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Dates of visit:
Sept. 30, 2006 -
Oct. 18, 2006

We rate this trip a:

Trip Highlights:
 Scenic byways
 Ghost towns
 Mountain vistas
 Hiking
 Autumn colors
 Small towns
 National Parks
 National Monuments
 Las Vegas
 

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First page - Wolf Creek, Creede Ghost Town and Bachelor Loop, Lake City, Henson Ghost Town
Third page - Independence, Vicksburg, Gilman & Red Cliff Ghost Towns, Town of Leadville
Fourth page - Colorado National Monument, Cisco Ghost Town, La Sal Loop, Dead Horse SP, Canyonlands & Arches NPs
Fifth page - Capital Reef NP, Anasazi & Kodachrome SPs, Georgetown & Widtsoe Junction Ghost Towns, Staircase/Escalante NM
Sixth page - Bryce Canyon & Zion NPs, City of Las Vegas
Seventh page - Arizona Ghost Towns: Oatman, Chloride, Vulture Mine, Stanton
*** Colorado ***
*** Black Canyon of the Gunnison ***
*** Powderhorn, Marble & Redstone Ghost Towns ***
*** Town of Aspen & Maroon Bells Wilderness ***
*** Ashcroft Ghost Town ***
        Travel Route
        Powderhorn Ghost Town
        Site Gallery - Powderhorn Ghost Town
        Black Canyon of the Gunnison
        Site Gallery - Black Canyon of the Gunnison
        Marble & Redstone Ghost Towns
        Site Gallery - Marble & Redstone Ghost Towns
        Town of Aspen, Maroon Bells, Ashcroft Ghost Town
        Site Gallery - Town of Aspen, Maroon Bells, Ashcroft Ghost Town
Powderhorn Ghost Town

** Location of Powderhorn Ghost Town **

Powderhorn ... was first settled in 1876. Its main reason to be was as a trading post and resort area with a nearby hot springs. Recently a rich deposit of Columbium has revived the area. There are many current buildings amongst original older ones in the area.

Source: Ghost Towns of Colorado, Philip Varney, Copyright 1999


Video recorded: September 2006
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Site Gallery - Powderhorn Ghost Town
 
Powderhorn Powderhorn Powderhorn
Powderhorn Powderhorn Powderhorn

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Black Canyon of the GunnisonAn Awesome Gorge ... In just 48 miles in Black Canyon the Gunnison River loses more elevation than the 1,000-mile Mississippi River does from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The power of fast falling water enables the river to erode tough rock.

The River drops an average of 96 feet per mile in the national park. It drops 480 feet in one two-mile stretch. Fast, debris-laden water carving hard rock made the canyon walls so steep.

Slow, continuous, unyielding erosion formed the canyon, drop by drop and flood by flood. Rock falls and landslides play occasional roles. The river first set its course over soft volcanic rock. It then cut down to harder, older crystalline rock of the dome-shaped Gunnison Uplift. Once entrenched in its course, the river had to keep cutting through this hard core for two million years. The Gunnison River now carves its Black Canyon more slowly because dams upstream lessened seasonal flooding. Undammed, the river used to slam through this gorge in flood stage at 12,000 cubic feet per second with 2.75-million-horsepower force, dramatically scouring the riverbed and eroding canyon walls. At Warner Point the gorge is 2,772 feet deep.

The canyon has been a mighty harrier to humans from time immemorial. Only its rims, never the gorge, show evidence of human occupation -- not even by Ute Indians living in the area since written history began. No early Spanish explorers to the Southwest reported seeing the canyon. The expedition led by Capt. John W. Gunnison, whose name was given to the river, bypassed the gorge in its search for a river crossing. The first written record came from the Hayden Expedition of 1873-74. The Hayden and, later, Denver & Rio Grande Railroad survey parties, deemed Black Canyon inaccessible.

