had the reputation of being a successful miner.

Dalton Mill and Boardinghouse

The clearing on the right side of the Bullion Canyon Road near the Dalton Mill (north side) is where the main boardinghouse stood. Little remains of the log building, except for a few scattered artifacts. The clientele of the boardinghouse were mostly single men who sought employment in the gold fields. Around 1920 the cost of staying in accommodations like this could have been as high as $1.05 a day. With meals priced from $0.50 to $1.00. With wages ranging between $2.00 and $4.00 a day for laborers, muckers (shovelers), timbermen, carmen, and blacksmiths, most only made enough to provide the bare essentials.

On the opposite side of the road, to the south and across the creek, are the remains of the Dalton Mill, built on the Sylvester-Sodeberg Millsite, erected sometime around 1892. The only remains of the mill are concrete foundations, a large flat pile of tan-colored tailings and rusted equipment which can be seen through the trees. When in operation, the mill received ore from a narrow gauge railroad the entered the top of the building about 250 feet up the slope of the canyon. Fed by gravity, ore moved downhill where it was mechanically crushed and pulverized along the way. At the bottom of the plant, gold ore was concentrated and shipped to Great Britain, and later to Salt Lake City, where a smelter would create bars of pure gold bullion. Mines using the mill included The Wedge, Bully Boy, and Dalton.

According to local lore, the first American miners to enter Bullion Canyon in the 1860's found rotted sacks of ore against a large block of stone about 10 feet long. In the top of this block of stone, a circular depression 34 inches in diameter had been cut. It is thought that this is an example of a Spanish arrastra. Perhaps earlier miners had milled high-grade ore on this device.


Arrastras were first introduced into the New World by the Spanish in the 1500's. To use a typical arrastra, ore was broken into walnut sized chunks with a sledge hammer and placed into the circular milling area. Three drag stones, chained to a post in the center of the milling area, were rotated by hand or mule. The drag stones crushed the ore into a fine powder and water was added until a thick slurry was produced. Mercury (quicksilver) was then introduced to the mixture, which removed and amalgamated any gold found in the ore.

Does the presence of the Bullion Canyon arrastra tell us that Spanish Conquistadors were in this canyon mining gold two or three hundred years ago? The answer is neither a simple yes or no because archaeologists have no way to "date" the arrastra.

If we turn to written history for a clue, we are told that the Spanish were insatiable in their quest for riches. During the 1600's and 1700's this appetite had driven them to explore most of what was to become the southern half of the United States.

Because they had established a nearby stronghold in New Mexico (1598), it is possible that there were Conquistadors in Utah and maybe even in Bullion Canyon long before the first "official" expedition by the Spanish in 1776.

Bullion City

During its heyday, Bullion city had dozens of buildings on both sides of the creek. The 1881 census shows the population of the town as 1,651 souls, but 10 years later this figure had declined to 259. In 1922, when the Bully Boy Mill was built, what was left of Bullion City became a company town with a population in the hundreds.

Life in gold camps like Bullion City was hard. Health conditions were poor and often there was no medicine. Lodgings were primitive: most miners lived in tents or crude shelters with walls of canvas, hides or rough-hewn planks. Mining for gold was hard, monotonous labor. It was frequently necessary to work long hours while knee-deep in mud or icy water. Mine laborers generally worked 10 hour shifts, 6 days a week with Saturdays off.

Mining camps could also be dangerous places. Consider this account from a nearby mining camp by Merrill Utley in The Ghosts of Gold Mountain (1992):

Two miners by the name of R.J. Gibson and J. Jacobs had been imbibing rather freely of the flowing bowl and got into a dispute over a gold claim...They mutually agreed to retire to the street and settle their differences...As they got into the street, they began pumping away at each other (with pistols) only a few feet apart. They missed!

Fire was another danger and could easily devastate a town made of wood and canvas. It is said that a fire storm raged up the dirt road by the bridge on the right side of the creek (north), destroying a number of shacks and cabins. Looking across the bridge and up to the north-facing slopes of the canyon, signs of the fire can be seen in the types of trees growing there. There are islands of aspen surrounded by spruce and fir trees. The aspen trees, recognized by their light green leaves in summer, are what grew back after a 1923 fire that started at a mine.

