Archive for the ‘Mining Camps’ Category

Ever since I first began “ghost towning” around a decade ago, there has been a place that has captured my imagination, and stoked my frustration- Baltimore, Colorado- A ghost town just beyond my reach!

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Baltimore still appears on maps and in many Colorado ghost town guide books. It sits just a quarter-mile or so off of Tolland Road, in a quaint meadow surrounded by dense pine and aspen trees, in between Rollinsville and East Portal. You can zoom in on Baltimore using satellite images, and you can see a cluster of newer buildings.

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Satellite view of Baltimore today- Note only newer construction and one old relic survivor

That is as close as you will get though- The little road leading to Baltimore is chained off qnd posted “NO TRESPASSING”- Sometime, around 1990, maybe earlier, the town site was bought up by private interests, and public access to the spot ended. Today, all you will find is the chained off road, with Baltimore just out of eye’s reach.  I hopelessly drive by year after year, hoping to catch one of the property owners just so I can ask if I can take a quick peek, just to check Baltimore off my bucket list, but I have never been that lucky!

A few days ago, to my surprise, I received an e-mail from a follower of my Facebook page saying her family had a few photos taken in the 1950s during a visit to Baltimore, that they would like to share with me if I was interested. This offer brought a smile to my face, as very few images of Baltimore exist, and only a few written accounts can be found. Most of the photos accompanying this blog are thanks to that kind gesture from the Hawkins Family.

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Baltimore in 1957, photo courtesy of the Hawkins Family

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Baltimore Saloon and cabin 1957, photo courtesy of the Hawkins Family

Baltimore was one of Gilpin County’s gold camps. Very little is known about the town, but from what little does exist, it sounds like it was fine place- Baltimore came to life around 1880, had a newspaper for a short time, a saloon, school, church, and surprisingly, an elabirately decorated opera house!

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The collapsed Baltimore Opera House in 1957, photo courtesy of the Hawkins Family

Locals would pay opera singers from nearby Central City to come and perform in Baltimore. When famous artist and ghost town historian Muriel Sibell Wolle visited Baltimore in the 1930s, many decades after it had been largely abandoned, she noted the opera house still contained a piano and fine furnishings.

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Baltimore Opera House in the 1930s prior to collapsing, photo found on the internet

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Another view Baltimore in the 1930s or 1940s, all is gone now. Photo found on the internet.

Baltimore faded around 1900, and most of the town was abandoned. It appears that a few of the residential cabins were used as summertime resort up until the 1930s, and some were possibly still in use into the 1950s.

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Baltimore cabins in 1957, photo courtesy of the Hawkins Family 

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Detailed crop of the above photo, courtesy of the Hawkins Family

The once-fine opera house began to sag in the 1940s, and collapsed under its own weight in the 1950s. When developers bought the spot in later years, the tumbledown remnants of the residential cabins were demolished, or perhaps radically remodeled- Modern satellite images show what appears to be only newer construction homes at the site and only one remaining old structure- The remains of the saloon.  Some of the modern structures might hide remnants of old structures within their walls, but it is hard to say without having access to the site. In ghost town afficianado Kenneth Jessen’s books, he features an image of the sole survivor of Baltimore, taken in recent years,  before public access was blocked, but that is the only color photo I have ever found of the site.

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Baltimore Saloon 1957 (Hawkins Family photo)

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Baltimore Saloon today (Google Earth)

I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to the Hawkins Family for sharing their photos of Baltimore, Colorado circa 1957!

 

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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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Atchee, Colorado

Colorado is famous for its Gold Rush era and Silver Boom ghost towns. South of the Arkansas River ghost towns from Colorado’s “coal belt” are plenty. The eastern and northern plains house the remnants of the farming and ranching centers of yesterday. But the far western slope along the Utah border is almost devoid of ghost towns.

