Archive for the ‘Mines, Mills and Smelters’ Category

Very few visitors who spend a weekend in the booming tourist town of Breckenridge, Colorado are aware that there is a ghost town within walking distance to explore- Preston. Preston is a tiny mining town located at the head of Gold Run Gulch in the pine tree covered slopes right next to the Breckenridge Municipal Golf Course. Preston can be reached by a short hike, mountain bike, or 4×4 using Gold Run Road/Forest Road 300 near the Jessie Mill.

Preston dates to around 1874 when the Jumbo Mine began to pay big dividends, and a couple hundred miners and their families brought the camp to life. There was general store, lumber mill, bunk house for bachelor miners, and an on-and-off Post Office at Preston which operated intermittently between 1874 and 1890. Preston was stopping point for supply trains and miners heading in between the mining towns of the Swan River valley, and the camps located in French Gulch.

A few old cabins nestled at the base of towering stands of pine trees remain at Preston today. The tumbledown walls and boards of other once-important buildings are scattered around the town site as well as the customary rusted bits and pieces of yesterday. A sign at the edge of the site gives a brief history of Preston and its mines. If you find yourself with an afternoon to kill the next time you visit Breckenridge, take the short and scenic journey to nearby Preston.

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Photo Blog- Sunshine, Colorado a Forgotten Gold Camp

Photo Blog- 25 Picturesque Abandoned Buildings in Colorado

Ghost Town Photo Blog- Caribou, Colorado

Photo Blog- Ghost Town of Balfour, Colorado- Vanished as Fast as it Appeared!

25 Abandoned Buildings In Colorado You Must See Before They Are Gone

25 (More) Abandoned Buildings in Colorado You Must See Before They Are Gone

Sunshine, Colorado, located just west of Boulder in Sunshine Canyon, sprang to life between 1870 and 1873, after George A, Jackson (who first found gold at the spot which is now Idaho Springs back in 1859) discovered rich gold deposits in the sandy terrain of Sunshine Canyon. George A. Jackson was a lucky man in many ways- He had made the first big gold strike in 1859 at what became Idaho Springs, and can be considered one of the “Founding Fathers” of Colorado, alongside William Green Russell and John Gregory- Were it not for the gold strikes of these three men, the Gold Rush of 1859 might not have happened. Jackson fell in with the secessionist crowd in the months prior to the Civil War breaking out in 1861, and he soon found himself arrested and languishing in the Colorado Territorial Prison in Denver for his allegiances to the rebel cause. In February of 1862, Jackson escaped the prison and made his way to Texas, where he joined a Confederate Cavalry unit. During this period, Jackson was a wanted man in Colorado, and had a $100 price tag on his head- A hefty sum in the 1860s. Jackson survived the war in the Red River country of west Texas, in relative anonymity. Jackson returned to Colorado following President Johnson’s general amnesty of 1868, which restored full citizenship status to former members of the Confederate Army, and absolved them of any charges they may have have been facing for wartime activities. This is when Jackson began prospecting again, and had the uncommon fortune of striking it rich a second time in Sunshine Canyon!  

 

George A. Jackson- Had Luck on His Side

By 1874 Sunshine had a population of over two hundred, and seven mines operating in the surrounding area. Sunshine canyon is narrow and steep, and homes of every configuration sprang up in unusual places at odd angles and on steep inclines. Mine workings intertwined with the residences giving the town a chaotic look. Down towards the bottom of the narrow gulch was the business district with a haphazard row of false-fronted shops and saloons. It is said, at its peak, Sunshine even had seven hotels! In 1900 a beautiful stone school house was built towards the head of Sunshine Canyon which still stands today.

 

 

Sunshine at its peak
Old dwelling at Sunshine today

Today not much is left of the “old” Sunshine- Much has been torn down or lost to flooding and forest fires in the past 100 years. Much new construction has gone on in Sunshine Canyon in recent years, and most of the homes and buldings in the area are of more recent times. A keen set of eyes can, however, pick out a few remants of the past scattered in among the new at Sunshine. The school house is a must see.  All of the property and buildings in Sunshine canyon is privately owned, so please respect the locals and their privacy if you plan to visit.

