Sunday, August 7, 2016

Red Mountain Mining District & Silverton, CO (7/20/2016)

In the early 1880s, an area of roughly eight square miles nestled among the Red Mountains became home to more than 3000 people in six mining towns.  Hundreds of buildings and all the expected facilities for that time were constructed in short order.  While several of the towns had one or more mines, others developed primarily to provide supplies and other support for the mining towns.  Fire departments, water systems and other types of infrastructure were implemented.  Most of those structures have totally disappeared, but the remains of others give us a little insight into the life and times of the mining boom.

Red Mountain Creek carries most of the drainage from this area.  Like the mountains it's named for, the creek has a reddish color from all the iron oxide resulting from exposed iron ore.
Crystal Lake is always a nice stop for a view of the three Red Mountains.  When there is no wind, the lake provides great reflections of the mountains.
The mining district was located across a gorge from what is now the Million Dollar Highway.  The remains of the several mines are scattered around the mountainsides, along with many piles of tailings that remain after ore is crushed and the valuable minerals extracted.

The Yankee Girl Mine was one of the best producers in all of Colorado. It was started in 1882 to remove a massive vein of silver that had been discovered.  Since the vein was primarily vertical, the Yankee Girl's main shaft was vertical and descended 1200 feet into the mountain.  Most other mine shafts in the area were sloped.  The rich ore from this mine would be valued at more than $100 million today, but a drop in the price of silver led to the mine's closure in 1898.

Even this late in the year, snow melt produces some significant streams and waterfalls.

Late for lunch, we hustled on to Silverton to find a restaurant and do a little window shopping.  One of my favorite towns, Silverton sits at an altitude of 9400 feet and is a great tourist stop, primarily because of the Durango-Silverton Railroad that brings thousands to the town almost every day.  We chose one of the better restaurants, called Handlbars, but had a short wait because a trainload of people had arrived in town shortly before we did.
Once at our table, we enjoyed sumptuous ribs with all the fixings, not to mention the unique ambience of the place.

After lunch, we strolled the main Street and explored some of the buildings.  It was nice to see locals dressed in period clothes as they walked the streets.
All buildings in the town are of Victorian style with a variety of bright colors, even the ones built recently.  The town closely controls construction to ensure its charm is preserved. 

After a successful shopping spree, it was late enough that we decided to return to Montrose.  That evening, while sipping wine and relaxing on the patio, we enjoyed the sunset at the end of a fine day.

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