A Ghost Town, an Old Mine, and a Dams – Gunnison, CO

Gunnison, CO

We did a number of small hikes and drives while in the Gunnison area, but we’ll share two of them with you.  The day before the Jeep was scheduled to be repaired (new fuel line) we again used Joe and Gay’s blog (good-times-rollin) to find a drive to a neat little semi-ghost town not far from Gunnison, with a short hike to an abandoned mine thrown in.

Pitkin, founded in 1879, was the first mining town in Colorado west of the Continental Divide.  By June of 1882 there were over 60 business structures and 300 to 400 residences.  It had a population of over 1,000 and the surrounding hills were bursting.

The town’s early success began to fade by the summer of 1882.  Mineral veins that were rich near the surface began to play out and didn’t justify further development.  By the spring of 1883, Pitkin had lost half its population.

In the 1920’s and 30’s the timber industry and the fish hatchery helped to keep Pitkin alive.  The depression of the 1930’s caused further reductions in population to below 100 people, where it has remained.  During the Winter Pitkin has 80 year round residents, but summertime brings the count up to between 200 and 300.

While the main street consists mainly of original buildings (nicely maintained) many of the houses looked to be pretty new, so there is new life in the town as it has developed into a summer destination for riding ATVs and mountain bikes.

Joe and Gay also alerted us to a short hike to an abandoned mine that began just off the main road a few miles south of the town .  We found the trailhead on the east side of Rte. 73 in a small pull over parking area.

Our rental in the parking area

The trailhead

After a short distance the trail went across Quartz Creek and continued north along side the creek.

We soon came to the remains of a power plant along the creek that provided electricity to the nearby mine.

The trail went steeply uphill above the power plant to a two track road.  We followed the road around a switchback up to the entrance to the mine.  We’ve visited many abandoned mines in our travels, but have never seen such a cool entrance.

The Roosevelt Mine opened in 1907 with a great deal of promise and operated into the 1930’s.  But low grade ore and some sort of controversy stopped its operation.  We couldn’t find any information of where the mine got it’s name (OK, Theodore Roosevelt was the president so that may have something to do with it) or what the controversy was.

Later in the week we drove west on US 50 about 25 miles past the Blue Mesa Reservoir to the Pine Creek Trailhead, located just a few miles west of the Blue Mesa Dam.  This trail is typically utilized for a boat tour on the south side of the Black Canyon to the Morrow Point Reservoir. The trail starts with a 180 foot (232 stairs) descent to the river/reservoir, then follows the Gunnison River for a little over a mile along a former narrow gauge railroad bed.  The trail eventually ends where the river banks are too narrow for a trail.

Looking down the stairs at the start of the trail

Crossing a small stream on the way down

Once section of stairs

The Gunnison River below

More stairs

Down on the trail, finally!

At the base of the stairs the river is mostly rapids.  But soon it widens a bit and turns tranquil from the effects of the Morrow Dam located further down the river.

Three quarters of a mile down the trail we came to the dock used by the National Park Service for a boat tour during the summer.  We had inquired about taking the tour but the service stopped that Sunday and all tours were full the previous week.

We continued beyond the dock, enjoying the beautiful views of the Upper Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

We returned back up to the parking lot (gravity was not our friend on those stairs) and drove across the Blue Mesa Dam, a 390 foot earth fill dam.

Blue Mesa Dam on the left

The road over the top of the dam

After crossing the dam on Rte. 92 it is a short drive up to an observation point where we could see the dam to our east and the boat dock on the river below us.

That’s the dock way down below

Driving back to Gunnison along the Blue Mesa Reservoir we enjoyed the spectacular views across the water.

Dillion Pinnacles

We are nearing the end of our stay in Gunnison but have one more adventure to share.  More on that later . . .

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18 Responses to A Ghost Town, an Old Mine, and a Dams – Gunnison, CO

  1. exploRVistas says:

    Wow…that is a well maintained mining town! Love the mine entrance, also.

  2. What a cool place to visit!

  3. Wow! That’s a lot of stairs! It must have been worth it to see all that gorgeous scenery from the trail. Love the ghost town.

  4. Laurel says:

    Gunnison has been on our list for a long time. It looks like late September is the perfect time to be there! Gorgeous weather and no one on the trails. I wish all of our travels could be in the fall…the only downside is that some services start to shut down, like that boat tour on the Gunnison River. We’re starting to run into the same problem here in late September on the east coast.

    Your photos of Blue Mesa Reservoir and the Dillion Pinnacles are stunning!

    • placestheygo says:

      Thanks, Laurel! It’s a lovely trip along the reservoir. Gunnison is a nice home base with so much to see and in all directions. Several campgrounds were closing right after we left so visiting late season can be a problem. But September seems to be a safe month (except for the boat tour).

  5. Even though we were out that way last year, we missed visiting any of the ghost towns. They are so neat looking, and it’s cool to see the local populations have remained and even grown in some places. That mine entrance is definitely unexpected. I’d love to know more about it, but sadly, so much of that stuff gets lost to history. Love the reservoir pics at the end. Very pretty!

  6. Sue says:

    Sometimes the reality of something isn’t as interesting as what our imagination conjures, so I’m glad you didn’t find out about that cool mine entrance….. I’m so intrigued by the Black Canyon and the Gunnison River. The scenery is fantastic. I especially loved the photo of the beautiful young hiker on the rock beside the river. Your posts remind me that we need to spend more time there.

  7. Jeff Pierce says:

    Pikin looks like is trying to make a comeback as a tourist destination, not a ghost town. A fun find.

  8. Joe Taylor says:

    Pitkin was a nice surprise as was the mine! The fanciest mine entrance we have ever seen! The Gunnison River is a beauty…if you are ever back in the area, the boat ride is gorgeous! We have never visited the area in the fall…only during the summer so I can see the wildflowers. Looks like a beautiful time f year to be there as well.

    • placestheygo says:

      I was so disappointed that while we got there for the last weekend of the boat tour, it was sold out. I didn’t want to make reservation ahead because I didn’t want to do it in the rain. Others have come at the end and no one had trouble getting tickets. Oh, well, we enjoyed the hike. Pitkin and the mine were perfect our for temporary low clearance wheels!

  9. Diana says:

    If you have a chance to take the Pine Creek boat tour or hike to Dillon Pinnacles, I highly recommend both!

    • placestheygo says:

      That’s the boat tour we tried to take but was sold out for the last weekend. Dillon Pinnacles was on our list but we got busy with another hike and missed it. Thanks for the recommendation.

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