Archive for the ‘Mining Camps’ Category

Elkhorn, dating to the 1880s, in the hills of northern Larimer County was nearly lost in the recent Cameron Peak Fire, the largest forest fire in Colorado history. Heroic efforts by fire fighters, and a little help from Mother Nature slowed the fire just before it consumed this old mining camp and supply depot along Elkhorn Creek, although it does appear that some structures were lost to the flames.

Historic Photo of Elkhorn, Colorado

Very little gold was ever discovered in Larimer County, Colorado- A few deposits in paying quantities were located along Manhattan and Elkhorn Creeks in the Poudre River drainage about 40 miles northwest of Ft. Collins. Two small camps by the same names appeared- Manhattan and Elkhorn. Manhattan, the larger and more important of the two, became the namesake for the Manhattan Mining District which boomed and busted between 1890 and 1905.

 

Miner’s shacks at Elkhorn in 2018
Current Map of the Cameron Peak Forest Fire- Red Area is burnt area- This indicates the two small shacks pictured in previous photo may have been lost to the fire.

So little gold was found along Elkhorn Creek that the town of Elkhorn never grew to be much more than a few miner’s shacks, a general store, Post Office, and school. Gold fever, which never truly panned in Elkhorn, soon gave way to ranching and logging operations. Elkhorn eked out an existence as a small supply depot for the area. Logging continues in the area to this day…or did prior to the devastating Cameron Peak fire.

 

One of the old stores at Elkhorn, used as a storage barn today

Elkhorn today is a wide spot in the road along County Road 68. An impressive log store dating to Elkhorn’s boom days can’t be missed as you pass through- Today it serves as a storage barn. A few other miner’s shacks and old log buildings can be seen scattered along the meadow and the hillsides around the old store. All of the area is private property, fenced, and marked. Photos can be taken from the County Road of what remains, although that is unclear following the forest fire.

 

Elkhorn Store on a sunny day
Elkhorn Store in the fog
Another old shop at Elkhorn- This building and those in the background may have been lost in the Cameron Peak fire according to Forest Service maps showing the fire’s preimeter in the area of Elkhorn.
Elkhorn in the fog
Another shot of Elkhorn on a foggy day

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

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

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

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Cardinal is a realtively unknown ghost town by Colorado standards. Located in Boulder County just west of Nederland on the road to Caribou. (Check out my blog on the Caribou Ghost Town)

 

Cardinal could tachnically be called “New Cardinal” because there was once another Cardinal,or “Old Cardinal” a mile or two up the road from the present town site. Old Cardinal was the weekend recreation camp for miner from Caribou- Caribou residents had voted to make Caribou a dry town with no saloons or brothels, so enterprising bar keepers and sporting ladies set up shop down the hill from Caribou in a small meadow along the railroad tracks. Miners from Caribou could catch the ore train down the hill to Old Cardinal for a wild weekend, then ride the ore train back up to righteous Caribou.

 

In the late 1800s, an ore vein was discovered a couple of miles below Old Cardinal, and a new mining camp sprang up which did not harbor the same puritanical values of Caribou. It only made sense for the working girls and booze peddlers of Old Cardinal to move on down the hill to the new camp.  As they abandoned Old Cardinal, they even moved their buildings down the hill to the new camp, which soon took on the monicker of “New Cardinal.”

 

A freighter hauling mining equipment into the New Cardinal town site

New Cardinal boomed for a few short years around the turn of the last Century. An enormous stamp mill was constructed, an Assayer’s Office overlooked the mine workings, and bunk houses and private homes sprang up, and of course there were the saloons and the brothel.

Assayer’s Office
Mill building around 1920

New Cardinal, as all mining towns do, eventually faded away and was abandoned. The old buildings at the sight fell into decay, and some wetre occupied in the 1960s. In recent years the better homes at the site have been renovated and once again occupied. For a short time, someone was even renting the old Assayer’s Office as a weekend getaway.  

 

In the early 2000s Boulder County Open Space invested substantial time, labor, and money into the restoration/preservation of the mill building at Cardinal in hopes of opening it up as historic park/museum.  Unfortunately, all the restored mill building attracted was unscrupulous rock climbers who scaled the outer faces of the freshly restored building, and Boulder County closed the site to the public, and it has remained closed.

 

 

The mill at Cardinal after restoration efforts
Boiler at Cardinal

I have only visited Cardinal once, using an old guide book that said the site was open to exploration. When I reached the spot, I was unaware that the site had been closed by Boulder County. All of the land and buildings at Cardinal are now privately owned, and at least two houses are occupied. I was met by one of the residents who was friendly and allowed me to look around the old town site as long as I stayed on the dirt road, and took photos from a distance. I appreciated their hospitality, but it was clear that Cardinal is private and the owners would like to keep it that way- I can respect that.

 

 

 

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Took my yearly trip up to Gold Hill a few days ago. Such a great little town!  I am surprised that so few people know about it, but I guess that is also a blessing!

Located in Boulder County in the foothills west of Denver, Gold Hill is an old-timer among Colorado towns, dating all the way back to 1859. Gold Hill is so old in fact that it was once part of Nebraska Territory!

 

As the name obviously suggests, Gold Hill was a mining town from the great Colorado Gold Rush of 1859. Massive deposits of gold ore were found in the hills and gulches surrounding the town site. Prospectors flocked to the spot and the town sprang to life.

 

 

“Mountain District Number 1 at Nebraska” aka Gold Hill has been plagued by forest fires and floods since it’s very beginnings- The first documented forest fire that threatened the town was recorded in 1860, another huge fire in the 1890s ravaged the town, torrential rains caused flooding that threatened Gold Hill in 2013, and as of my typing this in October 2020, a forest fire caused the evacuation of the town yesterday. But somehow Gold Hill always manages to hang on.

 

Today Gold Hill is home to around 120 residents. There town has retained it’s historic feel and very little modern-era construction exists in the town. There are no paved streets in Gold Hill, only narrow dirt roads wide enough for one car to travel. Old trucks af every make and model are scattered around the streets and hillsides of Gold Hill.

 

Gold Hill has an Inn that hosts live bands outdoors in the summer months, an old two-story log hotel, a General Store/Coffee Shop/Cafe and the photogenic Red Store on the eastern edge of town. There is also a school house, museum, and outdoor display of old rusted mining equipment. South and east of town a short distance is the tiny Gold Hill cemetery which was ravaged by forest fire, and still shows the scars.

 

Gold Hill is a true gem and a fun place to explore, but can get crowded on weekends in the summer time. I’d suggest visit on a weekday in the off-season when you can really take in the beauty of this old mining town.

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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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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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