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Cabin along the old Uintah Railroad grade near Atchee

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Another view of the same cabin. The unique tight fit “puzzle” style construction of the cabin is something I have found unique to this isolated corner of Colorado/Utah. Perhaps it was the signature style of a local craftsman, or maybe the hand-select, tight fit, was a regional neccessity to keep the abundant lizards, scorpions, and snakes out- Scorpions, Sun Spiders, Rattlesnakes and Western Coachwhips outnumber humans 100-to-1  in this part of the world!

There isn’t much, and wasn’t much in the far western portion of the state, but chalky, sandy cliffs, scrub brush, and cacti, prior to the oil boom. Towns in this part of Colorado can almost all trace their origins to the railroads that once criss-crossed the region and followed the route of the mighty Colorado River as it meandered its way west to its terminus at Mexicali in Baja Mexico.

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A sense of the desolation and solitude of the area- The County Road today over Baxter Pass into Utah is the old Uintah Railway grade. In the Spring deep, soupy, mud can make it impassable.

Atchee, north and slightly west of Fruita near Grand Junction, Colorado, is now a 100% ghost town, with only one standing structure and the foundations of others, was founded in the 1880s. Atchee occupies a unique spot in Colorado history as one of the few far-western ghost towns in the state.

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A glimpse of Atchee from the railroad grade above as it ascends Baxter Pass

Atchee came to life in the 1880s as a railroad station along the tiny, narrow-gauge, Uintah Railway which served the Gilsonite (huh? what???) mining camp of Dragon, Utah which lay on the western side of Baxter Pass. The entire length of the Uintah Railway was only 62.8 miles in total length, running from Mack,Colorado to Watson, Utah, which was nothing more than a named place with a water tank, coal shed, and wye where the train turned around.

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Atchee, Colorado 1880s

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A Uintah Railway engine at Atchee around 1900

Atchee lay at just under the halfway point of the Uintah line- 28 miles to be exact. Atchee featured a wye, coal shed, water tank, machine/repair shop, and a couple rows of simple houses for railroad employees and their families. Atchee was situated in a arid, but beautiful basin,dotted with sage brush, scrub, and short pines on the slopes surrounding the town. Water was scarce and both summer and winters at Atchee were harsh. Atchee was named in honor of Ute Chief Atchee- A man of which little is known, but must have made a positive impression on his contemporaries.

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Chief Atchee, of whom the town was named

Gilsonite, the mineral mined at Dragon and Rainbow in Utah, where the Uintah Railway passed, was first discovered in the 1860s by Sam Gilson, a prospector.  Gilson discovered rich veins of black, shiny, oily substance in the sandy hills of the Uintah Basin. The substance looked like coal, was flammable, but was hard to keep burning. His discovery was also flexible and sticky. Gilson knew it had to be worth something to someone, but a use for the substance did not exist…yet.

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Gilsonite

 

Gilson tried to refine his strange mineral into a fuel source like coal, but it never could maintain an even slow burn. He discovered it could be used in varnishes and paints with moderate success- But the only color would be jet black, and it never really dried properly, always remaining tacky to the touch, and more troubling, flammable.

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Sam Gilson

 

Around the turn of the 20th Century Gilson, and his mineral, now called “Gilsonite” found their place in the world- Mixing Gilsonite with gravel created a smooth, durable, long-lasting surface for the city-dwellers and their velocipedes and new-fangled horseless carriages to ride on. Gilsonite, a naturally occurring, semi-solid, soluble, hydrocarbon-  The strange, sticky, black muck of the Uintah Basin would become a key ingredient in what we know as “asphalt” or “bitumen” today.

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Atchee at its peak around 1900. The “peaked” building at the far righ of the photo is all that remains today- The machine shop/repair shop for the Uintah Railway train engines.

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The machine shop today.

