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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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Fourth page - Colorado National Monument, Cisco Ghost Town, La Sal Loop, Dead Horse SP, Canyonlands & Arches NPs
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Seventh page - Arizona Ghost Towns: Oatman, Chloride, Vulture Mine, Stanton
*** Colorado ***
*** Independence & Vicksburg Ghost Towns ***
*** Town of Leadville ***
*** Gilman & Red Cliff Ghost Towns ***
        Travel Route
        Independence Ghost Town
        Site Gallery - Independence Ghost Town
        Vicksburg Ghost Town
        Site Gallery - Vicksburg Ghost Town
        Town of Leadville and LC&S RR
        Site Gallery - Town of Leadville and LC&S RR
        Red Cliff & Gilman Ghost Towns
        Site Gallery - Red Cliff & Gilman Ghost Towns
Independence Ghost Town

Independence Pass ** Location of Independence **

Independence ... Leadville miner Billy Belden led a group of prospectors over Independence Pass in 1879. Finding good placer deposits in the Roaring Fork River not far beyond the pass, they set up a tent camp and named it Belden. On the Fourth of July of that year, they struck pay dirt and named the claim Independence.

The town's name of Belden didn't last long, and new monikers were adopted so regularly that the Rocky Mountain News once glibly announced, “This is about the fourth change. It is expected to hold good for a week or ten days “. Writer Caroline Bancroft chronicled the changes succinctly, calling the town "Belden - Independence - Chipeta – Sidney – Farwell – Sparkhill - Mammoth City - Mount Hope – Chipeta - Independence."

Independence PassWhatever its name, the town was both a mining camp and a stagecoach layover stop. Within a few years, however, the ore had given out, and the railroad had reached Aspen, making travel over the pass unnecessary. By 1888, the population of Independence was only a hundred. By 1900, only Jack Williams, caretaker of the mill, remained. When he left in 1912, Independence was dead.

Independence (at 10,830 ft..) today is enjoyable because, like Ashcroft, it is being carefully preserved and cautiously restored by the Aspen Historical Society in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. On the east end of the site are four cabins, ranging from mere foundations to remnants six or seven logs high. In the center of town, three buildings are under roof, and a cabin ruin stands across the Roaring Fork River. A large hewn-log general store serves as town headquarters. Four roofless but restorable cabins stand nearby. The intern's cabin is west of the general store.

Independence Pass and the majestic Rocky Mountains ...

Independence Pass

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


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

Vicksburg Ghost Town

Vicksburg Ghost Town ** Location of Vicksburg Ghost Town **

Vicksburg ... was founded in 1879 when gold and silver were discovered along Clear Creek. The town, named for storekeeper Vick Keller, featured a school, two saloons and billiard parlors, two hotels, and a boarding house, along with many log cabin residences. The post office, called Vicksburgh, lasted from 1881 until 1885, about the time the precious metals of the area gave out.

The main road (FR 390) now bypasses Vicksburg, but one can still visit this lovely little town by parking at the Vicksburg Museum's lot and walking in. This way is rather like backing into town, because once you come to the front of the museum, you will also see Vicksburg's main street, shaded by rows of Balm of Gilead trees, which were packed in by burros during the town's heyday. Six well-maintained old cabins posted against trespassing and privately owned (some by descendants of the original miners) line the north side of the street.

The museum, opened weekends and holidays by the Clear Creek Canyon Historical Society, is located in the Shephard House and recreates a mining-era home. On the museum's grounds are interesting artifacts, such as a tram drum, ore cars, wagons, a smelter pot, and a gold rocker (a device used to separate gold from its surrounding material).

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


Video recorded: September 2006
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Site Gallery - Vicksburg Ghost Town
 

Vicksburg Ghost Town Vicksburg Ghost Town Vicksburg Ghost Town
Vicksburg Ghost Town Vicksburg Ghost Town Vicksburg Ghost Town
Vicksburg Ghost Town Vicksburg Ghost Town Vicksburg Ghost Town

Town of Leadville and LC&S RR

LC&S RRLeadville, Colorado & Southern (LC&S) ... Welcome aboard Colorado's newest passenger railroad, the Leadville, Colorado & Southern (LC&S).Enjoy a leisurely ride on the grade of the former Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad (DSP&P). The fabled "South Park," also called the "Seldom Punctual," was chartered in 1873. Construction started from Denver in 1874 and track finally reached Leadville in 1884. The route selected by the DSP&P meandered back and forth, crossing the Continental Divide twice before reaching Leadville, the highest incorporated city in Colorado. One hundred and four years later, the LC&S began carrying passengers on the remaining South Park track between Leadville and Climax.

