Posts Tagged ‘Ghost Towns’

Day #2 of A Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days is Wall Street which is located in Boulder County and easily accessible in the warmer months by following the signs in Four Mile Canyon.

Wall Street began its life around 1895 as a mining camp called “Delphi.” From 1895 to 1898 Delphi grew in size and numerous gold claims were staked in Schoolhouse, Melvina, and Emerson Gulches which surrounded the camp. For a little over two years a Post Office operated under the Delphi name.


One of the older shacks at Wall Street

In 1898 Charles Caryl, a wealthy industrialist from New York arrived and bought up nearly all of the claims in Delphi. Caryl renamed the camp “Wall Street” in homage of his home in New York City.


The boom days at Wall Street

Charles Caryl funded the construction of a gold mill, built atop a towering stone foundation, that used a cutting-edge (at the time) chlorination process to extract gold from the host rock being processed. Today the mill buildings are long gone, but the enormous stone foundation still dominates the old Wall Street site.


The Wall Street chlorination mill in its prime.


The towering foundation of the mill today.


Some more of the stone foundation works that can be found around the mill site today.

Wall Street had a Post Office from 1898 to 1921 when the mining operations subsided and the population moved on.  Wall Street today has a small year-round population, as well as a number of summer residents. The town site today is a mixture of old and new, occupied, and vacant- The old schoolhouse has been converted into a residence, and the Assayer’s Office is now a museum open to the public in summer months.


Wall Street school house, converted into a residence in recent years.


The James F. Bailey Assayer’s Office- Now a museum in the summer months


A view down main street shows the chlorination mill and the Assayer’s Office sometime in the glory days of Wall Street, the town boomed between 1989 and 1921.


Wall Street suffered some damage in the floods of 2013, and a large two-story house at the mouth of the canyon was damaged so severely it has since been torn down.


Sadly, this old Victorian house was damaged in the flood of 2013 and has been torn down since this photo was taken. Note: Front lower wall is bulging outwards due to flood damage.












Rexford, Colorado is the first featured spot in “A Ghost Town a Day For 30 Days” which will last the month of April.

Rexford was the small settlement that sprang up around the Rexford Mining Corporations claims on the high upper reaches of the Swan River near Breckenridge, Colorado. Rexford dates to 1881, following the discovery of gold veins at the site by Daniel Patrick in 1880.  Rexford faded into oblivion sometime around 1900.


One of the first cabins you will encounter as you approach Rexford, this cabin sits on a hillside about a few hundred yards from the main part of the Rexford mining camp


Another view of the same cabin on the outskirts of Rexford

Rexford consisted of the mines, a general store, an assayer’s office, a large log bunkhouse, a number of small personal cabins, and a saloon. Today the remnants of all of the buildings and the giant cast iron bioler from the mine workings remain in a beautiful meadow at the edge of timberline along a rugged 4×4 trail.


According to an description of the town this tiny log foundation was once the Assayer’s Office


One of the small personal cabins remaining at Rexford


Rexford dwelling


These are the ruins of the giant log bunkhouse at Rexford


A pine tree now calls this miner’s cabin home


This is the collapsed facade of the Rexford General Store


A view from the collapsed General Store looking across the 4×4 trail through town, the logs in the distance mark the spot of the boarding house at Rexford.


Another cabin nearly lost to time and nature


Remains of the Assayer’s Office and Saloon at Rexford


Wildflowers at Rexford


Mine wrokings and the old cast iron boiler at Rexford

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I first became aware of Hoyt, Colorado around 20 years ago when a friend and I went and bought a Model T Ford roadster and some other old car parts from a farmer who lived there. Hoyt struck me as strange even back then, it was an hour or so east of Denver, and situated near the dry, cottonwood lined bottom of Bijou Creek. About every third house or ranch was occupied, leaving the other two abandoned.

Hoyt2 - Copy

This old house in Hoyt was torn down some time since my last visit

There was no actual “town” of Hoyt left, just scattered dwellings in every direction. In what seemed like it might have once been Hoyt’s business district were a number of abandoned homes and garage type structures. Old cars in various states of decay ranging the 1920s to the 1960s littered the pastures and lots. One auto wrecking business on a short, dirt spur road seemed to be the only commerce left in town 20 years ago, and we stopped in for a look. I do not remember anything spectacular other than a 1958 Cadillac collecting dust on a far corner of the salvage yard.


This block beauty can be found north of Hoyt

My friend and I located the farm we were seeking and loaded up the Model T. We were then led to another nearby property and were shown a line of rusted Model T Fords tucked discreetly into a row of trees, and then were allowed to scrounge through an old barn through a mountain of antique Ford parts. With a full trailer we left Hoyt.


A small building on the road to Hoyt

A couple of months ago I decided to return to Hoyt, with another friend riding shotgun, to snap some photos of the abandoned buildings around the area. Much like last time, Hoyt just seemed “strange” you can’t help but feel like you are always being watched when you drive through.


