Articles - The Horseshoe

The  Horseshoe and Horseshoe Annex – unreported and nearly forgotten gold mines on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River

By Hugh Blanchard

Several years ago while hiking to the Bridge that Goes Nowhere on the East Fork of the San Gabriel River a fellow hiker advised me of a mine located downstream from the Bridge. I made several unsuccessful efforts to locate it but only recently  was able to find it.

For starters there was nothing I could find in print which mentioned the mine. John Robinson’s definitive  Mines of the East Fork does not mention it. The Forest Service told me they knew nothing about it. Oddly enough the only place I could find it named was in an internet sales article for the surrounding property  placed in 1998 on Tom Chester”s web site by the then owner Frank Saunders.  Google “Private Property For Sale by Bridge To Nowhere”. No sale developed as the Saunders family still owns the property according to the County Assessor’s Office. It was not until after I had found the mine was I able to find it mentioned in print in a magazine which ceased publication more than 65 years ago .Trails Magazine was a  well regarded but short-lived publication (1934-1939) devoted to hiking in LA County. Its Summer 1938 issue p.9 states”The famous old Horseshoe Mine has had many owners,and has periodically produced much gold…At the mouth of scenic Devil’s Canyon is the Saunders patented mine…Richard Saunders, son of the Old Timer who built the cabin, now owns it and mines there intermittently.”

The mine was originally patented in 1909 by Frank Saunders grandfather, R. Cowper Saunders. Its name comes from the shape of the river where it is located. It is part of a 50 acre private enclave owned by the Saunders family which may or may not include the Bridge that Goes Nowhere. The Saunders family claims ownership of the Bridge. The Forest Service is not sure as surveys performed in the 1880”s were frequently inaccurate. As of this writing (October 2005) the Forest Service is considering employing a land surveyor to try to determine who actually owns the land under the Bridge.  Frank Saunders passed away in 2002.. After his passing his widow Gail moved from Santa Barbara to McKinney, Texas to live with her sister. Attempts to reach her went unanswered. Apparently she continues to license bungee operations at the Bridge run by Ron Jones, president of Bungee America, Inc.

The reason the mine is rather difficult to find is because the hikers trail to the Bridge veers eastward several hundred yards away from the East Fork about a mile below the Bridge. Thus only those few hikers who continue going directly upstream would notice the mine. The key to finding it is to note a private enclave marker (now heavily vandalized) on the trail a quarter of a mile before the Bridge. The marker lists various restrictions on entering this area. Shortly after the marker a faint but noticeable trail leads down to the stream. Upon reaching the stream head downstream at least 600 feet to find the mine. One of our group feels it is more like a thousand feet. In any event the mine is on the left (east) bank and is quite noticeable.

                        approaching the Horseshoe Mine (Kinter 2006)
                    (entrance is hidden behind bushes just left of center)

                         entrance to the Horseshoe Mine (Bull 2006)

                           inside the Horseshoe Mine (Bull 2006)

     It is 5 feet wide and generally 6 feet high. It goes in straight as an arrow for 225 feet. In  two  places (at 147 and 210 feet) the ceiling rises about 25 feet above the floor indicating a possible upper level. Ore cart rails run throughout its length. A small amount of water emerges from the entrance and a tiny amount of flowstone is present in one area.

                  from inside the entrance to the Horseshoe (Bull 2006)
                              looking out from inside (Kinter 2006)

     Across the stream from the mine a few feet down stream are the remains of a stone cabin lean to perhaps used by the original miners. Watch out for snakes. I nearly stepped on a rattler.  

             remains of miners' cabins downstream from the Horseshoe Mine

    Subsequent trips in October 2005 and December 2006 by the writer accompanied by several companions (including Brad Kinter, Daniel and Betty Veelik, Eric and Mike Bull) revealed a side passage in the Horseshoe Mine near the end on the right hand side. Navigating through a 10 foot crawl, Eric and Mike Bull pushed through to allow access to the passage which went in for 176 feet. The Bull brothers also found a small upper level passage of 60 feet. This extended the total passage length of the mine to 480 feet.
                           Betty Veelik navigating the crawl (Bull 2006)

           Dan Veelik under the entrance to an upper passage (Bull 2006)

    On the October 2005 trip the writer and his companions located the Horseshoe Annex which is about 150 feet downstream from the same trail that leads to the Horseshoe. It is about 50 feet upslope on the right (west) side of the stream surrounded by a forest of fig trees with a large fig tree partially blocking and concealing the entrance.
  sluice (washboard?) located downhill from the entrance to the Annex (Kinter 2006)

                       entrance to the Horseshoe Annex (Bull 2006)

    The entrance passage begins in hard rock and is about 6 feet high and four feet wide  with a few inches of water for the first 20 feet. At about 30 feet there are two side passages one on each side which consist of crumbly alluvial breccia. Both  appear to pinch out after about 60 feet. After 128 feet the main passage appears to end with a low crawl. However the Bull brothers crawled through and found that the passage opened up and continued for an estimated 500 more feet. Most of this passage is about 4-1/2 to 5 feet high. However the additional passage except for one small section of hard rock  consists of  crumbly alluvial breccia which does not appear to be very stable.. The writer can find no reference in print for this mine. Its only mention is in Mr. Sander’s internet sales article in which he states that his grandfather filed claims for both the Horseshoe and Horseshoe Annex in 1909.

                          inside the Horseshoe Annex (Bull 2006)

                 passage after the low crawl in the Annex (Bull 2006)

    The December 2006 trip also found the Horshoe Annex was right in the middle of the November 2006 East Fork fire area. Firefighters (presumably flown in by helicopter) had cut many branches next to and in front of the mine. The fire also revealed the remains of a stone cabin about 150 ft away from the mine which presumably was used by the original miners. It was called the "Nowhere Fire" by the forest service because of its close proximity to the Bridge that goes Nowhere.

             stone cabin remains near the Horseshoe Annex (Bull 2006)

Although the Saunders Family first patented the Horseshoe and Horseshoe Annex another family, the Veuhoff's, did most of the subsequent digging in the Horseshoe Annex. Theodore Veuhoff who immigrated from Germany worked the Horseshoe Annex from about 1930 to the early 1950's often assisted by his two sons. He named the mine the "Elvira Veuhoff" for his daughter and also planted the large fig tree which now covers the entrance to the mine.

My deep appreciation to Ron Jones who first advised me of the mines and their location and to Stephen Veuhoff who informed me of the role his great grandfather played in the digging of the Horshoe Annex and planting the fig tree. Without their generous assistance this article could not have been written.