Following A Drop: Part 3

By Hannes Zacharias Dear Colorado Central reader, I made it. I completed my 2,000-mile kayak journey to rediscover the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers; a repeat (in part) of the trip I did 42 years ago. It was a challenging, energizing and rewarding adventure. When last we visited, I was departing Webber Falls, Oklahoma, heading for …

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Following A Drop: One Man’s Mission to Trace the Arkansas River from Leadville to The Gulf of Mexico, Part 2

In part one of this series last month, we introduced the effort by Hannes Zacharias of Lexana, Kansas, to follow a drop of water from the headwaters of the Arkansas River in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. He is making the trip mostly by kayak, but as you’ll read in the following account, he’s …

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Following A Drop: One Man’s Mission to Trace the Arkansas River from Leadville to The Gulf of Mexico, Part 1

By Mike Rosso Hannes Zacharias is on a mission. But the 64-year-old resident of Lexana, Kansas is not on just any mission. He is currently in the process of “following a drop of water” from the headwaters of the Arkansas River in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. And why would he take on such …

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River Town

By Craig Nelson   In winter, the rocks at the bottom are what we see first, drawing us under the scalloped patterns, then cottonwoods resplendent with fractured light, and lovely breezes, and the water flows timeless past the rail yard littered with rusted iron and coal dust from the days when the mountains swarmed with …

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Places – Hawkinsville: An Obscure Ghost Town

These are just a few of the cabins at Low Pass, located in Low Pass Gulch north of Hawkinsville. Those living in these cabins worked at the Granite Tunnel, at the Belle of Granite stamp mill or at one of the area mines.

Story and photos by Kenneth Jessen

On the east side of the Arkansas River, north of the town of Granite, were several small mining camps based on the discovery of gold ore in 1860s. Historically obscure, they are only mentioned in passing in ghost town books. Hawkinsville, in Hawkinsville Gulch, was not really a town and more of a named location. There are a few scattered cabin ruins today, but there were probably many more during its peak.

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Touring (and Arguing) The Great Railroad War

By Forrest Whitman

Lots of the railroad history around Central Colorado is fun to discuss and argue about. The great railroad war (1878-1890) was a fierce fight. The contenders were General William Jackson Palmer’s Denver and Rio Grande Railroad versus the Santa Fe Railroad led by William Barstow Strong and Thomas Nickerson. The reader is invited to revisit the sites of the battles.

The first battle: A fine way to look at this site is to take the Southwest Chief passenger rain. As that train crawls up Raton Pass, I recommend getting a beverage and scanning out the sightseer lounge car window. Near the summit there’s still a sign erected by the Santa Fe Railroad. It’s announcing the site of “Uncle Dick Wootton’s place.”

This opening skirmish was fought in the very early morning of February 27, 1878. As the name of his line says, Palmer wanted to build south to the Rio Grande. The Santa Fe coveted the same territory.

The law was on the side of which railroad could lay track in the pass first. This battle should have gone to Palmer. He had interests in southern Colorado for a long time and had built rail here. Why didn’t he claim the pass long before 1878?

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Mine Spills Not That Rare

By Christopher Kolomitz

When the Gold King Mine blew out in southwestern Colorado above Silverton in early August, it sent millions of gallons of toxic sludge into the Animas River, turning the popular river orange and prompting closure of the waterway. 

The blowout reminded Central Colorado residents of two eerily similar incidents that fouled the Arkansas River in 1983 and 1985. The toxic discharges on the local river occurred in a period of time when the Environmental Protection Agency was beginning Superfund clean-up of old mines around Leadville. The culprit of both discharges was the Yak Tunnel, which was one of three constructed to drain mines in the district.

Leading up to Superfund designation, the years of inaction were becoming a public health emergency. Drainage ditches in Leadville neighborhoods were turned orange or red because of the heavy metals coming from the historical mines. Annual discharge from the Yak Tunnel was pumping 210 tons of heavy metals into California Gulch, which was then reaching the river, according to the EPA. 

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A Day on the River that Ended in a Death

By C.C. Havens – Writers on the Range I keep thinking about Mary, a woman I never met. I Googled her name looking for her obituary, but I kept getting the same headlines of the articles I’ve already read too many times: “Woman dies in Pine Creek rafting accident.” “Texas woman drowns while rafting the …

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REGIONAL NEWS ROUNDUP (and other items of interest)

River Claims Victims The summer of 2014 has seen multiple fatalities on the Arkansas River, including the death of a Vernal, Utah woman who disappeared after a raft she was a passenger on went over a spillway just north of Salida during an evening float trip on June 28. Amanda Taylor, 31, was found four …

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Of Boomtimes Past: The Road to Wellsville

By Ron Sering

Not much goes on these days in sparsely populated Wellsville, a few miles east of Salida, off U.S. Hwy 50. Home now to a couple of modest mining and milling operations and several private residences, the booms that had periodically rippled through the state have passed it by for many years. But that was not always the case.

There is some evidence that Native Americans once spent winters in the area, but Wellsville, the town, was founded in the late 1800s by namesake George Wells. Drawn by the area’s mineral wealth, miners worked the dry hills and canyons for gold, silver, copper, and quick lime, but most prominently for travertine, a sedimentary rock commonly formed from the action of hot springs. Prized as a building material since Roman times, travertine from Wellsville quarries was used in numerous public building projects, including the state Capitol in Denver and the Department of Commerce building in Washington D.C.