It always feels like someone is watching you as you approach Hoyt


We were slowly driving up and down the two or three streets that roughly mark the center of Hoyt, taking photos of abandoned buildings. One lot had a number of particularly photogenic buildings, and I wanted to get shots from different angles so, I made a number of passes by. 


One of the more picturesque buildings at Hoyt

When we reached the far end of Hoyt, and stopped in the Hoyt Community Center parking lot, and I looked over my map for any other place nearby that would be worth a look. We pulled back on to the county road in search of a dot on the map called “Leader.” As I turned onto a southbound dirt road, I stopped again to admire a 1956 Chevy station wagon next to an old storage building. Out of nowehere a Jeep appeared in a cloud of dust and slammed on its brakes next to us. I rolled down my window and the driver of the Jeep angrily asked “Can I ask why you are staking out my property?”  I told him I was merely taking photos of the abandoned buildings around the area. The man in the Jeep did not seem to believe me, and explained that he did not appreciate us “staking out” his land. Again, I reassured him that I was only taking photos of abandoned buildings, showed him my camera, and apologized. He continued to glare at me from his Jeep. I decided it would be best to just drive off at this point, as we did, a ATV began to approach at a high rate of speed from an adjacent dirt road, and the driver stared us down as we drove by. It was clear that visitors are not welcome in Hoyt, or at least not on the day we visited!


Another of the buildings left in what looked like the town center at Hoyt




Abandoned Western Colorado- Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of the Rockies







Made it out to Bonanza, Colorado and the surrounding area a few weeks ago for some ghost towning.  Here is a collection of photos I snapped.





Once a year, around the second or third week of September I make a pilgrimage to a very tiny and almost forgotten town in Colorado- Vicksburg. Some call it a ghost town, but to me, it does not fit the bill, Vicksburg is different, it doesn’t feel like a ghost town, although almost always void of human presence when I visit, and having only once in my yearly pilgrimages seen another soul in town, it’s well-cared for, and none of the cabins are ramshackle or in disrepair.



Vicksburg, founded around 1880 and named for Vick Keller, an early prospector and resident of the town, sits just beyond the eyes’ reach, off of Chaffee County Road 390 which follows the path of Clear Creek, and across the road from the Missouri Gulch trail head. A tiny parking lot and a steel gate are located at Vicksburg itself, or you can park at the Missouri Gulch trail head lot. From either parking lot you will not be able to see Vicksburg, which is less than a hundred yards away hidden amongst the trees. On busy summer weekends, hundreds of campers, fisherman and hikers drive right past Vicksburg without even knowing it exists. To me, this is what makes Vicksburg so special- You literally can not see the town until you are standing in the middle of it!

From the iron gate at the little parking lot along County Road 390, a short, maybe 50 yard walk, takes you into a dense aspen and pine grove, you’ll first notice a tumbledown outhouse, then some old cast iron mining machinery which has been painted with a protective grayish primer to ward off the winds of time. Then, you will start to see the cabins that make up Vicksburg.


A neat and tidy row of low-roofed log cabins is situated along a lone lane with ruts worn in it decades ago by horse drawn carriages and wagons. On both sides of this lane, towering Balm of Gilead trees, planted in the late-1800s offer a shady canopy for the sleepy town hidden within- In mid-September that canopy turns golden and fiery orange, and fallen leaves drift down the lane on gusts of wind. Other than the wind, all is silent and serene.


All of the cabins in town have been restored or maintained and are privately owned and used as summertime hideaways. Running the length of the lane is a wooden fence, simple wooden mailboxes nailed to posts line the way. On the edge of town, near the parking lot, are two cabins which have been dedicated as museums and are open to the public during the summer months, the yard around these two cabins is filled with antique mining equipment, old wagons, and other daily items of a long-ago time when Vicksburg, and it’s contemporaries of Beaver City, Rockdale, and Winfield along Clear Creek were more boisterous than they are today.



Vicksburg, to me, is as magical as it is frustrating- I personally think Vicksburg, at any time of the year, but especially in the early-fall, is the embodiment of paradise, solitude, and peace. But, trying to capture the magic of Vicksburg on film is maddening! This little gem is so shadowy and overgrown, the cabins so low to the ground in relation to the towering Gilead trees, that it is impossible to snap a photo that catches the idyllic and almost “lost in time” or “fairy tale” setting of Vicksburg. What you see with the eye, can not be seen in any photo I have ever taken. Vicksburg is a place you just have to see for yourself!


If you’ve spent much time hiking in the High Rockies of Colorado, chances are you’ve stumbled across a cluster of tumbledown log cabins situated around some long-abandoned mine workings- These are the remnants of the mining camps that played a vital role in the development of the Colorado we know today, and there are literally hundreds of them scattered across the meadows and slopes of the high country.

