The Creede Underground Mine Museum

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.

Underground Mining Museum
The museum entrance

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.

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Main hallway through the museum

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!

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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.”

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Typical side tunnel
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A vertical shaft. The miner stood on the platform to drill above him

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.

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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.

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The trail through a rock slide

We hiked up the canyon for a couple of miles to enjoy the view before returning back down to the Jeep.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The ski area from Lobo Overlook

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 . . .

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15 Responses to The Creede Underground Mine Museum

  1. Jean Lippy says:

    I’m enjoying your trip! Thanks for the great pics and historical comments!

  2. Just catching up on your blog. We enjoyed South Fork and hikes near Wolf Creek Pass. Glad you are finding plenty to do and getting to see some fall color. We took a gold mine tour near Colorado Springs and it was really interesting. There is something fascinating about mines. Haven’t been to Pueblo so look forward to what you find there!

    • placestheygo says:

      There are so many Jeep roads and hikes in the South Fork area that we’ll have to return again. Although, this trip is more of an auto-hike adventure so I haven’t done much trail research. I had too many Jeep trips on my list.

  3. Jeff Pierce says:

    So glad I was not born into mining! It looks like hard dirty work.
    Now the hike to the summit and its views is more like it! Did not look like that excursion required the skills of a ‘nimble hiker’, but certainly worth doing despite the altitude and elevation change.

    • placestheygo says:

      We weren’t born to be miners either, Jeff! The hike did require me to be a little nimble because of the elevation gain in the first .8 of a mile. I was a little light headed at 10,000′ after spending so much time at 2500′.

  4. Laurel says:

    I just cannot imagine being a miner. Dark, cold, dangerous…not to mention the awful honey wagon, LOL. Anyway, it’s very interesting that the miners got together to replicate a mine for a museum. It must feel pretty authentic! I enjoyed the mining museum in Bisbee, but it wasn’t underground. And I refused to do that tour into the actual mine, which as I recall, you guys did. I prefer to stay above ground as much as possible, haha!!

    • placestheygo says:

      I can’t imagine being a miner either. What an awful career. We’ve never been in the Bisbee mine. It seemed too claustrophobic for me. Our mine tour wasn’t bad at all because the main walkway was quite wide. I’m sure the actual mines didn’t have this luxury. I’m with you…above ground is the way to go!

  5. jimandbarb says:

    Gross. Really, the honey wagon next to the lunch table?!?

  6. Joe Taylor says:

    What an interesting museum. Such a rough and rugged life those miners had! Love the views form the hike…it’s always awesome to be in those wide open vistas! You have certainly found lots to do in the area and a big thank you to John for such informative posts!

  7. We visited Bisbee and did the mining tour and it definitely provided an education in how tough these guys’ lives were. Between the daily dangers and long term consequences, it was a brutal way of life. It’s great that this museum exists. It certainly looks very well done.

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