Friday, June 19, 2009
Cripple Creek, CO
Cripple Creek, CO was a sleepy cattle town on the southwest slopes of Pikes Peak Mountain at an elevation of over 9000 feet. That all ended in 1891 when gold was discovered and the town became the center of a massive hunt for buried treasure. By 1900, it was a unique cultural and economic center for the region.
As so often happens, when the rush was over the town found itself struggling for a new identity. It found itself in a new kind of Gold rush-casinos. When we arrived after a pleasant drive through the mountains, if sometimes harrowing for the steep curves and the need to dodge the roaming cattle, we found a small town that at first seemed to be booming with all the old store fronts doing well. You quickly find out that this is a bit misleading as behind those fronts there are only extensive casinos waiting to lighten your purse. The whole town is now literally these gambling establishments.
Nevertheless we enjoyed walking the streets and looking thru the gaming places. We also had a very good lunch in town before heading to the heritage center across from the Mollie Kathleen Mine. Here you can catch up on the history of the area and enjoy still more spectacular views. We then headed to the mine for a tour of a real gold mine that was in operation from the late 1800’s until the 1950’s. You drop down in a very narrow mine shaft to the lowest level of the mine, which is 1000 feet from the surface. The guide was very good and explained and demonstrated the many hardships of working in this mine before current mining rules were in place. About 10% of the work force suffered some kind of injury nearly every day with numerous deaths from the harsh conditions.
One of the major reasons for these shaft mine closures was the development of new and improved?? procedures that started the practice of strip mining the entire mountain. We will head to a nearby town to check on this kind of operation next.
Even if you have no interest in gambling, the scenery and gold mine tour are well worth the visit.