Geological diagrams show why this canyon was named "Black." It is so deep, so sheer, and so narrow that very little sunlight can penetrate it. Early travelers found it shadow-shrouded and foreboding. By 1900 the nearby Uncompahgre Valley wanted river water for irrigation, so five residents hazarded an exploratory float of the river but gave up after a month. In 1901 Abraham Lincoln Fellows and William Torrence floated it on a rubber mattress - 33 miles in nine days - and said an irrigation tunnel was feasible. The 5.8-mile Gunnison Diversion Tunnel, begun in 1905 and dedicated in 1909, still delivers river water for irrigation.

Area citizens began lobbying in the 1930s to include the canyon in the National Park System. It was proclaimed a national monument in 1933. Congress made it a national park in 1999 and the park now contains 14 miles of the canyon's total 48-mile length. Congress has also designated the park lands below the canyon rims for additional protection within the National Wilderness Preservation System. Wilderness designation is meant to protect forever the land's natural conditions, opportunities for solitude and primitive recreation, and scientific, educational, and historical values.


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Source: Site tourist brochure.

Site Gallery - Black Canyon of the Gunnison
 

Black Canyon of the Gunnison Black Canyon of the Gunnison Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Marble & Redstone Ghost Towns

Marble Ghost Town ** Location of Marble Ghost Town **

"The Marble Capital of the United States" ... was initially settled by prospectors who formed a camp known as Yule Creek, named for pioneer George Yule. Gold, silver, and lead were mined from 1880 into the 1890s. Even before the prospectors found their deposits, geologist Sylvester Richardson had noted in 1873 the beds of marble in Whitehouse Mountain. The marble was merely a curiosity then, because it was on the Ute Reservation. After the Utes were moved west to allow prospectors in, attempts to quarry the stone in the 1880s enjoyed limited profitability because of the area's remoteness from a railhead.

The standard-gauge Crystal River & San Juan Railroad was completed from Carbondale in 1906, connecting the finishing mill at Marble with the Denver & Rio Grande branch line to Aspen. That rail link, combined with a four-mile-long electric railway that transported marble from the quarry to the huge finishing mill, made production much more lucrative. The first large order, for a Cleveland courthouse, invigorated the community. The best years followed, peaking from 1912 to 1917. The town was, literally, made by and of marble. Entire buildings were constructed of it, as were foundations and even sidewalks.

The town of Marble had its share of setbacks. A fire in 1916 destroyed much of downtown. Avalanches buried the finishing mill and the railroad tracks. Financial problems forced the closure of the quarry in 1941, as consumers began to order veneers instead of blocks or to choose cheaper marble substitutes. Mudslides in that year took large portions of the business section. Machinery, rails, even metal window frames were salvaged for scrap during World War II. Its glory days apparently over, Marble became a town of pleasant summer cabins.

(Quoting an author on Marble ...) In 1987, the Yule Quarry was closed. Piles of marble were strewn along the old railroad bed. Near the entrance to the quarry is a mass of marble rubble. Looking inside the quarry from two vantage points, one peers down into an alabaster monolithic city with sculptured walls and pillars sitting in a blue-green lagoon. Ropes, pulleys, and fragmented wooden ladders clung to the marble walls. In mid-summer, the water has places where the sun neglects it, and it remains frozen - not universally frozen, but solid in the shapes of the surrounding marble cliffs, etched in straight lines and parallelograms.

The quarry reopened in the early 1990s and, unfortunately, is closed to visitors at this writing. West of the road to the quarry stands the town's major attraction, the ruins of the Marble Finishing Mill. Exploring this enchanting place is like wandering through an Indiana Jones adventure site - an ancient city with its marble pillars, brushy overgrowth, and occasional quarry blocks. One finished slab is a huge octagon about six and a half feet high that looks like a sacrificial stone from some primitive civilization. Downtown Marble is quietly alive with a bed and breakfast inn, a museum (inside the old two-story high school, a wooden building with a marble foundation and marble columns on its porch), a general store, several residences, and galleries featuring marble sculptures.