Mining camps usually consisted of the mine itself, a large boarding house to house the miners, a combination mess hall/saloon, and usually a two or three log cabins or milled lumber homes which housed the mine owner, or the married miners with families who didn’t want to live in the rowdy boarding houses. In some of the larger camps there were sometimes also found an Assay Office for sampling and evaluating ore specimens, and a general store which often doubled as the camp Post Office as well.

What separated these “mining camps” from the “mining towns” of the day, and made the “camps” unique, was the fact that most were only occupied in the warm months- Their extreme locations, either at dizzying altitudes of 11,000ft. to 13,000ft., or miles and miles from the next nearest settlement where supplies could be obtained, made winter living impossible.

The remote and forgotten locations of these old, deserted, mining camps have allowed many of them to remain relatively intact to this day, free from the vandalism and relic hunters whom have taken a severe toll on easier to access and well-known ghost towns across the state. In the spirit of preserving what’s left, I’ve chosen to not identify the locations in the photos below- Let’s just say they are all in Colorado, and a 4×4 or a long hike will get you to each one!  Enjoy!










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The Gray Ghosts of Colorado Book $19.99 CLICK HERE

Abandoned Faces of Colorado’s San Luis Valley and Northern New Mexico.



Colorado has plenty of ghost towns but what about “lost” towns- Towns that have disappeared entirely, or almost entirely from the face of the earth?  It is hard to imagine but there are “lost cities” here in Colorado. Cities and towns and settlements that have vanished almost completely over the years. Most appeared and disappeared with the boom and bust days of the gold and silver rush. Others were ranching and farming towns hit hard by the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s. Still others came and went with the fortunes of the railroads.  These make up Colorado’s “lost cities” and below is a collection of then and now photos of six of them. (Click on the circles for larger images.)

1. Querida, Colorado

Querida in Custer County was once a booming mining town laid out at the base of the Bassick Mine.  Today nothing remains but one old house, some debris from other buildings, and the massive tailings pile from the Bassick Mine.

2. Independence, Colorado

There was more than one “Independence” in Colorado- This is the Independence in Teller County near Cripple Creek and Victor. Independence was one of many towns that sprawled out around the mining operations in the Cripple Creek/Victor area in the late 1890s. Today some mining structures and equipment mark the spot, and a one or two homes can still be found scattered among the workings. Most of the town however was buried under the tailings from the mine, or torn down.

3. Caribou, Colorado

Caribou was one of Colorado’s top producing silver mining towns in the 1870s and 1880s boasting a business district, hotels, saloons and schools. The silver crash of 1893 spelled doom for the thriving community located on a windswept mountainside eight miles above Nederland at nearly 10,000 ft. elevation. Most of the population left around 1895, but a few struggled on in the mines until around 1920. Today a couple of stone buildings and one tumbledown log cabin are all that mark the spot of Caribou- The rest of town having been lost to forest fires, dismantling, and the elements over the years. A few foundations can be found in the deep grass at the site but its hard to imagine thousands once lived here.


Colorado Ghost Town Guide Book- The Gold Belt Region by Jeff Eberle $20!

4. Manhattan, Colorado

Deep in Larimer County northwest of Ft. Collins a couple of gold discoveries were made high on Elkhorn and Manhattan Creeks. Manhattan once had around 500 residents, but the ore was low-grade and there wasn’t much to be found.  An accident in a shaft took the lives of several miners in 1892, and shortly after Manhattan was abandoned.  Sometime in the 1950s or so, the Forest Service had the log buildings of Manhattan torn down.  All that marks the town site today is a tiny graveyard on a hillside where the miners from the 1892 accident are buried.

5.Berwind, Colorado

In the sandy foothills northwest of Trinidad numerous “company towns” existed. These towns were built by mine owners for their employees and their families. One of the larger company towns was Berwind. Berwind once had over 3000 residents, hundreds of homes, a two-story schoolhouse, railroad station, businesses, and a jail.  When the coal mines closed, the mine owners evicted the families and bulldozed the housing so they wouldn’t be taxed on the structures. Berwind Canyon today is lined with concrete foundations, staircases to nowhere, and modern day “Roman Ruins” overgrown with shrubs and trees. The tiny jail house remains and is guarded by a fat squirrel.