 

On a small, grassy, knoll above the canyon is the tiny Sunshine Cemetery where many of the early pioneers of the town are buried. There are a handful of recent burials for current residents as well. A small parking lot is open to visitors, and a simple gate allows access to the graveyard.

 

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Photo Blog- Fondis, Colorado- In the Pine Hills of Elbert County

25 Abandoned Buildings In Colorado You Must See Before They Are Gone

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Took a trip up to Caribou, Colorado last weekend. First time I have visited in about five years. Not much has changed since my last visit other than more graffitti spray painted on the inside walls of the ruins- A sad phenomenon that has become more and more common across Colorado in the last decade.

Ruins at Caribou, Colorado

There isn’t much left at Caribou (which about 10 miles northwest of Nederland, Colorado in Boulder County) just the concrete and stone walls of two buildings on the far eastern edge of the old town site, and one forlorn log cabin, scarcely detectable among the tall grasses and shrubs of the northern slope of the site. It won’t be long until the log cabin is reclaimed by nature.

Caribou at its peak in the late 1800s, today hardly a trace remains

Caribou began life in around 1860 as Conger’s Camp, named after the prospector who first discovered silver and gold at the site. A mine called “The Caribou” was opened, and the camp soon took that name for its own.

The two stone buildings that remain today

Caribou boomed as a top silver producer in the 1870s and 1880s. The town boasted the typical furnishings of any mining camp of the era- A hotel, boarding houses for the miners, a small row of general merchandise stores, and a schoolhouse which only held class in the summer months because the high winds of the other three seasons were too severe- It is said that only particularly windy or snowy days, teachers would string out a rope which the children would cling to as they made their way to class.  Lightning also plagued Caribou residents, many decades after the town had been abandoned it was discovered that the town had been built on right on top a huge, natural, iron dike.

Caribou once had a cemetery, but in the 1960s and 1970s all of the headstones were stolen. Which leads to the question who and why? A short hike over a small rise on the southeast edge of the town site leads to the approximate location of the cemetery, but I have never been able to find any trace of it personally.

Ten years ago, Caribou was relatively unknown except for locals. Today it has become a popular hiking and mountain biking destination, which can be overrun with people, dogs, and cars by 7:00am on a weekend. It is best to visit early in the morning on a weekday of you want to experience any solitude.

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In the far northern reach of Jackson County northwest of Walden, Colorado, just a mile or so shy of the Wyoming border sits Pearl. Pearl is long-forgotten copper mining town which boomed from the 1880s to around 1910.

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Pearl was home to a couple of mines and smelter- The red brick smoke stack of the smelter still exists today on hillside southeast of the town. The Pearl town platt covered some 14 blocks,  but they never quite filled up. There was however a school, Post Office, a couple of hotels, a butcher shop, and three saloons.

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A few precious stones were also found around mineral- Rubies and diamonds, though rare did exist in the volcanic sands of the area. When the copper mines played out in the early years of the 20th Century, it is said that one of the last die-hards in Pearl bought up all of the abandoned properties, then “salted” the earth around Pearl with rough diamonds and rubies he had purchased in bulk from a jewelerin Denver. The trickster then offered the Pearl townsite up for sale to speculatorsand prospectors. The unknowing buyers conducted samples in the area and were excited to find diamonds and rubies in large numbers. The buyers snatched up all of the land around Pearl, only to learn later that they had been tricked and the gems they had found in their samples had been placed in strategic spots around town.

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Today Pearl is a cluster of around a dozen cabins and frame homes which appear to be used seasonally,or atleast maintained by the current owner of the townsite.  All buildings at Pearl are private property, and the town itself sits just hundred or so yards beyond a barbed wire fence. Photos can be taken with a zoom lens from the nearby County Roads that circle the site.

