South Fork, CO
The Underground Mine Museum is located north of the town across from the skating ponds and next to the fire station garage. The combined gift shop, community center, and museum are all completely underground.
Construction of the museum was begun in 1990 and completed two years later. Construction was completed by a group of former miners who wanted to replicate the mines in which they worked. The tour through the “mine” is self-paced with each person listening to information on headphones with an Ipod like device. The temperature inside the museum is a constant fifty degrees. The museum has a rack of used coats available for those who don’t come prepared for the cold.
The story of mining is told through a series of dioramas depicting a different part of the mining process, moving from early days through more modern times. The photo below is the first display and shows the physicality involved in early mining. The miner is standing on a platform with a long iron drill bit in one hand and a sledge hammer in the other. He would strike the drill four times with the sledge, swinging it underhanded, then turn the bit one quarter turn. He would then repeat the process three more times to complete one turn of the drill. Each turn of the drill drove the hole an eighth of an inch deeper. The process would be repeated until the whole was twelve inches deep. The miner would drill eight to ten holes a day! Bet he didn’t go to the local LA Fitness after work!
The drill used in the photo below was an improvement to the hand drill. It was often used to drill a hole vertically over the miner’s head. The dust created would drop down over the minor, often so thick he couldn’t see his hand in front of his face. Wonder why it was called the “Widow Maker.”
Below is a wide area of the mine with a table that served as a lunch area. Next to it is a small rail car with a round, yellow seat on top. The Honey Wagon! It is reported that the bosses often parked the Honey Wagon near the lunch area. They didn’t want the miners to get too comfortable and delay their return to work.
The tour continues beyond those displays, showing the progression of mining improvements. But despite the improvement in safety and equipment it is still a very, very difficult way to make a living!
The next day, our final in South Fork, we went back up to Wolf Pass for a short hike. We drove west on US 160 to a well marked parking area for the Lake Fork Trail. The trail crosses a small stream, then goes up a canyon following the stream.
We hiked up the canyon for a couple of miles to enjoy the view before returning back down to the Jeep.
Returning back to the Jeep we continued west on US 160 heading up to Wolf Summit. On the way we passed the Wolf Creek Ski Area.
Just a short drive up the highway from the ski slope is the Wolf Creek Pass summit where there is a wide parking area and display panels.
Across from the summit parking area is a dirt road that leads up to the top of the peak. There is an observation area there called Lobo Overlook with a great 360 view.
That’s a wrap for our brief visit to the South Fork area. We love the area and there is enough to do and see that we may return for another visit in the future. But it is time to move on to our next stop in Pueblo, CO.
More on that later . . .