6. Carrizo Springs, Colorado

Carrizo Springs in the far southeastern corner of Colorado in remote Baca County was a very unusual place- It was a mining town on the great plains.  Around 1885 a group of prospectors from Missouri were looking for the Rocky Mountains and became lost as they traveled through Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and Kansas. When they had just about given up they saw hills and bluffs that they assumed were the Rocky Mountains. They began prospecting along Carrizo Creek and found some streaks of copper ore and a few streaks of silver as well. The Mexican ranchers in the area told the miners they were still a couple hundred miles from the Rocky Mountains. The miners decided to stay at Carrizo Creek and soon word spread of their strike. Around 1887 the town of Carrizo Springs was born, and one account says 2000-3000 people flocked to the settlement. Carrizo Springs lived a short, violent life. Cattle rustlers and horse thieves wandered through town from Kansas and Texas, gamblers and prostitutes set up shop in the saloons, marauding bandidos all the way from Mexico terrorized the town on occasion. Soon though it was realized the copper and silver ore along Carrizo Creek was poor and the town vanished. By 1889 Carrizo Springs was empty having lived only two years.  Today it takes a very sharp eye to spot anything marking the site- A few crumbling stone foundations, a weathered hitching post here and there, and shards of broken glass and porcelain on the prairie are all that is left.  No period photos of Carrizo Springs exist.

I just returned from a short but satisfying trip through the San Luis Valley of Colorado and a small chunk of northern New Mexico between Taos and Chama. I was out to snap a few photos of the past- The faces of the forgotten and forlorn buildings of the region- A region still very much alive, but where the past coexists side-by-side with the present.


Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


Garcia, Colorado

There is a unique energy in this part of the world. I can not describe it, but things just look and feel “different” in some way as you travel down the lonely stretches of blacktop that run the length of the San Luis Valley and North-Central New Mexico. There is something about this area and it’s vast openness and sweeping views, the surreal aspect of the Great Sand Dunes butting up against the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the Taos plateau and the great defile of the Rio Grande Gorge that rips through the middle of it- This is an area of intense natural beauty and quiet, peaceful, solitude. Some even say this is an area of supernatural or otherworldly energy- Cattle mutilations, UFO sightings, and the “Taos Hum” which reportedly only about 10% of people can hear, are evidence of this theory.


Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


Hooper, Colorado


Along a back road in northern New Mexico


Mosca, Colorado


Moffatt, Colorado


Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


Colorado Ghost Travels- The Gold Belt Region Guide Book by Jeff Eberle Only $20!


Penitente Morada, Abiquiu, New Mexico


Tres Piedras, New Mexico


Garcia, Colorado


Moffatt, Colorado


18th Century Spanish Colonial Church, New Mexico


Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


Moffatt, Colorado

2016 Ghosts of Colorado Calendar by Jeff Eberle only $14.99!


Garcia, Colorado


Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico


Hooper, Colorado


Costilla, New Mexico


Moffatt, Colorado


Abandoned Church, New Mexico


Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


New Mexico


Costilla, New Mexico


Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico


Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico

Quite often I get asked if I have any photos of Independence. The answer is yes, but I don’t think they are very good, and I need to make a trip back to Independence to get some better shots. I took these several years ago when I just started developing an interest in both ghost towns and photography- This was also many only trip to date to Independence.

The subject matter at Independence is fantastic, I just didn’t really know much about angles, light, and framing my subject back then (still don’t know much now!)- You can see it in these photos. For me these are a fun trip back to one of my first outings with a camera.  I decided to do these in black & white, and overexpose the hell out of them because that makes the gigantic speck of dirt that was in the middle of my lens that day disappear!
















2016 Colorado Ghost Town Calendar by Jeff Eberle Only $14.99!


2016 Historic Gilpin County Calendar by Jeff Eberle Only $14.99!


No doubt about it Colorado is a wonderful place to live- It started around 10,000 years ago when the earliest ancestors of today’s Native Americans began coming to what is present day Colorado to enjoy the bounty of this wonderful region. We’ve had farmers, ranchers, miners, railroaders,tech wizards, musicians, nature lovers, skiers and snowboarders, and marijuana enthusiasts all flock here to set up roots. We have everything you could desire except for maybe a white sand beach and an ocean to surf in, but who needs that when you have the Rocky Mountains? In recent decades Colorado experienced a couple of distinct population booms which have drastically altered the look of the Front Range and seen the entire I-25 corridor from Ft. Collins to Colorado Springs turn into one vast, sprawling, urban metropolis.

Can Colorado's historic sites like Geneva City (pictured) be saved from the encroachment of modern man?

Can Colorado’s historic sites like Geneva City (pictured) be saved from the encroachment of modern man?

Colorado has had booms throughout it’s modern “American” history, which began when the Spanish conquistadors first came through the area in the 16th and 17th centuries. They told of the great natural wealth of the area, and a few hearty Spanish ranchers would lead their herds and flocks into what is now Colorado. Following the early Spaniards came fur traders of all origins, although the French showed a particular fondness for Colorado. On the tails of the fur trade came the prospectors who found gold in large quantities in 1859 which sparked the great “Colorado Gold Rush.” After the Gold Rush, Colorado had the silver boom of the 1870’s and 1880’s. The railroads provided work and a reason for even more to come here. Then we had the ranchers, farmers, and the industrialists with their mills a smelters for refining the ore mined in the mountains.