Gibbs Cabin Site

This is the site of a log cabin that served as Bullion City's school and meeting house. Josiah Gibbs, a noted Utah journalist, is said to have lodged here around 1900. It was in this cabin that Gibbs wrote a controversial book called the "Lights and Shadows of Mormonism."

In the spring of 1994, the building was found to have burned to the ground. Evidence found in the ashes suggests that the burning of the cabin was person-caused either by intention of carelessness.

Across the road from the cabin, several stone walls can be seen extending into the trees. These foundations are said to have supported an ore bin belonging to the Deseret Mine. To the left of these foundations is a graded surface now covered in grass. This grade was the bed for the railroad that carried gold ore from the mines in this area to the Dalton Mill. The sleepers and rails are gone now, but the grade can be followed to the mill site. One of the cars that ran along this grade is on display at the Miners' Park in Bullion Canyon.

Bully Boy Mill

One of the most impressive reminders of the vitality and industry that once thrived in Bullion City is the Bully Boy Mill. Constructed in 1922, the mill received raw ore from the Bully Boy Adits and The Wedge, Dalton, Great Western, Deseret, Cascade, Shamrock and Morning Star mines. The ruins of the mill measure over 238 feet long and 45 feet wide.

The mill was a technological wonder for its time. Ore came to the top of the mill where it was dumped into the start of the mill circuit.

As the ore moved downhill through the mill, it was mechanically ground into sand by crushers and stamps. Water was added to the crushed ore and the slurry mixture was moved to the "concentrators" where vibrating machines separated gold bearing ore from worthless rock scrap. The final step in milling ore involved passing the concentrated slurry mixture over large copper plates coated with mercury. Mercury was used because it attracts gold like a magnet attracts iron.

In 1938, the mill closed because the cost of producing an ounce of gold exceeded the market value of gold which was set by the government at $35 an ounce. Today, the Bully Boy Mill is privately owned by Crown Mines, Inc. Please respect private property.

Do not enter the mill. IT IS UNSAFE!

Miners' Park Historical Trail

Printable Trail Map

The Miners' Park Historical Trail begins in front of the wooden mine car. The trail continues to climb into the trees. For .25 mile, the trail goes past 16 displays of mining equipment, reconstructed workings and a refurbished cabin. There is a picnic area across the road from the Miners' Park, complete with tables and fire rings. Please pack out all that you bring in.

For a scenic walk, a 2 mile round-trip trail begins at the bridge below the Bully Boy Mill. This trail follows the north side of the creek to an overlook above the Bullion Canyon water falls. These 60-foot falls are especially spectacular in the early summer when runoff swells the volume of the creek.

For those who enjoy touring by auto, turn right onto Forest Road 126 by the Bully Boy Mill. This 10-mile journey will take you near the 11,500 foot summit of Mt. Brigham and down through Cottonwood Canyon to U.S. Highway 89 just south of Marysvale. Be assured, the scenery is breathtaking. The road to Cottonwood Canyon is generally free of snow from mid-July to mid-November. The road tends to be rough in spots and higher clearance vehicles are recommended.

Interesting Gold Facts

  • In 1892 gold was $20 per ounce. In 1934 the price of gold was $35 per ounce. The current price of gold is about $1139 per kilogram (price per goldprice.org as of November 18, 2009).
  • The world leader in gold production was the old USSR with about 300 metric tons produced annually. The USA produced 134 metric tons per year.
  • One cubic foot of gold weighs about 1,206 pounds.
  • There are an estimated 9 billion metric tons of gold in the oceans of the world.
  • Gold melts at 1,945.4 degrees Fahrenheit and boils at 2,966.0 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Gold ore with as little as 1 part gold to 300,000 parts of worthless materials can be mined with a profit.
  • One of the largest gold nuggets ever found was turned up by a wagon wheel in Australia (1869) and weighed 159 pounds.
  • About one ounce of gold can be drawn into a wire 0.000005 inches thick and 62 miles long.