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The Box Canyon Mine

By Ron Sering

The steep hill at the mouth of Box Canyon across from the Wellsville bridge, just off U.S. Hwy. 50 east of Salida is a hard landmark to miss. Just below the summit is a massive hole that when the light is right, appears to be barred shut by some sort of fence.

Exploring seemed like a good idea until about halfway up, when the scrub brush hillside gave way to fields of sharp and loose scree. They were tailings, it turned out, a product of the mining activity that took place off and on over a 70-year period.

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Arkansas Traveler: Fall Fishing for Brown Trout

Dateline – Near Salida and Cañon City, Colorado. It seems counterintuitive, a misnomer. The Arkansas River heads in the high country of southern Colorado, and a portion of northern New Mexico. It’s the fourth longest river in the United States, obviously named for an encounter in its namesake state. But it seems like it ought to be called something else, like the “Rio Truchas” or “Boulder River” or “Pike’s River.” Its moniker doesn’t fit, here at least. Zebulon Pike passed through here under Jefferson’s watch in his zealous attempt at exploring the then-northern Spanish colony. Pike got arrested for his endeavor, and in the complex outcome, was paroled in Mexico. For it all, he got a peak named after him; its waters feed the Arkansas.

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Reviving the Palace

New Beginnings in Salida for a 100-year-old Hotel

By Mike Rosso

With the hiss of brakes and a jolt, you’ve arrived. It’s been a long, noisy journey from Kansas City, but now you can get some rest, a cold beverage and a hot meal.

Claiming your luggage from the porter, you step into the slightly chilly evening air and walk over a bridge with the deafening sound of a river at peak runoff below. You head towards the bright lights of town and within a block, you’ve found accommodations. Entering a hotel lobby you line up with other weary travelers at the register, eager to check in. The lobby is full of chatter and men smoking stogies. Several glance up from their seats but quickly go back to reading the Salida Mail.

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How Christo’s critics can change your mind

by Ed Quillen

The first time I heard of “Over the River” was about the time Martha and I started this magazine, circa 1994. Christo and Jeanne Claude held a meeting in Salida, which I didn’t attend because I didn’t care.

So what if some loopy artist proposed to suspend fabric panels across the Arkansas River for a few days? It’s not as though the valley between Salida and Cañon City is a pristine wilderness or immaculate wildlife refuge.

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Fly Fishing with the Buddha

by Hayden Mellsop

“Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.” – Dalai Lama

With these words, the Dalai Lama has once more thrown into doubt and confusion my sense of myself as a compassionate caring human being who happens to enjoy fly fishing. I have spent many years as a guide both here in Colorado, and in my home country of New Zealand. Fly fishing for me is a way for me to relax, make a living, and celebrate the beauty, intricacies and inter connectedness of Mother Nature.

Of the many aspects that keep me coming back to the river, rod in hand to ‘try my luck’ as the saying goes, the principal one is that you never know from day to day how the fish will respond to your advances. This serves as a constant reminder that despite the fact that we can read all the books, espouse all the theories and buy all the gear, ultimately we are interacting with and delving into rhythms and cycles of nature of which we have scant knowledge, and that is the way it should be.

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Central Colorado Gems: Chaffee County’s Heritage Area and Collegiate Peaks Scenic Byway

by Alan Robinson- Chaffee County Heritage Area Advisory Board member

Concern for preserving “heritage resources” (the collective natural, cultural, historic and scenic features which define an area’s sense of place) in Chaffee County took a front seat in 2004 when its county commissioners ambitiously declared the whole county a heritage area. They also appointed an 11-member Advisory Board representing public land managers, historical societies, towns, ranchers, local nature associations and the general public, and charged us not only with identifying heritage, but with educating our fellow citizens about its value in social, ecological and economic terms, and with planning how heritage can be managed to preserve and perpetuate those values. Board members volunteer their services but, recognizing future administrative and technical services, the commissioners also appointed non-profit Greater Arkansas River Nature Association (GARNA, and its director as the board’s executive arm.

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The Art of Christo and Jeanne-Claude: An Overview

by Keith Howard

Editors note: Christo’s proposed project for the Arkansas River, Over the River, has generated passionate discussion since its conception and much has been written for and against the project.

We decided to take a look at the career of the controversial artist, his works, and the challenges of displaying public art on such a vast scale.

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Singing a song of the river

Brief by Central Staff

Arkansas River – April 2008 – Colorado Central Magazine

The mess at the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel has inspired a lot of talk, and now there’s a song: “Save the Arkansas,” written and recorded by folksinger Gabrielle Louise. At press time, it could be downloaded in mp3 format from

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As natural as Mt. Rushmore

Essay by Ed Quillen

Arkansas River – September 2007 – Colorado Central Magazine

SOME OF THE OBJECTIONS to Christo and Jeanne- Claude’s proposed “Over the River” project are based on practical considerations, such as “Can this area accommodate the expected horde of visitors?” and “How much will traffic on U.S. 50 be delayed during the assembly and disassembly of the project?”

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It’s a different river on the other end

Brief by Central Staff

Arkansas River – September 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

For those of us familiar with only the uppermost portion of the 1,459-mile Arkansas River, the news of May 26 was close to astonishing. Up here (especially this year), the river won’t carry anything bigger than a 20-foot raft, but in Oklahoma the river was big enough to support barges — including one that hit a bridge support.

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One way to make sure you’re remembered

Brief by Central Staff

Arkansas River – February 2002 – Colorado Central Magazine

We know of ancient Egyptians from the inscriptions on masonry along the Nile, and now the Arkansas River Trust is offering a similar form of immortality: engraved brick pavers on a river walk from the Steam Plant through Riverside Park.

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