The first of the recent “modern era” booms came in the late 1980’s and 1990’s- What became known as the “Tech Boom” brought thousands to the state to work for the technology and computer giants based at the foot of the Rockies. Towards the end of the 1990’s the Tech Boom slowed and population growth in Colorado mellowed. Then, in recent years, Colorado has experienced another boom. Some of the new boom is more affluent people fleeing urban centers on the east and west coast, bringing their wealth to Colorado in search of quieter, less stressful living. And, like it or not, the other cause for the recent population spike in Colorado is the “Weed Boom” following the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2012.

According to census statistics and projections found on the State of Colorado website the state has seen 16.9% increase in population since the year 2000- That’s around 1.6 million people in the last 15 years!  Growth in the early 2000’s was around 1.1% annually, increasing in the years 2010-2012 to around 1.5% annually. Following marijuana legalization the state has seen growth jump from 1.5% in 2012 to 1.75% currently, with a projection of 1.9% for 2016. According to studies conducted by CBS News, 60 Minutes and The Business Insider nearly 25% of those coming to Colorado since 2012 fall into the 18-34 year old age bracket. Denver proper is the 6th fastest growing city in the United States, and, overall, Colorado’s population growth is double the national average.

The urban sprawl of Denver...once described as

The urban sprawl of Denver…once described as “…a dusty little cow town on the plains…” now one of the Top 10 fastest growing cities in the United States. Denver’s rapid expansion has led to an influx of visitors to the mountains nearby.

This massive influx of over a 1.5 million new residents, many of whom are young and active, seeking fun and adventure in Colorado’s great outdoors, brings with it a burden on our National Forests Colorado was not prepared for. From lack of parking and facilities at hot spots such as the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Guanella Pass, Herman Gulch, etc., to traffic congestion on the weekends on nearly every road and trail on the east slope of the Continental Divide, Colorado’s mountains are groaning from the pressure.

Can we find a balance between the encroaching wants and desires of the modern world and the reminders of our past? How do we satisfy the the growing demand for “organized recreation” in our National Forests? By “organized recreation” I mean today’s weekender in the National Forest expects to find zip line tours, rafting trips, comfy “civilized” dude ranches with horseback rides, guided nature walks along groomed trails, lodges offering 5-star dining, and paved campgrounds with electrical hookups and flushing toilets…and maybe a few trails to take their ATV’s or mountain bikes out on in the afternoon. How do we accommodate those who want all the creature comforts of the city AND the great outdoors experience at the same time? Dying are the days of the outdoorsman who ventured into the back country in his beat up 4X4 with a can of Vienna Sausages, some beef jerky, a tent, fishing pole and some water.

Today’s Coloradan (native and new) is largely urban born and bred, with little or no real “back country” experience. This isn’t an attack on anyone, it’s just the plain truth. Colorado is urban these days, most of us are city people. And, for the most part, urban people, especially the younger ones, have not been raised on weekend camping trips to unknown spots deep in the mountains. As a result, they have not been taught to respect the wilderness. Protecting the environment to most modern city dwellers is putting your dog poop in plastic bag, attending a “Save the Whales” protest, or car-pooling to work- But when it comes to handling environmentalism in the wilderness close to home on the weekends, most would get failing grades for the path of garbage and destruction they leave behind when they transfer their city practices to the mountains.

In defense of the the urbanites flocking to Colorado they have come from cities that are no where near any wide open forest areas and/or mountains like we take for granted as native Coloradans. And, those who have come from areas where there were at least public recreation areas like parks and lakes, etc. they became accustomed to creature comforts like toilet facilities and trash cans. Many have never been exposed to back country camping where you are expected to clean up after yourself. “Pack it in, pack it out” the  well-known mantra of natives here, is an unknown concept to new arrivals who are accustomed to park rangers and waste management crews taking care of the debris field they leave in their wake.

Unfortunately, many of the historic sites within our National Forests and on BLM land open to the public are falling victim to those who come seeking weekend adventure and relaxation. Increasingly on my personal trips to the mining camps and ghost towns of the Rockies I’m finding more and more discouraging signs of modern man’s encroachment- old buildings stripped of their wood for use in camp fires, antique mining equipment shot full of holes or simply stolen from where it has sat for the last 100 years, graffitti scrawled into the walls of buildings and cabins, headstones toppled, vandalized or stolen from historic graveyards, evidence of 4X4’s and ATV’s going off designated trails and damaging sites and destroying wetlands. And trash, trash everywhere- plastic bottles, beer and liquor bottles, black trash bags full of garbage ripped open by animals and the contents strewn all over the surrounding mountainside. Yes, this has ALWAYS happened in modern times, but being someone who spends the majority of my time in these once hard to reach, remote places, it has really become an epidemic in the last five years or so as the population has surged, back country roads have been improved, and overall human pressure on the wilderness has increased.

