Thousands of years ago, long before the Spanish conquistadors arrived in modern day Colombia to discover this legend for themselves, the leader of the Muisca tribe was said to cover himself in gold dust, float into Lake Guatavita, and toss gold and other treasures into the waters to honor the gods. While this legend may be ancient, it appears to be the real deal. Located just a couple hours north of Colombia’s capitol city of Bogotá, Lake Guatavita is believed to be the site of the El Dorado legend, with actual gold being recovered from the lake since the Spanish arrival in 1536. Multiple treasure hunts have taken place at the lake since the Spaniards’ first attempt to drain the water using gourds in 1545, which only lowered the water level slightly, but did help recover quite a bit of gold.
Since then, multiple draining attempts have taken place (with one attempt killing hundreds of workmen), the most recent attempt taking place in 1911. Nowadays, even swimming in the lake is banned by the Colombian government, but apparently there aren’t too many people making treasure hunting trips to the area anyway. As of 2002, a report stated that “A lonely ranger with a shotgun [was] the only guardian of the mystery of El Dorado.” If you’d like to see a bit of the El Dorado legend for yourself, you can visit the Gold Museum in Bogotá, which features a few of the treasures found in the lake along with the “The Muisca Raft”, which was made sometime between 1500 and 1200 BC and depicts the golden king preparing to offer tribute to the gods.
Kemo D. 7