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A Photo Visit To Indian Mountain

Bob Brucia, in his book, Turquoise, Jewel of the Southwest, lists the seven classic Nevada turquoise mines as Lander Blue, Lone Mountain, Number 8, Red Mountain, Godber-Burnham, Nevada Blue and Indian Mountain. While Lone Mountain, Godber-Burnham, Number 8 and Nevada Blue are long standing turquoise mines, Lander Blue, Red Mountain and Indian Mountain are relatively recent additions to the history of turquoise.. The story of Lander Blue is well known and we have sound reference for Red Mountain both located in the early 1970’s. In contrast Indian Mountain remains a bit of a mystery.

The Cortez gold mine at the southern end of Crescent Valley with Bald Mountain in the center distance.Photo Mike Ryan II

The popular anecdotal story is that it was discovered by an Indian sheepherder in the early 1970’s. While fanciful and a bit romantic it is most certainly just that. What we know was that Eddie Mauzy was working with his father-in-law J.W. Edgar at the claim sometime in the early to mid 1980’s. We can be sure that J.W. would not have been engaged in the actual mining because he turned 100 in 1988. Danny Lopacki remembers going to Richard Dann's home in Carlin with Lee Louden around the early to mid 1980's and purchasing buckets of turquoise that was in the front yard. Supposedly Eddie had driven his large excavator up a tenuous track and had opened up the claim finding the turquoise that ended up in Richard's front yard.

Indian Mountain turquoise claim on Bald Mountain. Photo Philip Chambless.

Photo Philip Chambless.

Trailer possibly brought to the site by Eddie Mauzy or Richard Dann. Photo Philip Chambless.

We may speculate that Richard Dann, a Shoshone Indian, had discovered the claim perhaps in the early 1980’s and had hired Eddie to work the mine, perhaps on a lease or share basis. Richard, one of the former owners of the Dann Ranch in Crescent Valley, would certainly have known the area and may be the source for the tale of discovery by an Indian sheepherder. In any case there was Indian Mountain coming to the marketplace during the 1980’s and 1990's. Adding to the mystery is that although turquoise was being mined the first location record in the Recorders office dates to 2001 in the name of Richard and Elizabeth Dann. We do know that Dann located the Snow Bank claims 1-3 in late 1974 and these claims are adjacent to Indian Mountain 1-2. Dann continued to hold the Snow Bank until 2004. By that time he had filed on the Indian Mountain claims.We may speculate that Dann did not feel the need to file the claims earlier because of their very remote location and difficult access.

Edwin Kennedy was a well known turquoise collector and it is believed that he financed the Mauzy expedition to Indian Mountain and had the first selection of the turquoise mined by Eddie with Richard receiving a mining share of the rough. John Chaney remembers, during the mid nineties, seeing the extensive Indian Mountain turquoise in the Kennedy collection when he traded an expensive concha belt for Indian Mountain turquoise. Most of the high grade turquoise seems to have come from either the Kennedy collection or from rough sold by Dann. Due to the consistent high grade of most Indian Mountain it appears that none of this rough was treated.

Since this initial mining exploration it appears than very little mining has been done at Indian Mountain and all of this by hand on the dumps due to the difficulty in bringing heavy equipment to this remote location. Kelly McGinnis, who owns the nearby Red Mountain turquoise mine, remembers that after Eddie excavated the claim moving a lot of material onto the dumps, he covered the dumps with much dirt to discourage high graders. One imagines that any productive working of the dumps will require bringing in heavy equipment and before this can be done a road will need to be cut since the mine has not been worked for many years and the existing track has probably washed out long ago.

The economics of resuming extensive mining at Indian Mountain are daunting. Creating a Plan of Operation for the BLM may cost as much or more than $100,000. Cutting a new road over the twelve mile track into the mine will add at least that much. With a three to four month mining window and monthly expenses approaching $100,000, it would take a well capitalized miner to undertake such an operation. Indian Mountain is one of the most rare turquoise and is likely to remain so.

Lee Louden with Indian Mountain nugget necklaces. Photo Mike Ryan II

Indian Mountain nugget necklaces from the NevadaGem Collection. Photo Mike Ryan II.

Indian Mountain is located on Bald Mountain in Lander County and is in the Toiyabe Range of mountains separating Carico Lake Valley from Grass Valley. At an elevation of just over 8500 feet it is one of the higher peaks in the area. In comparison Red Mountain is just under 8000 feet. Those two mountains are located within sight of one another with Red Mountain several miles to the west of Bald Mountain.

Across Carico Lake Valley directly west of Red Mountain are the Aurora turquoise claims sold as Carico Lake. Above the valley to the west is the Shoshone Mountain Range with the Nevada Blue mine overlooking the valley. The Indian Mountain mine is among the most inaccessible in Nevada along a dangerous twelve mile narrow track often little more than a foot path.. The weather in that part of Nevada can be sudden and severe and above 8000 feet the turquoise mining window is very small. Even when not covered in snow sudden storms may develop quickly. It is not a claim favorable to high graders.

John Huntress is the current owner of Indian Mountain. It has not been mined for some time in large part due to its challenging location. John tells of being caught in a storm on the mountain top with his partners Helen and Richard Shull and Philip Chambless. In his vivid style John claims he feared for his life as multiple lighting strikes hit around him until the storm abated, yet when he looked out of his vehicle the storm had turned around and returned. ”The hounds of hell had turned and descended a second time“ recounted John in his distinct manner. The next morning, they had a difficult time getting off the mountain as the track, never in the best condition in good weather, had washed out and they had to cut a trail. Philip Chambless recounts the same story in a more subdued manner.

For all of its mystery the mine has produced some stunning turquoise with nuggets in a range running from green to blue with some very high grade dark and red web. It demands a premium price because of its generally consistent grade and rarity. These photos show examples of what is considered the highest gem grade from Indian Mountain.

Chaney's Turquoise Direct. Photos Arland Ben.

Indian Mountain turquoise from the Nevadagem collection as shown in the book Turquoise, The Jewell of the Southwest.

Mike Ryan II

Santa Fe

August 2021


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Mike, I was at Richard Danns with Lee prior to going to the PRC around 1981 or so perhaps a bit later.

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Interesting. You had told me you and Lee picked up the buckets of Indian Mountain in the 90’s. Such are the vagaries of memory and oral history.

It would seem that the time frame for Mauzy working Indian Mountain may move forward, unless your memory of the dates changes again.

Thanks for the update. I will edit the article to show this change.

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