Photo of trash left behind at a campsite. Taken two weeks ago by friends of mine. I've seen similar too many times to count in recent years.

Photo of trash left behind at a campsite. Taken two weeks ago by friends of mine. I’ve seen similar too many times to count in recent years. This illustrates the importance of teaching the “pack it in, pack it out” principle.

What can we do to help stop the destruction of Colorado’s history and forests? We must understand that most of the people in Colorado, native and new, don’t have much interest in the state’s history, and they don’t think twice about that old cabin or that rusty old boiler alongside the trail as they whizz by on their dirt bike. They’ve come for the trail, and the camping, not the cabin and the boiler. To them, it’s just “old junk” so what’s the big deal if they shoot it full of holes or tear boards off of it to throw in the campfire?  Some even think they are helping by tearing down old structures that they personally deem “unsafe.”

What looks like rusty, old junk to some, is actually Colorado history, and is protected by Federal laws.

What looks like rusty, old junk to some, is actually Colorado history, and is protected by Federal laws.

What looks like firewood to some is actually the remains of a historic cabin, and is protected under Federal law.

What looks like firewood to some is actually the remains of a historic cabin, and is protected under Federal law.

The big deal to those of us who are history buffs, is that these piles of “old junk” represent Colorado’s past- Whether they be a Native American site or a rusty stamp mill at a mine, they are equally valuable and important to Colorado’s history, and they are protected by the law. They are our connection to the early days of the state, from the indigenous populations who once called Colorado home, to the hearty miners and prospectors, pioneers and trappers who set up roots here and helped create the fantastic state we live in today. These piles of “old junk” are their legacy to us, and are sacred to many of us, and are disappearing at an alarming rate from the forces of Nature, and sadly, the destructive forces of man.

History, not rubbish.

History, not rubbish.

As our mountains get more and more pressure from our growing population- both native and new, our past is being destroyed and lost forever. In recent decades we have lost entire historic sites to man’s destruction- The ghost town of Tiger was burned to the ground by the Forest Service in the 1970’s to rid it of the hippie colony that had squatted in the abandoned buildings. The simple marble tombstone of two-year-old Clara Dulaney who died in 1865, was stolen from the Missouri Flats site by some sick pervert in recent years. ALL of the tombstones have been stolen from the Caribou cemetery above Nederland.

Protective fence recently erected at Missouri Flats to protect the grave of little Clara Dulaney whose simple tombstone was stolen in recent years by some pervert.

Protective fence recently erected at Missouri Flats to protect the grave of little Clara Dulaney whose simple tombstone was stolen in recent years by some pervert.

Manhattan was torn down by the Forest Service because it was a “fire hazard.” We lost the old ghost town of Ninetyfour near St. Mary’s glacier to private owners who bought the land and built a custom home- This once public ghost town still stands, but is now off-limits to visitors, although you can still sneak a photo of the old post office with a zoom lens.

The now privately owned and off-limits post office of Ninetyfour taken through a zoom lens.

The now privately owned and off-limits post office of Ninetyfour taken through a zoom lens.

About a decade ago an annoying, immature, and inconsiderate radio host from Denver who could be described more accurately with the use of profanity, illegally held a 4X4 rally on clearly marked private land above the Hendricks Silver Mine near Nederland and destroyed a couple of acres of wetlands that the mine owner had spent many years rehabilitating and returning to health. American City and Baltimore above Central City had their historic buildings ripped down by developers and replaced with modern summer cabins and the sites have been closed off to the public.

Places like Dyersville which were long lost to history and found in an almost undisturbed state many decades later have fallen victim to vandals who destroy the cabins and loot the artifacts left at the site. In the subdivision of Ken Caryl Ranch many homeowners have long called for the demolition of the historic Bradford House (because it is an “eyesore” in their prestigious community) which was a stagecoach stop and Civil War era recruiting station, only through the efforts of a group of preservationists was the building allowed to remain. Near Cripple Creek, the old blacksmith shop and schoolhouse that marked the site of Anaconda were bulldozed around a year ago by the owners of  the Anglo Gold-Ashanti CCV gold mine in order to expand operations, when they could have easily and cheaply been moved and preserved among the other historic artifacts displayed in the area.  The buildings of Waldorf were lost to an arsonist a while back.

Old abandoned buildings...such a temptation to arsonists.

Old abandoned buildings…such a temptation to arsonists.

Countless numbers of old mining machines have been illegally hauled off hillsides and sold for scrap or put on the market in recent years to satisfy the desires of collectors, fashionable bar and restaurant owners, and interior designers capitalizing on the trend of “re-purposing” old industrial equipment. TV shows even glamorize and document the theft of historic artifacts that are in turn sold for profit.