** Location of Redstone Ghost Town **

Redstone ... named for its sandstone cliffs, Redstone came to life because of vast coal deposits found in 1884 by John Cleveland Osgood. He and other investors founded the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, which became an industry giant. Their mines at Coal Basin, four miles west of Redstone, produced more than a million tons of coal. Osgood was a different brand of capitalist. Instead of taking advantage of underpaid workers, he did quite the opposite, creating Redstone as a model company town with practically utopian conditions. Married men and their families lived in eighty-four Swiss-chalet-style cottages, no two alike. Each two-to-five-room cottage, landscaped with lawns and gardens, had the then-unheard of luxury of electricity and running water. Bachelors lived in a forty-room lodge, now the respected Redstone Inn. Its clubhouse was open to all employees and featured a library and theater, where the company provided drama productions, lectures, and concerts.

His second wife, Alma Regina Shelgram, shared her husband's attitudes toward their employees. Her benevolence to the workers and their families earned her the sobriquet "Lady Bountiful." Osgood allowed a bit of capitalist's luxury for himself, however. He completed a $2.5 million, forty-two-room mansion in 1902. Called Cleveholm Manor, it had walls covered in hand-tooled leather and was filled with elegant furniture designed specifically for the estate.

When Osgood died in 1926, his third wife sold the estate, and eventually the coal mines closed. When author-artist Muriel Sibel Wolle visited Redstone in 1942, it was almost deserted, and the Redstone Inn had only recently opened. Between 1956 and 1991, Coal Basin operated again, with twenty-eight million tons of coal extracted.

The grand Redstone Inn is the most imposing structure in town. Now on the National Register of Historic Places, it has more than doubled in size since its days as the bachelor quarters. If you walk north from the inn, you will pass the 1902 school, several original residences, and many tourist-related businesses. Along the Crystal River, adjacent to the highway going north from Redstone, are slabs and chunks of marble dropped from trains that once went to Carbondale.

Two banks of coke ovens stand along the highway near the south entrance to Redstone. The ovens, which date from the 1890s, utilized a slow-burning, controlled-oxygen process to convert charcoal to coke, which is a longer-lasting fuel than coal.

Source: Ghost Towns of Colorado, Philip Varney, Copyright 1999


Video recorded: September 2006
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Site Gallery - Marble & Redstone Ghost Towns
 

Marble Ghost Town
Marble Ghost Town Marble Ghost Town Marble Ghost Town
Marble Ghost Town Marble Ghost Town Marble Ghost Town
Redstone Ghost Town
Redstone Ghost Town Redstone Ghost Town Redstone Ghost Town

Town of Aspen, Maroon Bells, Ashcroft Ghost Town

Town of Aspen ** Location of Aspen **

Aspen ... Prospectors who had missed out on Leadville's bonanza climbed Independence Pass and went down into a valley along the Roaring Fork in 1879. They found silver float almost immediately and set up a tent camp they called Ute City. In the spring of 1880, promoter, town surveyor, and future mayor Clark Wheeler came to camp. He renamed the place Aspen before returning to Leadville, where his tales of the new camp began a rush to purchase town plots he had ready to sell.

But the glowing review of the camp was no promoter's exaggeration. Lode silver was found in numerous places on Aspen, Red, and Smuggler Mountains. Some mines produced staggering amounts; in 1883, a bedroom-sized chamber in the Enima Mine produced $500,000 alone. That year the country's largest ore body - 140 feet across - was discovered in the Compromise Mine. The Denver & Rio Grande Railroad reached Aspen from Glenwood Springs in 1887, followed a year later by the Colorado Midland, which came from Leadville through the Hagerman Tunnel. Railroads made silver mining much more profitable, because they significantly reduced transportation costs. In 1884, before the railroads, $3.5 million worth of silver was produced. In 1888, that figure rose to $7 million. A year later it approached $10 million.

Aspen basked in the prosperity. It installed the state's first electric streetlights. Its eight thousand citizens could eat in posh restaurants, entertain guests in the opulent Hotel Jerome, enjoy the refinement of a lavish opera house, and take a "Bathing Train" to the warm waters at Glenwood Springs. Then came 1893, the repeal of the Sherman Act, and the precipitous drop in silver's value.

