Posts Tagged ‘Abandoned Colorado’

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Abandoned Northern Colorado: Ghosts of the Great High Plains is a collection of photographs taking you on a tour of Colorado’s Northern High Plains region. Author and photographer Jeff Eberle spent much of the last decade traveling the back roads and 4 x 4 trails of Colorado in an effort to capture a few final images of the state’s rapidly vanishing past. Covered in this book are the areas of Colorado north of the Arkansas River and east of the Rocky Mountains. Inside you will find images of the ghost towns, dormant grain elevators, forgotten cemeteries, and abandoned homesteads of Colorado’s prairie. The author hopes to help raise awareness and public interest in the preservation and protection of Colorado’s historic sites and structures. What one might see as merely an old, rusty eyesore, another sees as an aged beauty who stood silent witness to the hard work and struggle that gave birth to the Colorado we know and love today.

 

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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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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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Balfour

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Day #4 of A Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days takes us to a little known ghost town on the southern slope of Muddy Pass along Highway 40 in Colorado north of Kremmling. I have only found one reference to this place in my research, and it was identified as the Smole Lumber Camp which operated in the early decades of the 20th Century which faded into oblivion sometime around 1950. I wish I knew more, but there is no “more” to be found on the camp. If anyone knows the full story I’d love to hear it.

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Smole Camp sits on the southern slope of Muddy Pass along Highway 40 north of Kremmling on private property, but it can be easily viewed and photographed from the shoulder of the road

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There are two rows of buildings along a central “street” at the camp, a few other buildings lay on the outskirts of the main cluster at the site

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These buildings are located on the southern side of the road dividing the camp

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Buildings along the north end of the camp

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A weather beaten chair stubbornly refuses to submit to time and the elements

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A barn and what could be called the “fancy” house sit a few hundred yards south of the main camp, and likely belonged to the owner or site manager of the lumber company

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Another view of the same structures

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Barn building

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Haswell, Colorado was founded in the early 1900s, some accounts say 1905, others say 1908. Haswell sprang up along the line of Missouri Pacific railroad and once had a population of around 200 in its peak days.

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Buildings along the main street in Haswell.

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A vacant home along Highway 96 in the center of Haswell

Today Haswell, like most of the other small towns in Kiowa County struggles to hang on. Today only around 60 residents remain in and around Haswell. The highlights of Haswell are the old Texaco gas station which you can’t miss along Highway 96, and the tiny jail, which the residents boast is the smallest in the United States. Unfortunately when I visited town, the view of the jail was obscured by vehicles so I couldn’t get a photo.

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The Old Texaco gas station- A new tin roof will ensure it is around for a few more years.

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One of the many empty houses in the residential section of Haswell

Haswell is a combination of abandoned or empty storefronts, grain elevators, service stations and residential dwellings. When I passed through around half of the buildings in town were vacant.  Someone was barbequing and the smell drifted through the tiny town. At a small part on the western edge of the community two boys played baseball and stopped to wave as I passed by.

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This old building with its aerial tower out back had the looks of an old radio station.

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A row of forlorn shops on the west end of Haswell.

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Another vacant house in town

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Remote and virtually unknown, Galatea, Colorado is a tiny ghost town, or more accurately, cluster of abandoned buildings left marking the townsite in Kiowa County.

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Very little historic information exists about Galatea. It appears to have been founded in the 1880s, and had a Post Office from 1887 to 1948.  One account says Galatea was a trading center along the route of the Pueblo and State Line railroad. Today the dirt berm of the railroad can still be seen, but the iron rails are long gone.

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When I visited one adobe house, one milled lumber house, some antique farm implements buried in the sand, and a couple of sheds remained at the town site. A short distance away, across the old railroad bed to the south was an old farm house set deep in some trees with a windmill.

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Last weekend I headed headed east onto the great high plains for my first visit to Arlington, and obscure Colorado ghost town which dates to 1887 when it sprang up along the Missouri Pacific Railroad line in sparsely populated Kiowa County roughly 120 miles southeast of Colorado Springs.