In recent years, some City/County Governments, the EPA, and other environmentalist organizations have jumped in on the act and have taken great pride in trying to erase Colorado’s past as a mining state- Boulder County being a prime example- Boulder, along with the EPA has taken almost orgasmic pleasure in the destruction of old mining camps in the name of “restoration and environmental cleanup” as a result the numerous ghost towns and camps that dotted the hills above Boulder have been completely erased. Boulder County seems so vindictive of their past that it almost appears that they want to rewrite their own history and make no mention of the gold mining that created their present day. Boulder County even brazenly turned the historic Catholic Church in Ward into the community garbage collection and composting site for a few years, but recently they stopped this practice, although they still use the church to store road construction equipment. Magnolia, Lakewood, Balarat, Tungsten, Camp Tolcott, Camp Francis…the list of historic sites now lost in Boulder County goes on and on- How much longer will it be before Summerville is destroyed? And, lest we forget natural disasters out of our hands like the forest fires and floods of the last few years that took even more of Boulder County’s history- Soon there will be nothing left of Boulder County’s past.

How much longer will Summerville last before some official with Boulder County decides it's "unsightly" or "unsafe" and needs to be destroyed?

How much longer will Summerville last before some official with Boulder County decides it’s “unsightly” or “unsafe” and needs to be destroyed?

One of those misguided souls who set out to “help” make Colorado “safer” wound up in Federal Court about 6 years ago, being sued for millions of dollars and looking at jail time, after he bulldozed an entire ghost town in the San Juan Mountains on public land!  His defense was he thought it was “unsafe” because people were stopping and taking photos of the tumbledown buildings- He truly felt in his own mind he was doing the right thing to protect public safety by destroying the ghost town!!!

Everyday historic sites across Colorado are demolished to make way for new housing, parking lots, resorts, luxury condos, ski runs, and the “organized recreation” the new Coloradan wants in favor of the “outback wilderness experience” many of us natives grew up on. But where does it stop? Where does our responsibility as Coloradans come in to play in the preservation and protection of our history and heritage? We can’t simply bulldoze, pave, and stripe off  the Rocky Mountains in the name of comfort, ease of access, and safety, which seems to be the desire of so many these days. There has to be, and needs to a disconnect between the modern world and the wilderness- That is what wilderness means.

Boulder County uses this historic church at Ward as an equipment storage garage for road crews, and, recently even used it as a community garbage collection point and compost heap. Boulder County can do better, this is a historic site, and a sacred place to many.

Boulder County uses this historic church at Ward as an equipment storage garage for road crews, and, recently even used it as a community garbage collection point and compost heap. Boulder County can do better, this is a historic site, and churches are sacred places to many.

Dyersville, dating to the 1880's. in Summit County was largely intact and undisturbed until the last four years. When I first visited Dyersville in 2011 there were around twelve structures, when I returned in 2015 there were six, the remaining cabins had been vandalized by graffiti and showed signs of having logs and boards removed for use in campfires. It won't be long until Dyersville is totally gone.

Dyersville, dating to the 1880’s  in Summit County was largely intact and undisturbed until the last four years. When I first visited Dyersville in 2011 there were around twelve structures, when I returned in 2015 there were six, the remaining cabins had been vandalized by graffiti and showed signs of having logs and boards removed for use in campfires. It won’t be long until Dyersville is totally gone.

The Bradford House located inside the Ken Caryl Ranch subdivision west of Denver which was the topic of a heated battle between preservationsists and people who wanted it torn down because it was an

The Bradford House located inside the Ken Caryl Ranch subdivision west of Denver which was the topic of a heated battle between preservationists and people who wanted it torn down because it was an “eyesore” in their opinion. This was Colorado’s Union recruiting station in the Civil War!

What can those of us that want to protect Colorado’s history do to stop this unfortunate destruction of our past?  There are Federal laws already in place that strictly prohibit taking, destroying, or metal detecting for any items or structures at historic sites over 50 years old. (I believe the law makes it a felony to metal detect at historic sites, and a felony to remove any item over 5 pounds, I’m not 100% sure though.) The problem with these laws, like most laws, are they are virtually unenforceable.  Who among us hasn’t taken home an old rusty nail, a bottle or a rusty can you found along the way? I know I have! These laws were designed to stop people from outright looting of historic sites like taking doors and windows, furnishings, machinery, and even grave robbing. Realistically, it’s not the nails and the tin cans the law set out to protect. There is absolutely no way the Forest Service can patrol every historic site in Colorado, and they shouldn’t have to. How can private citizens like most of us who consider ourselves “ghost towners” and amateur historians do anything to help?

How long will this old Ford remain hidden in the pines untouched before someone finds it and steals it or shoots it full of holes?