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Ghost Town- Rocky, Colorado

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Between Lake George and Hartsel, Colorado, along Highway 24 is a small cluster of buildings,cabins and foundations just off the edge of the road on private property.  I have not been able to confirm with 100% certainty, but these may be the ruins of the long-forgotten town of Rocky.

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Very little information exists regarding Rocky. From 1880s era maps I own, Rocky was situated where these ruins exist today. Rocky was supply station and ranching center, and some small-scale mining was reported in the area as well.

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It appears that Rocky lived and died between around 1880 and 1910.  If anyone has any additional information on this site please contact me.

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Independence, Colorado is a well-preserved ghost town dating to 1879, located just below timberline on the western slope of Independence Pass between Twin Lakes and Aspen on Highway 82.

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Indpendence was named following the discovery of lode gold on July 4, 1879, it also went by the name Chipeta, in honor of Ute Chief Ouray’s wife, for a short time before the townsfolk settled on Independence.

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At the height of its boom Independence was home to around 1,500 people, home to 40 businesses, as well as three post offices.

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Life in the town, located at 11,000 feet elevation, was difficult, and winters were extreme.  As the lode gold played out Independence’s population plummeted, by 1890 there were less than 100 residents.

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In 1899 snows were so heavy that the last 75 residents of the town were cutoff from the supply centers of Aspen and Twin Lakes, and were on the verge of starvation. The remnant population of Independence decided theoir only chance for survival was to flee towards Aspen. The snowed-in inhabitants stripped boards from the remaining structures in town and built skis and sleds out of them for their trek to Aspen,which all 75 residents successfully made.

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Since 1899 only a few prospectors and hermits have called Independence home.Today, the town is totally abandoned, preserved as a historical park. Visitors can park in a small parking lot just below the summit of Independence Pass, and take a short hike down into the townsite. a Forest Service caretaker is sometimes present at the site.

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Balfour is one of the least-known ghost towns in the state of Colorado, and for good reason- The town existed for only five short years between 1893 and 1898 before it was abandoned!

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Remains at Balfour today

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Dugout cabin at Balfour today

Prospectors had dug around sporadically in the area since the 1860s, but it was not until 1893 that gold deposits of profitable quatities were discovered. Balfour is located on the southeastern edge of South Park, roughly 25 miles from Fairplay, or seven or so miles from the tiny town of Hartsel off of Highway 9 as you travel towards Guffey.

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Balfour, at oinly ten days old in 1893!

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Balfour cabin today

When Balfour boomed in 1893,a town appeared literally overnight. Photos taken when Balfour was only ten days old already show frame buildings in equal or greater number than tents in the new gold camp.  Before Balfour faded, there were three hotels, a saloon, post office, chruches, school, general store, and around one thousand residents.

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Second shot of Balfour at ten days old in 1893

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Balfour, 1893

Today scarcely a trace of Balfour remains, just a scattered handful of tumbledown cabins and barns. It is hard to imagine the site was once home to a thousand people, and had been billed as “the next Cripple Creek” when gold was discovered in 1893.

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Balfour cabin today

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Leadville, Colorado, one of the highest incoporated cities in the world at 10.152 feet elevation, and the Silver Queen of Colorado actually began life as a gold camp in 1859 when 49ers from California found rich deposits of gold and named the spot, appropriately, “California Gulch”.  By 1860, California Gulch had morphed into “Oro City” and mining was hot an heavy for the next few years. When the gold deposits played out, Oro City declined, but in the 1870s massive deposits of silver-bearing lead and galena ore were discovered. Silver was more complex than gold, and rarely appeared in a “pure” form like placer gold in river and creek beds- Silver ore required processing to extract the precious metals contained within.

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Stringtown, just a mile southwest of Leadville proper, was born to handle the processing of ore from the booming Leadville-area silver mines which radiated outine every direction for miles. a massive smelter was built at Stringtown, and crude worker housing- Usually primitive log cabins and clapboard shacks sprang up around the smelter property. Railroad lines intersected the smelter site from the east, north, and south.