Atchee is all but gone now- One structure, or more appropriately, the walls of one structure remain- The old machine and repair shop for the steam engines that once passed through the town.  Numerous foundations can be seen in the scrub surrounding the machine shop. All the remnants are on clearly posted private property, but this has not stopped idiots from spray painting their names on the last remnants of the town. The rest of us who respect our Nation’s history can safely and legally take photos from just a few feet away alonmg the county road which passes through the site. The county road is the old railroad grade which crosses Baxter Pass into Utah.  When my brother and I visited winter snows were still melting and had turned the track into a swampy morass that became impassable shortly before we reached the summit of Baxter.

 

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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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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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Day # 27 features Geneva City, Colorado

 

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Geneva City is one of the most remote ghost towns in the Centennial State located at the headwaters of Geneva Creek in Clear Creek County and sitting in a bowl at timberline. Surrounded by snowcapped year-round, Geneva City can only be reached in the summer months, usually late-July through early-September, outisde of that the narrow, rugged 4×4 trail into the site is covered in snow.

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Geneva City is an old-timer- Prospectors first set up camp here after the end of the Civil War in the mid-1860s. Sturdy log cabins were built at the very edge of the pine trees to shelter prospectors from the harsh elements and electrical storms that plague the basin where Geneva City is located.

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The mountains surrounding Geneva City are rich in iron deposits, and Geneva Creek itself features extremely rare natural iron fens- a geological occurence where iron rich mineral water springs bubble up from the ground and creates rusty colored natural terraces. The high iron content of the Geneva basin area makes metal detecting nearly impossible, and attracts fierce electrical storms.

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Prospectors and miners have worked the rock in Geneva basin for over 100 years, finding small deposits of gold, and largeer depositis of silver, along with the plentiful iron. A smelter was built in the valley far below Geneva City in 1870, and the primitive rfining methods result in the slag from the old smelter still holding about a 10% silver content. The smelter has long since tumbled down, but crumbling red bricks and piles of black slag mark the spot. A sawmill was once operated nearby as well providing support beams and other wood products for the mines of Geneva City.

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The Brittanic Mine was the last mine in operation at Geneva City, and small scale operations were still carried out there into the early-1960s. Geneva City is unique because it never had a year-round population in its entire 100-year history. The winters at the site were just too harsh, and the town too remote to warrant year-round settlement. A number of log cabins, a large saloon/mess hall, a boarding house, and at least one small home, built of milled lumber which still exists, albeit precariously today. Mining remnants can be found all around the Geneva City site, as well as the Brittanic Mine site.

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Day #22 feautures Holland, Colorado

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Holland, Colorado dates to 1874 when a smelter was built at the site to handle the silver, gold, and iron ores being extracted in the Mosquito Range a short distance to the west. Two theories exist on how the town was named- One claims it was settled by Dutch immigrants from Pennsylvania who named the town “Holland”, but the other, more plausible story is that the smelter was built by two brothers Park and Dwight Holland, and the tiny settlement was named after them.

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Several log cabins were built in a small, circular, meadow around the smelter, and one large, luxurious, two-story home, said to belong to the smelter owners was built in a forested area just south of the main cluster of cabins, near the smelter. A Post Office was opened at Holland in February of 1874, but lasted less than one year, closing in December 1874. The smelter was a failure as well, and was sold at auction to pay off taxes only a year after its construction in 1875.

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Holland remained occupied until around 1890, the inhabitants working in nearby mines, or in the surrounding towns of Alma, Alma Junction, and Park City. In the mid-20th Century Holland, like many Colorado ghost towns, was “rediscovered” and some of the cabins were restored for seasonal use, and newer homes and cabin were built nearby.

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Today around six cabins remain at Holland, some buried deep in the trees require a keen eye to spot. Near the smelter site the brick chimney of the Holland Brothers house remains, obscured by pine trees, but the rest of the house is long gone. An old stage barn  which may date to Holland’s prime can be seen on the northern end of the town site, next to a newer home on private property.  All of the Holland site is privately owned and accordingly posted, but can be viewed from the public road.

 

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