The LC&S leaves the Leadville depot, elevation 10,200 feet, and gradually climbs a little over 900 feet along the southern side of the upper Arkansas River Valley almost to the summit of Fremont Pass. The route winds through beautiful aspen, lodgepole pine, spruce and fir forests. Travel is slow enough that wildflowers growing along the track may be thoroughly enjoyed, especially during July and August. Other delights of the trip are chances to see deer, elk, coyotes, marmots, rabbits, ground squirrels, pikas, and chipmunks.

Spectacular views of the glaciated upper Arkansas Valley and the high peaks of the Continental Divide make for many photographic opportunities. The open pit of the world's largest molybdenum mine at Climax is also visible from an unusual perspective. Abandoned mine dumps and prospectors' holes left from the mining boom of earlier years stand as forbidding reminders of Leadville's rich heritage.

Between 1884 and 1937, trains carried passengers back and forth to Denver on narrow gauge coaches, and freight trains carried gold and silver ore, coal, lumber, supplies, food and molybdenum concentrates. After 1937, the C&S carried molybdenum concentrates in wooden barrels assembled at Climax. Later, bulk cars and 55 gallon drums were used. Supplies shipped to Climax included bulk cars of caustic, pebbles for grinding (from France and Texas), mining equipment, sodium silicate, pine oil and Dow froth. This traffic lasted until October, 1986, when the last run from Climax was made. So step back in history and enjoy your trip on the LC&S Railroad, the last remaining section of the old "South Park.".

Source: High Line to Leadville, Doris B. Osterwald, a RR brochure
More information on LC&S RR: http://www.leadville-train.com/index.htm

Leadville ... legendary for its triumphs and tragedies. In 1860, a group of prospectors discovered placer gold in what they optimistically named California Gulch. The camp they founded was also named in hopeful expectation: Oro City. The gulch gave up a few million dollars in gold before its placers played out and people drifted away. In the late 1860s, a quartz lode was developed at the Printer Boy Mine, but again the excitement was short lived.

In the summer of 1877, however, a real bonanza was discovered around the corner from Oro City. The strike was not gold, but silver. Leadville, named for the lead carbonate in which the ore was found, came to life two miles northwest of Oro City. The first huge returns came from the Little Pittsburg Mine early in 1878. Its riches began the storied rise and eventual fall - of one of Colorado's most famous citizens: Horace Austin Warner Tabor.

Tabor and his wife, Augusta, had arrived in Idaho Springs early in the rush to Clear Creek. While Tabor pursued placer deposits, Augusta opened a bakery. When they later moved to Buckskin Joe, Tabor worked a claim but also opened a grocery store, and his wife took in boarders. Eventually Tabor became the postmaster of Buckskin Joe. The couple's businesses, not their mining claims, paid their bills. Later, they went to Oro City, and then Leadville, where the Tabors again had a store. A highly respected citizen, Horace was elected Leadville's first mayor. In addition to his official duties and his store, he occasionally grubstaked prospectors.

Among the prospectors to whom Tabor gave supplies were George Hook and August Rische, who by sheer chance (legend says they selected where to dig because it was in the shade) found a silver vein that became the Little Pittsburg. Tabor's share made him rich. From there he seemed to make one uncanny financial investment after another until he was one of the West's wealthiest multimillionaires, lavishly spending vast sums and financing, among other projects, Leadville's Tabor Grand Hotel and Tabor Opera House.

Elizabeth McCourt Doe was called "Baby Doe" by admiring miners in Black Hawk. A divorcee when she came to Leadville, she met Horace Tabor in an elegant restaurant. Their subsequent relationship, secret marriage, and his divorce from his faithful wife Augusta scandalized the Colorado social scene. (Augusta was given $300,000 in the divorce settlement - a paltry sum, considering that the Tabors were worth an estimated $9.4 million.)

Tabor and Baby Doe lived in high style until overspending, ill-advised investments, and the 1893 Silver Crash brought them to financial ruin. They, who had once reigned over Leadville, left for the obscurity of Ward. In 1898, Tabor was granted an appointment as Denver's postmaster. He died there, destitute, the following year. Before he died, Tabor advised Baby Doe that whatever she did, she should hold onto a Leadville mine called the Matchless. Though worthless at the time, he was convinced this mine would eventually pay off and solve the couple's financial woes. Baby Doe returned to Leadville, remembering her husband's deathbed advice, and moved into a tiny shack at the deserted and run-down Matchless operation. Baby Doe became a proud but pathetic figure in Leadville, "paying" for necessities with worthless promissory notes to sympathetic shopkeepers and refusing the charity offered by others. In March 1935, after a particularly heavy snowstorm, people grew concerned that they had not seen her. They found her frozen body, clad in rags, on the floor of her cabin.