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One of the old shacks that remains at Kiowa County’s Arlington

En route to Arlington my mind became lost in the endless flat expanse, covered in a short stubble of the previous year’s blonde prairie grasses. Here and there a patch snow occupied a shadowy depression in the flats. People out here, in this forgotten corner of the Colorado landscape, are few and far between. It had been thirty minutes or so since I saw another motorist, and I was daydreaming when I sped past the Kiowa County Sherriff who quickly flipped a U-turn, lights flashing, and pulled me over. Ten minutes, 4-driver’s license points, and a $188 fine later I was back on my way to find Arlington.

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Another Arlington shack

Taking Highway 96 southwest out of the tiny town of Eads, I rumbled down the blacktop for another 35 miles without seeing another motorist, then I reached Arlington. Arlington is defined by a few occupied farm houses and out buildings that straddle Highway 96, then the old town site just off the pavement on a dirt road to the west.

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A hack and the schoolhouse which mark the west end of the Arlington town plat

Three blocks appear to have been platted and developed at one point in Arlington, but that was long ago. Today only the dirt streets remain, along with a couple of abandoned shacks, and the stunning two-story Arlington schoolhouse which can be seen from a distance as you approach the ghost town. One small home remains occupied on the northeast end of the old town footprint, but nobody was home when I passed through.  I spent a few minutes snapping photos and wondering what Arlington once looked like. It must have been something in its prime since it had a two-story schoolhouse, an oddity out here on the plains.  Not much to see these days in Arlington, but the old schoolhouse is worth the trip!

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Arlington schoolhouse- Worth the trip!

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North end of the schoolhouse

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You can see the schoolhouse at Arlington from several miles away as you approach Arlington

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East side of the schoolhouse

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The old school appears to be the place where all of Kiowa County’s bald tires go to die

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Abandoned iron- To some it is an eyesore, to others it is a thing of great, almost artistic, beauty in its own strange way. I fall into the latter category, finding the cast-aside implements of yesterday’s industry extremely beautiful.

I imagine if these rusted relics and shops could tell a story, it would parallel my own- Men who did a job because they had to, not because they wanted to, who faced the same frustrations, anger, and stress I’ve faced in my own time inside the factory.

I can look at these old machines and see myself cussing them, as some high-pressure bossman leans over my shoulder, clipboard and pencil in hand, asking a series of stupid, irrelevant questions, and second-guessing my every move while I try to make the iron monsters live again.

Perhaps it’s just me, or maybe it’s just another of the many symptoms of blue-collar life, but when I put a hand on these great iron beasts, I can hear them come back to life- The grand cacophonous thunder of industry.

(Due to the rarity and historic value of the following, and the increasing instances of theft and vandalism currently afflciting Colorado’s historic sites, I’ve chosen not to disclose the locations to prevent futher destruction.)

 

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With the meteoric population explosion in Colorado, more and more of the State’s past is being lost to the bulldozer and replaced with new construction. Here is one last look at 25 old dwellings before they vanish- 

#1- Lake County

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#2 Washington County

anton1#3 Saguache County

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#4 Baca County

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#5 Teller County

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#6  Weld Countyjeo1

#7 Park County

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#8 Costilla County

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#9 Lincoln County

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#10 Hinsdale Countycapc2

#11 Park County

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#12 Morgan County

Hoyt

#13 Costilla County

Russell#14 Weld County

Farmhouse Near Grover#15 Teller County

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#16 Gilpin County

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#17 Las Animas County

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#18 Gunnison County

Powderhorn

#19 Chaffee County

16best12#20 Park County

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#21 Costilla County

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#22 Las Animas County

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#23 Summit County

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#24 Baca County

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#25 Costilla County

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I hadn’t been to Silver Plume, Colorado in a couple of years, and decided to make a visit this morning. It was a perfect day to park the Jeep and aimlessly wander up and down the streets of Silver Plume, and imagine how it must have looked in it’s glory days of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Silver Plume is still one of my favorite places in Colorado to snap photos- There is just so much there to see, and I always find something new-old thing I missed before. I make it a point to always leave a street or path unexplored, and I also visit Silver Plume only once a year, that way there will always be “something new” on my next visit. One day I will have seen it all, but that just means I can start over and do it all, street-by-street again, and take photos from entirely different angles!

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