Although Aspen was seriously wounded by the Silver Crash, it did not completely collapse as many silver towns did. Miners took wage cuts and Aspen, however tentatively, held on. In fact, one-sixth of all the silver in the United States produced between 1894 and 1918 came from Aspen. In 1894, the Smuggler Mine produced a nugget of 93 percent pure silver and weighing 2,060 pounds. After 1918, however, Aspen came very close to becoming a ghost town. Its primary appeal was to summer visitors who enjoyed its fishing streams and hiking trails.

Maroon BellsDuring World War II, the skiing Tenth Mountain Division, quartered at Camp Hale north of Leadville, trained on Aspen's slopes. In 1945, Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke and his wife Elizabeth viewed those slopes and saw opportunity. They purchased bargain buildings, many for back taxes, and redecorated the Hotel Jerome. They opened Aspen in 1947 as a ski resort and cultural center. The Paepckes' vision not only saved Aspen but also set a pattern that rescued several other near ghost towns. Downtown Aspen contains many old buildings, but because of all the spiffing up they have received, most don't look old. Two fine examples are the 1889 Jerome Hotel, at Mill and Bleeker, and the 1889 Wheeler Opera House, at Mill and Hyman.


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Ashcroft Ghost Town ** Location of Ashcroft Ghost Town **

Ashcroft ... two prospectors from the new camp called Aspen found silver deposits along Castle Creek and formed their own camp, Castle Forks City, where the two forks of Castle Creek join. The boom year was 1882, when rich ore was found in the Montezuma and Tam O'Shanter mines. The owners received financial backing from Horace Tabor, who had recently become a very rich man in Leadville. In 1883, when Tabor came with his new bride Baby Doe to inspect his holdings, miners enjoyed a twenty-four-hour celebration that included a ball, banquet, and free drinks in the town's twenty saloons.

By then the place was known as Ashcraft, named with a slight variation - for prospector and town promoter T. E. Ashcraft, who had actually founded a short-lived competing camp called Highland. Ashcroft had a school, bowling alley, sawmill, smelter, two newspapers, six hotels, and a population of two thousand, making it larger than Aspen.

Ashcroft's ore bodies were quickly depleted, however, and by 1885 many of its buildings had been moved to Aspen, where major silver strikes attracted miners from all over. Ashcroft was a has-been, home to only a hundred summer residents. It was a ghost town by 1900, although the post office hung on for twelve more years, perhaps by bureaucratic oversight.

During World War II, the town was used for ski training by the Tenth Mountain Division from Camp Hale. After World War II, Stuart Mace, commander of the canine division of the Tenth Mountain Division, returned to Ashcroft to raise and train huskies. Mace and his dogs were featured in the 1950s television series Sergeant Preston of the Yukon with Ashcroft often used as the setting for the show.

Today Ashcroft is being protected and restored by the Aspen Historical Society. One can visit this genuine ghost town, enjoy the site, and leave with the feeling that the town will still be there if one returns years later. That is, unfortunately, seldom the case. The two-story Hotel View is the grandest and most photogenic structure in town. Other buildings include cabins, a mercantile, jail, blacksmith's shop, assay office, laundry, and post office. A saloon is the current headquarters for the historical society, where old photographs, account of the town's history.

Source: Ghost Towns of Colorado, Philip Varney, Copyright 1999


Video recorded: September 2006
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Site Gallery - Town of Aspen, Maroon Bells, Ashcroft Ghost Town
 

Town of Aspen
Town of Aspen Town of Aspen Town of Aspen
Town of Aspen Town of Aspen Town of Aspen
Maroon Bells Wilderness
Maroon Bells Maroon Bells Maroon Bells
Maroon Bells Maroon Bells Maroon Bells
Ashcroft Ghost Town
Ashcroft Ghost Town Ashcroft Ghost Town Ashcroft Ghost Town
Ashcroft Ghost Town Ashcroft Ghost Town Ashcroft Ghost Town
Ashcroft Ghost Town Ashcroft Ghost Town Ashcroft Ghost Town

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