Top 10 Worst Ghost Towns in Colorado: Part Two

By Jan MacKell Collins

Elkton – Boom and Bust

Named for the nearby Elkton Mine in 1894, this town in the world-famous Cripple Creek District once had a population of 2,500 people. All three railroads of the District once served Elkton, and a special siding was constructed for the sole purpose of transporting gold ore from the Elkton, the Cresson, and other big mines. In Elkton proper, streets of the community were laid out in tidy rows on the hillside, with miner’s cabins and small houses lining up next to one another. There was a school, plus several restaurants and shops, and a post office which opened in 1895. Being a family town, Elkton had only one saloon.

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The Hilltop Mine – A Relic at 12,900 Feet

Story and photos by Maisie Ramsay

High atop the wind-blasted saddle between Mount Sherman and Mount Sheridan sits the time capsule that is the Hilltop Mine. This is not the kind filled with trinkets and buried for future discovery – no, the Hilltop Mine is an accidental time capsule, a relic of times long past, a monument to human ambition. Crack open the history books, and get a glimpse of the past.

The Hilltop Mine is now little more than a sun-bleached outbuilding clinging precariously to a 12,900-foot talus slope. The massive infrastructure that transported tons of ore has largely disappeared. What meager evidence remains is slowly dissolving into the earth.

“Some see (these sites) as a monument to history and our founding economy, others see them as an eyesore and something environmentally destructive,” says South Park historian Christie Wright. “I find them quite fascinating … but then you look at Leadville, a Superfund cleanup, and the EPA spill in Ouray. It was the founding economy of our state, both good and bad.”

The Hilltop Mine was not the Mosquito Range’s first high-elevation claim, nor the most well-known. Rather, it was among several high-elevation mines extracting precious metal from the Mosquito Range during silver boom of the 1800s. 

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Attempted Murder in the Mine

By Jeffrey Runyon

A dictionary defines what a thing is – say, a mountain. Art teaches what that mountain means.
This may be similar to what Oscar Wilde meant in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying, where he suggests, contrary to long-held belief, that art does not imitate life, life imitates art – that perhaps the universe has meaning that art teaches us to see.
I sometimes wonder how much his visit to Leadville in 1882 affected his philosophy, and I met an old man in Ireland who seemed to wonder, too.
In 2010 a handful of students from Colorado Mountain College’s Leadville Campus, where I teach creative writing, composition and literature, joined my study abroad program bound for Ireland to experience literature for a month. The literary spirit thrives in Ireland, especially during May and June, when there are many literary festivities. (Ireland even has holidays devoted to literature, like Bloomsday.) So, when we decided to attend a literary tour through the city (i.e. pubs where famous writers like Joyce and Yeats wrote), we joined a large group trying to hear the old tour guide, who barely scratched the five-foot mark and whose voice seemed weak with age.  

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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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