Incidentally, Augusta Tabor, although bitter and hurt by her divorce, carefully invested her settlement. When she died in 1895 at the age of sixty-two, she left an estate of about $1.5 million, making her one of Denver's wealthiest women. In its history, Colorado has produced more silver than any other state. Leadville alone was responsible for an astonishing one-third of that total, an estimated $113 million. The Silver Crash of 1893 nearly doomed the city, but it hung on with the discovery of gold in the Little Jonny Mine in the 1890s. In 1901, lead and zinc production kept the town alive. During Prohibition, Leadville's countless mine shafts hid stills that supplied liquor to Denver. During World War II, the construction of Camp Hale beyond Tennessee Pass created hundreds of jobs, and for a while Leadville's hotels, boarding houses, trailers, and even its former brothels were completely occupied. Later, molybdenum mining at nearby Climax helped the Leadville economy. Everything after 1893, however, has been stopgap. Leadville's true glory days ended more than a century ago.

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


Video recorded: September 2006
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Site Gallery - Town of Leadville and LC&S RR
 

Leadville, Colorado & Southern RR
LC&S RR LC&S RR LC&S RR
Town of Leadville
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LC&S RR LC&S RR LC&S RR

Red Cliff & Gilman Ghost Towns

Red Cliff Ghost Town ** Location of Red Cliff & Gilman **

Red Cliff ... Mining at the junction of Turkey Creek and the Eagle River brought a tent city to life in 1879 as the Leadville excitement spread in all directions. A post office was granted in 1880 as Red Cliff, named for the nearby bluffs colored by hematite. That tent city celebrated the erection of a sawmill as if it were a guarantee of permanence. On St. Patrick's Day, the first log was sawn, then tied to the back of a burro and decorated with evergreens in honor of the day. The burro and its festooned board then headed a parade through town. Afterward, everyone got drunk, including the burro.

By the fall of 1881, the town was a railroad stop along the Denver & Rio Grande and featured five hotels, a brass band, and a local acting company. Despite three fires in only one month in 1883, the town continued to grow. A community of 250 in 1880, it reached 400 within a few years. Although it did not have spectacular times, it had steady ones. When the last mine closed in 1977, the Red Cliff area had produced paying ore for almost a century.

You enter Red Cliff on what was the old highway prior to construction of the high bridge over the Eagle River. Among the historic structures in town are the 1881 Presbyterian church and, across the street, the combination town hall and volunteer fire department. The Red Cliff School, which now houses a small museum, stands on a hill across the Eagle River.

Gilman ... was founded in 1886 by miners who worked there but lived in Red Cliff. Tired of the twice-a-day hike, they created a camp nearer their claims. Variously known as Clinton, Battle Mountain, and Rock Creek, the town became Gilman in honor of Henry M. Gilman, who represented the town's investors. The primary metal found around Gilman in those days was silver, except at the Ground Hog Mine, which yielded gold in nugget form. The town's population reached three hundred in 1899, but a fire that year destroyed half of the buildings in Gilman, including a hotel, the school, many homes and businesses, and the shaft house of the Bell Mine.

The Empire Zinc Company bought up claims about the time of World War I and centralized them into one large underground mine. To reach it, workers walked a long, zigzagging trail from Gilman down more than seven hundred feet where an entrance stood trackside along the Eagle River.

Gilman became a company town and many new houses were built in the 1940s as the population rose to about five hundred. The town also featured a barber shop, market, bowling alley, company store, seven-bed hospital, and a clubhouse fashioned from the old opera house.

Life was hardly idyllic, however. The mine, one of the lowest paying in the country, suffered from labor strikes. The company ceased zinc production in 1977, but a modest copper and silver operation remained. In 1985, all production discontinued, and the few remaining residents were given ninety-day eviction notices.

In its ninety-nine years of mining, Gilman produced 12.8 million tons of ore, principally zinc, but also lead, copper, silver, and gold. Gilman today is closed to the public and posted against trespassing. Fences, stout locks, and a caretaker discourage anyone who attempts to enter. According to a former resident, vandals have taken a heavy toll on the buildings.

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


Video recorded: September 2006
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Site Gallery - Red Cliff & Gilman Ghost Town
 

Red Cliff Ghost Town
Red Cliff Ghost Town Red Cliff Ghost Town Red Cliff Ghost Town
Red Cliff Ghost Town Red Cliff Ghost Town Red Cliff Ghost Town
Red Cliff Ghost Town Red Cliff Ghost Town Red Cliff Ghost Town
Gilman Ghost Town
Gilman Ghost Town

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