Cripple Creek, Colorado: A Historic Gold Mining Town - WanderWisdom - Travel
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Cripple Creek, Colorado: A Historic Gold Mining Town

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

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

© 2010 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 04, 2020:

Hi Bruce,

I am pleased to know that reading this article brought back memories for you of traveling to Cripple Creek when you were a teenager. It has probably changed little since that time.

Bruce on August 04, 2020:

Well done. I remember visiting Cripple Creek on a family vacation when I was a teenager.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 06, 2018:

Hi Jean,

It sounds like you and your husband enjoyed two fabulous vacations out west. There are so many terrific sites worthy of visiting out there. I'm glad you got to see the places you mentioned in Colorado. Except for Deadwood, I have spent time in all of the other places you mentioned. Good luck getting your article onto WanderWisdom.

Jean Bakula from New Jersey on November 05, 2018:

I never visited Wander Wisdom before, but have an article I want to revise and put here. I saw this lovely piece on Cripple Creek. My husband and I drove out west from NJ twice in our early marriage, and the 2nd time mostly spent it in CO and NM. I loved Cripple Creek, it was so adorable! We got to the top of Pike's Peak in my little Datsun (now Nissan), saw Garden of the Gods, and camped in Rocky Mt. State Park. We spent a few hours in Deadwood too.Camping out west is so much nicer than in the east!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 01, 2017:

Hi Susie,

From what you wrote, I am sure that you would enjoy visiting Cripple Creek. It is a cute little town tucked away in the mountains of Colorado. If a person was to pan for gold...why not do it in a beautiful place! I agree!

Susie Lehto from Minnesota on February 25, 2017:

This looks like the kind of town I would just love to visit to seeing of the historic sights and building. I love the location in the hilly countryside.

I have many times thought it would be kind of fun to go try panning for gold somewhere very beautiful. Don't know that I will ever make to come true.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 24, 2014:

Hello GetitScene,

I have never been to Tombstone, Arizona but it is interesting how places like this show us a glimpse into the past.

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on August 22, 2014:

What a delightful place! Reminds me a little of my visit to Tombstone, Arizona. Like stepping back in time.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 13, 2014:

Hi Always Optimist,

So glad to know that you enjoyed this. Thanks!

Always Optimist from India on February 13, 2014:

Peggy , very beautiful pictures you have put here. Voting up and interesting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on September 30, 2013:

Hi Au fait,

I am so glad that my mother and I got to see the old gold mining town of Cripple Creek. It still had that old rustic appearance and was not all "gussied up" for the tourists. Thanks for the votes and shares.

C E Clark from North Texas on September 29, 2013:

Another place I heard about when I lived in Western Colorado, but I've never been there, or to Colorado Springs. Always went around them. I think there is a lot of skiing in Cripple Creek and that's pretty common all through much of the state. There are of course, lots of old mining towns and ghost towns in Colorado. As always you have excellent photos and I very much enjoyed the tour!

Voted up, interesting and awesome! 5 more stars, pinned to my 'Travel' board, and will share.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on March 23, 2012:

Hi Lisa,

Hope that you enjoy your trip to Cripple Creek, Colorado someday in the near future and find it as interesting as my mother and I did. Thanks for your comment.

Liz Rayen from California on March 22, 2012:

Another fabulous Hub. I love old mining towns and the stories that you hear. I heard of Cripple Creek, But I didn't realize it was in Colorado. I thought it was more midwest. Since Colorado is a little closer to me, I may plan a trip to go check it out! Voted up Peggy! Beautiful!!! Lisa

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on December 29, 2011:

Thank you doggy,

Hope you get your wish to visit Colorado when you are older. Thanks for leaving your comment on this hub about the old gold mining town of Cripple Creek.

Keep studying in school! You will do well with your curiosity about life.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 11, 2011:

Hi again Mike,

I'm not versed enough in knowing about mining to ask intelligent questions. At any time that you wish to add information...even a tiny bit of facts not already shown, please feel free to come back and comment.

Do you live in or near Cripple Creek? Did you or your family have anything to do with the gold mining there?

Mike Miller on October 11, 2011:

you are very welcome, iam a mining history nut, if you have any other qustions, just post em, ill check every once awhile, and ill answer

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 29, 2011:

Hi Mike Miller,

Thank you so much for adding information to this hub about Cripple Creek. Am certain that others reading this will also be interested. We certainly enjoyed visiting there while on vacation!

Mike Miller on August 29, 2011:

Also the pic that says old mining equip, was taken from another mine in the distric. It is used as a mueseum piece now, the mine was the Gold Soveirgn Mine, located where the strip mine is now, was donated by the CC&V Mining Co. Just a lil x tra info!!!!!

Mike Miller on August 29, 2011:

The ore sorting house in the 3rd picture, is the old 1899 sorting house for the molly kathlein mine, its the original house for the mine. This mine connected to 4 other mines, Gold king, COD, CCKN, and one other, NICE PICS

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on February 09, 2011:

Hello Rhietu,

Glad that you found these pictures and descriptions of the historic old gold mining town of Cripple Creek in Colorado interesting. Thanks for your comment.