How long will this old Ford remain hidden in the pines untouched before someone finds it and steals it or shoots it full of holes? This is what the Federal laws protecting historic sites are designed to save, sadly the laws are hard to enforce.

There are many state and local historic preservation clubs and societies that exist that we can join, and many of them are actively taking steps to protect and preserve sites, but funding and time constraints limit the extent of their efforts. We can stay in contact with each other and share remote sites we’ve found, and make our own efforts to at least clean up the modern trash we find left at the sites by those who don’t care. We can lobby and request our lawmakers do something to protect more historic sites. But, all of this stuff has been done before, and clearly, it isn’t working well enough. The efforts are appreciated, but somehow more needs to be done to stop the onslaught of destruction. Too many people just don’t care, and somehow we need to change that.

The Rock Creek Stage Station preserved for all to enjoy.

The Rock Creek Stage Station preserved for all to enjoy.


My only thought is those of us who do care and want to keep Colorado’s history in a state of “arrested decay” for future generations to enjoy, is that we spread the word to everyone we know. Just ask them to respect and appreciate the history that surrounds us in Colorado, the history that made Colorado what it is today. And, even if you don’t care about the history, just don’t destroy something for the sake of destroying it. Treat every old cabin and every old mine like a grave, and show it some reverence and respect. If you’re out and find a spot that has been trashed or vandalized, clean up the mess. If you see someone taking something from a site or defacing a structure, ask them to stop and explain that it’s not just “old junk”, it is Colorado’s past they are ruining, and it is protected by Federal laws. Take only photos to document the fading reminders of the past, even without man’s destruction and abuse, nature will soon swallow what little is left, we can preserve it forever through photographs and written descriptions.

The schoolhouse at Malta, preserved for future generations instead of destroyed.

The schoolhouse at Malta, the only structure left to mark the towns location, preserved for future generations instead of being destroyed or vandalized.

It is my greatest fear that in the very near future in Colorado our only historic sites and ghost towns will be turned into “pay-at-the-gate” tourist traps and fabrications made to look and feel old like Bodie and Calico in California. Colorado has a great wealth of free history to be found in the forests, but we have to educate the people using the forests these days not to destroy what they find. It might not make a bit of difference, but maybe if enough of us who care become active, and stop and explain the history of these places in a friendly manner to the people we find there, they will leave with a new found appreciation for what they viewed as merely “old junk”. I’ve done it a few times myself and I’ve always gotten a positive reaction from the people I’ve stopped and talked to. We just need to find some way to protect what is left and we should all exchange ideas and suggestions.

“Pay-at-the-gate” Calico, California, a largely fabricated ghost town tourist trap. Is this the future of Colorado? Let’s hope not, we’re better than this.

I was raised to respect the wilderness and whatever I might find lurking within the trees be it an animal, or an old cabin, or a mine shaft. There are just a few simple rules when enjoying the wilderness that all of us should remember and share with our friends. If we can just follow some basics the wilderness will be better for all of us:

-Treat every old cabin or structure like a grave. Look at it, explore it, but leave it as you found it, don’t vandalize or destroy it.

-Pack out EVERYTHING you pack in. Leave the forest better than you found it. Take out someone else’s trash along with your own and make the woods better for everyone.

-Keep your ATV, dirt bike or 4X4 on the trail, There are so many trails in Colorado it is unnecessary to go “make your own”, and keep them out of the wetlands and beaver ponds where they will do serious damage to the ecosystems.

-Don’t shoot your guns on holiday weekends when the forests are crawling with people. Don’t shoot into old buildings, vehicles or equipment you find, and don’t take your old TV’s to the woods to shoot!  (I’ve seen about 10,000 shot up TV’s in the past year and they make an awful mess!) We recently had an innocent man enjoying a campfire with his family die due to a stray bullet fired irresponsibly on the 4th of July weekend. Discharging firearms within 150 yards of ANY road, dirt or paved in the National Forest is illegal, please exercise your gun rights responsibly. If all of us gun owners act responsibly fewer people will attack our rights, it’s common sense. Go above and beyond with your gun safety in the woods and never fire over a hill, into the air, or on a busy weekend or holiday when others are camping in close proximity.

-If you are on the trail use trail etiquette and always yield to allow the vehicle coming uphill the right of way.

-Never kill an animal unless you are going to eat it.

-Always put your campfire completely out. Douse it in water, bury it in dirt.

Old school bus shot full of holes near Stumptown above Leadville, surrounded by modern day garbage- an armchair, plastic milk crates, assorted TV guts and electronics...disgusting!

Old school bus shot full of holes near Stumptown above Leadville, surrounded by modern day garbage- an armchair, plastic milk crates, assorted TV guts and electronics…disgusting!

We all have the right to access and enjoy our National Forests, but like every right, there comes responsibilities as well.

Colorado History- Enjoy it, don't destroy it!

Colorado History- Enjoy it, don’t destroy it!