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Cripple Creek, Colorado: A Historic Gold Mining Town

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Cripple Creek, Colorado

Cripple Creek, Colorado

Striking It Rich!

The rustic gold mining town of Cripple Creek in Colorado has a long and interesting history—one with which my mother and I wished to acquaint ourselves while on vacation one year. I took many pictures that will be shared in this post so that virtual web visitors can gain an insight into this historic Colorado town.

Many fortunate people back in the late 1800s struck it rich finding bountiful deposits of gold in Cripple Creek. Some lucky individuals might still do so today but in a different way that has little to do with that shiny ore.

Our base of operation for several days of vacationing was Colorado Springs, and Cripple Creek was an easy day's drive back and forth into the majestic countryside of beautiful Colorado.

The Lure of Gold

Were it not for the lure of gold and the hopes of striking it rich, this part of Colorado (Cripple Creek and surrounding area) may never have become as developed as it did in the late 1800s.

  • Everything suddenly changed when the word of Robert Miller "Bob" Womack's gold discovery became known in 1890.
  • The largest gold discovery in United States history took place in this region and it was known as the Independence Lode.

Because of the sudden flurry of interested parties all trying to find their "mother lode" of gold, by 1893 some 10,000 people had settled there making it a huge population center in the State of Colorado.

The town of Cripple Creek grew even larger to eventually hold about 35,000 people at one point and had numerous taverns, newspapers, churches, prostitutes and even an opera house. It had a rough and ready atmosphere mixed with that of refinement.

One interesting thing about Cripple Creek is that except for the main road, most of the other streets including the majority of the residential areas are all unpaved.

Railroads

The railroads which linked these smaller and larger towns and cities of Colorado together made it feasible to move the ore out by rail car to places where the gold could be refined and utilized in various ways. Tourists can ride the Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad today and see the scenic topography of the area if desired.

Cripple Creek sits at an elevation of 9,494 feet and is in south central Colorado located near the base of the mountain called Pike's Peak.

Pioneer Women

There were many upstanding women who were pioneers in their own right who came to Cripple Creek during the gold rush days. This included one of the first lawyers, a doctor and even the first woman in history to have a gold mining operation in her name. The video below explains this in more detail.

If one is so inclined one can tour the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine which takes one underground to a depth of 1,000 feet. My mother and I took a pass on that opportunity.

Gold Mining and Donkeys

Open pit mining still takes place in the surrounding area. From what I have read almost all of the underground gold mines have been exhausted and closed except for the one that is open for tours.

In the old days many donkeys were used to transport the gold ore to the rail lines. Over time many escaped and are now acclimated to living in the wild in these parts of Colorado. They are quite tame as this accompanying video shows.

Fire and Winds of Change

Almost one-third of Cripple Creek buildings were decimated by fires in 1896 and when rebuilt bricks were utilized instead of wood. Many of those brick buildings still stand today in this old gold mining town.

Breathing New Life Into Cripple Creek

Once gold mining was no longer profitable Cripple Creek almost became a ghost town and by the 1970s to the 1980s only a few hundred people continued to live there. Legalized gambling was approved in the early 1990s and that gave the town of Cripple Creek new life.

The nice thing about the casinos is that they have been incorporated into these original old west buildings and the appearance of the vintage gold mining town remains much as it always was from the early days.

My mother and I were more interested in just seeing the historic gold mining town and surrounding scenery than we were in viewing the casinos so did not venture inside to see them. For people who like to gamble there are many places in Cripple Creek in which one can part with one's hard earned money.

Scenery Including Llamas

The scenery from Colorado Springs to Cripple Creek and back was just lovely! My mother and I enjoyed stopping at a llama farm called Stage Stop Llamas. Spinning, weaving and knitting supplies were advertised. When I was taking some photos the llamas seemed to be as interested in us as we were in looking at them.

Hope that you enjoyed your visit to the historic gold mining town of Cripple Creek, Colorado via the information, pictures and videos in this post. Looking forward to your comments below. Thanks!

Cripple Creek, Colorado

Sources:

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2010 Peggy Woods

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