Rhietu on February 08, 2011:

As for being a nature lover my self I love to capture the everything beautiful outside in my words and pictures .. So admire you fabulous attempt to share the same.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 27, 2010:

Hello kookoo88,

Nice meeting an actual resident of Cripple Creek! We really enjoyed sightseeing in that historic old gold mining town some years ago and taking pictures of the beautiful scenery. Thanks for your comment.

kookoo88 from Cripple Creek on October 27, 2010:

Hi Peggy. I actually live here. It's really cool to see a hub about it. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2010:

Hi frogyfish,

Glad to hear that this hub on Cripple Creek brought back memories of your time spent in Colorado years ago. Nugget hunting in Arizona sounds like fun and beauty is not a bad thing to find anywhere. So it sounds as if you were a winner in that respect! Thanks for the visit and comment.

frogyfish from Central United States of America on October 20, 2010:

Delightful hub on a beautiful town, and brought back memories of many years ago - most if it I had forgotten.

I went 'nugget hunting' this summer in AZ but didn't find anything but beauty! :-)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 20, 2010:

Greetings alertswiftreview,

Glad to hear that you enjoyed the pictures of Cripple Creek in Colorado. Besides this gold mining town there are so many other gorgeous places to visit in that most scenic State. Like you, I'd enjoy more vacations there!

alertswiftreview from USA on October 20, 2010:

All the pics are really amazing; I just love them. This is really a great hub and colorado is very wonderful state. I love to spend my vacation here.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 18, 2010:

Hi Cheryl,

My mother and I certainly enjoyed our trip to Colorado and this side trip to Cripple Creek out of Colorado Springs. Seeing these old gold and silver mining towns in person certainly brings history alive! Thanks for the comment.

Cheryl on October 18, 2010:

A great presentation on the history of gold mining in Cripple Creek. Your photos of the scenery and the Llamas are absolutely beautiful.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 18, 2010:

Greetings Hello, hello,

Happy to hear that your virtual trip to Cripple Creek in Colorado was a treat. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 18, 2010:

Thank you, Peggy, for a wonderful trip. Especially for me it is a real treat..

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 17, 2010:

Hello SteveoMc,

That is wonderful that this hub about Cripple Creek, Colorado could bring back memories of your grandfather's part in driving the mule teams to and from the gold mines. Have you written hubs about that? It would really be interesting!!! Thanks for bringing some personal family history to this hub by way of your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 17, 2010:

Hi nifty@50,

Which of the casinos in Cripple Creek, Colorado was your favorite? As already stated, my mother and I did no gambling but it certainly is an interesting and historic site.

SteveoMc from Pacific NorthWest on October 17, 2010:

Thanks so much for this. It is amazing, but my grandfather who has been dead many years, drove a mule team in Cripple Creek for the mines. He had so many stories and was the most wonderful man. I would sit on his lap when I was 6 or 7 years old, he would peel an apple and tell his stories and slice the apples into cart wheels. This hub brought this all back to me in a rush of wonderful memories.

He always called canned meats 'mule meat.'

nifty@50 on October 17, 2010:

I've done some gambling there, thanks for sharing some of the other sites & history! Great hub!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 17, 2010:

Hi Tom Rubenoff,

It is nice that many of the original structures in Cripple Creek, Colorado are now still being utilized. I agree with you! Thanks for the visit and comment.

Tom rubenoff from United States on October 17, 2010:

What a great article! I love places with history still standing in the architecture.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 16, 2010:

Hi sarovai,

The donkeys probably pulled wagons full of the gold ore...probably even teams of donkeys. I guess if the mines were small enough, the first miners probably had them individually carry sacks full of the gold. In any case, wild donkeys are now a part of the scenery around Cripple Creek and other nearby places in Colorado. Thanks for the visit and comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 16, 2010:

Hi dahoglund,

No I did not find out about the origin of the name Cripple Creek in Colorado. That might be a good hub for you to research since you know of other towns with the same name. You are good at that! Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 16, 2010:

Greetings Ken R. Abell,

Happy to hear that you found this Cripple Creek, Colorado hub informative and interesting. Thanks for the comment and vote up. :-)

sarovai on October 16, 2010:

Peggy W , thank u for the information you shared about the gold mining areas. It is interesting that donkey's were used to carry the gold ore. Photo's are very nice.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 16, 2010:

Hi Micky Dee,

You are right! That mountain descent into Cripple Creek, Colorado would be great on a bike as well as a four-wheeler...although there are parts of it that might be a bit bumpy for bike riders. The scenery would be fun however. Colorado has many areas that are great for hiking and biking! Thanks for the comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on October 16, 2010:

Hello WannaB Writer,

I would agree with you that Colorado is a favorite state...one of many that has so much natural beauty. I have written a few hubs about our travel experiences there and still have more to write. Like you, there is much of the state that we have not yet seen, but would like to do so sometime. Glad you liked this hub about Cripple Creek. Thanks for the comment.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on October 16, 2010:

Very good!What has always gotten my attention about town history and especially frontier towns is the origin of names, There are cripple creeks in other states as well, and even a song.Did you run across how the town got its name?

Ken R. Abell from ON THE ROAD on October 16, 2010:

Very interesting & informative. Thank you. Great pictures. Thumbs up rating to be sure.

Micky Dee on October 16, 2010:

You've done it again! My you are so good! The pics were awesome. You might even mention this would be a great mountain bike descent that you have on the video. Bless you Peggy!

Barbara Radisavljevic from Templeton, CA on October 15, 2010:

Colorado is one of my favorite states, and I've visited it to both work and play. We took the Ouray mine tour, but did not get to Cripple Creek. You have made me want to go. I've read some of the autobiographies of Cripple Creek pioneer women, but not of the women you mentioned. Great job on this hub.