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Workshop at Stringtown smelter: Correction, a viewer informed me this is the old Leadville Train Depot which has been moved to the smelter site at Stringtown.

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Stringtown was the largest of  Leadville’s three ” smelter suburbs” which included Little Chicago, and Malta. These wre the places the poorer families lived and died during the silver boom of the 1870s-1890s. When the silver market crashed in 1893, Leadville’s suburbs suffered and many families were left destitute. Malta faded away almost completely. Centrally located Little Chicago was swallowed up by Stringtown and Leadville. Stringtown hasmanaged to hang on until today, a collection of abandoned and occupied dwellings, now considered part of Leadville.

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Colorful dweiiling at Stringtown

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The legacy of Stringtown is mountians of ingots of black slag, the byprodcut of the smelting process, which dominate the landscape today. Colorado’s Highway 24 which connects Leadville and Buena Vista passes right through the heart of Stringtown, and tourists pack a popular gas station-convenience store-sporting goods shop across Highway 24 from the old Malta schoolhouse every summer weekend.

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Malta schoolhouse, just a mile beyond Stringtown

A few years ago, by random chance,  I met a retired body guard for the late-Ross Perot, former Presidential candidate and eccentric Texas billionaire- In the sahdows of Stringtown he scrolled through his phone showing me candid photos of Perot and telling tall tales of his days as a bodyguard.

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Crystal Lakes schoolhouse near Stringtown

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Crystal Lakes schoolhouse

 

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The Final Day of A Ghost Town a Day feautures Garcia, Colorado and its sister-community Costilla, New Mexico

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Garcia is the oldest permanent European settlement in Colorado. Originally called “Plaza de los Mananares” the spot was settled by Hispanic families from Taos County, New Mexico. Adobe plazas with thick, windowless walls protected the early settlers from raids by Ute warriors.

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Located in the far southeast corner of the San Luis Valley just two miles north of the New Mexico border, Garcia was part of the once sprawling network of Rio de Costilla Valley settlements, which at their height in the mid-1800s numbered over 4,000 inhabitants. Today Garcia, and the sleepy village of Costilla across the border in New Mexico are home to roughly 475 people,  1/10th of the regions peak population, and very few of that 475 live in Garcia or Costilla proper, most reside on ranches and farms scattered in the hills nearby.

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The histories of Garcia and Costilla are so intermingled that Costilla County, Colorado is named for Costilla, the village in New Mexico- Costilla once being part of Colorado Territory, until a surveying error was discovered in 1869, which gave Costilla back to New Mexico. When Costilla, which pre-dated Garcia by a few years, returned to New Mexico, Garcia became the oldest settlement in Colorado.

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Today Garcia is a collection of homes, many abandoned adobes, and a few occupied. A stunningly beautiful church, and the remains of several adobe plazas. When traveling south out of Garcia, it is hard to tell where Garcia ends, and Costilla, New Mexico begins.

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Day #29 feautures Boston, Colorado

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Boston, at the head of Mayflower Gulch

Boston is an 1890s era mining camp situated at the head of Mayflower Gulch in Summit County.  There are around a half-dozen log cabins in varying states of decay, the sagging ruins of the boarding house, and rusted mining implements scattered around the site. Boston sits in a natural bowl, or ampitheater, and is surrounded by snow capped crags on three sides, making for some great photos. When I visited, there was a dense fog, and I was not able to capture the rocky spires that make a stunning backdrop to the camp.

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A cabin along the trail to Boston

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A combination hiking trail/seldom used 4×4 trail leads two miles into the site from a parking lot just off the side of Highway 91 that runs from Copper Mountain to Leadville. It is a popular hiking spot, and it is usually overrun with people on weekends. It is best to visit Boston early in the morning on weekdays to avoid crowds. Unfortunately, easy access also means Boston has suffered heavy vandalism and the trail in to the site is strewn with garbage from unscrupulous hikers who think it is the Forest Service’s job to clean up after them. Some “visitors” have even torn down log cabins at the site and burned the logs in bonfires.

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