This was our first view of the high 9,494 foot valley of Cripple Creek, Colorado, called the "World's Greatest Gold Camp." In 1890, a local rancher, Robert Miller Womack, discovered a rich gold ore on his land, and the last great Colorado gold rush began. Thousands of prospectors flocked to the region and in three years the population increased from five hundred to ten thousand. At its peak in 1900 over 500 mines dotted the area, and in 71 years of operation 21 million ounces of gold were produced--more gold than the gold rushes in California and Alaska!
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A placard at the Heritage Center overlook shows the locations of many of the famous gold mines in the area of Cripple Creek. One can also drive a 131 mile Colorado Scenic Byway Gold Belt Tour in this area. Four wheel drive is required in certain parts of the byway which is unpaved. The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, can be accessed from the byway, where there are some of the richest and most diverse prehistoric fossil deposits in the world, such as those of an ancient red wood forest, insects and plants.
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This placard shows "Poverty Gulch" area where Womack made the first gold discovery.
The free Cripple Creek Heritage Center, located at 9283 South Highway 67, is worth a visit, as it is full of fascinating exhibits about the Cripple Creek area's Gold Rush era, as well as information about the region's rich geologic and prehistoric history, the Native Americans who lived here, and recreational opportunities in the area. I loved seeing the displays of vintage photographs from the early mining era.
After the Gold Rush era ended and production in the mines almost completely ended, Cripple Creek's population slowly dwindled until it was basically a ghost town. In 1991, Colorado voters allowed Cripple Creek to establish legalized gambling and many of the vacant historic buildings became casinos. The casinos have been successful in bringing back tourists and revenue to the area.
There are attractions in and around the town, and we know we will have to return one day to partake in more of them. The Mollie Kathleen Mine has the world's only 1,000 foot vertical gold mine tour. One can ride the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gage Railroad, a narrated four mile forty five minute steam engine railroad trip past many historic mines and beautiful scenery, or hike one of the many trails in the area, or take a free shuttle bus ride from casino to casino in the town.
Since my husband and I are not gamblers we enjoyed strolling around the town to visit\ its shops and ...
...reading the stories about the historic buildings pasts. Click on each photo collage to enlarge them to read about them.
These were just a few of the historic buildings in Cripple Creek. After having lunch in a cafe, we continued on to our next destination, happy to have had a visit to Cripple Creek and to learn of its interesting history.
Our drive further west took us through areas of beautiful scenery....
....and the beginnings of autumnal tree colors, in September of last year.
We were on our way to Canon City to take a ride on the Royal Gorge Railroad...come back next post to see more.
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