2007 Mining History Association Field Trip


Leadville District Mines, Leadville, Colorado

June 10, 2007

Tour Leader: Ed Raines



The Leadville Mining District is so extensive that it is difficult to see it all in a single day. The MHA tour in 2007 covered many of the highlights of its 140 years of mining history (Photo Galleries 1-4). The town of Leadville sits at the entrance to several small stream valleys or gulches coming from the east and eventually flowing into the Arkansas River to the west.  In 1860, prospectors first found gold in the stream in California Gulch.  Then they rapidly discovered the fabulous silver-lead-zinc deposits in the hard rock along Evans Gulch, Stray Horse Gulch, Little Stray Horse Gulch, California Gulch, and Iowa Gulch. Smelters were built to process the ore into metal. The last mine in Leadville was closed in 1999.


To show more of Leadville’s mining history and its heritage structures, additional photos have been added (Photo Galleries 5-6). The photos were taken over two days just before the 2014 MHA conference in Trinidad, Colorado. CLICK HERE to download a large map of the hundreds of mines in the Leadville Mining District. (1926, Loughlin, USGS Bulletin 779).  The virtual tour of Leadville concludes with a gallery of photos from the famous Matchless Mine which made a fortune for Horace Tabor and his wife Baby Doe.  The mine is now preserved by the National Mining Hall of Fame and Museum in Leadville.

Travel Note:  If you are visiting Leadville and exploring its mining history on your own, you will find the Leadville Heritage Guide very useful.  Copies are also available at the town Visitors’ Center and the Herald Democrat newspaper office in Leadville.  It contains an excellent driving tour, The Route of the Silver Kings, plus a walking tour of the town area and a cemetery tour.  Hiking and biking enthusiasts will want to explore the Mineral Belt Trail.


The 3.5 mile long Yak Tunnel in California Gulch provided economical ore haulage and drained the mines located in the eastern part of the district.  The Yak powerhouse can be seen on the hill.

The reconstructed entrance to the Yak Tunnel allows mine drainage to be pumped to a water treatment plant. The Yak powerhouse and Resurrection Mill can be seen downstream from the tunnel entrance. (2002 photo)

The Superfund clean-up in California Gulch involved capturing run-off and channeling it away from mine waste piles.

Tour Leader, Ed Raines, explained the historic activities mining in California Gulch, site of the first placer gold discoveries in the 1860’s.

(Above)  The ruins of the AY and Minnie underground mines in California Gulch, source of the Guggenheim fortunes.  Nearby is the site of Oro City and the early placer mines.  The Mineral Belt Trail can be seen cutting through the mine dumps.



(Left)  There is nothing like a morning hike to look at the historic Leadville mines.

Ruins of the Tucson Mine on Iron Hill, high above California Gulch.  The size of the ore bins and dumps indicate that a substantial amount of mining was done here.  (2002 photo)

The massive hoist foundations at the Tucson Mine indicate that the original hoist was replaced by one requiring the more robust concrete ones.  The clouds temporarily obscure the view of the Sawatch Range and 14,421 foot Mt. Massive. (2002 photo)

Photo Credits: Johnny Johnsson, Mike Kaas, Mark Langenfeld, and Mark Vendl


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