National & Mammoth Mines
National Mine & Mammoth Mine
National Mine was staked out in 1883 near Gauntlet Mine and was connected to the Quartz Hill Tunnel. It was positioned in a geologically opportune place, between the Helga and Mammoth gold veins, which grew from 3 to 8 feet thick along the mine workings. By 1917, it was sunk at least 700 feet deep, with most of the development being lateral into the hill. It was acquired and worked by Chain O’ Mines, possibly as a dewatering shaft to keep Quartz Hill Tunnel from flooding The Patch.
The mine became a footnote in the murder trial of David Dockery, who was shot nearby in 1982. A year before the murder, which is unsolved to this day, two men left National Mine toward the Chain O’ Mines mill to bring back a cutting torch, but neither they nor their truck were never seen again. It was thought that the two incidents could be connected, but some locals theorize that the men were murdered to cover up one of the Chain O’ Crimes scams. Their skeletal remains, which showed they were clubbed to death, were found at the bottom of an abandoned mineshaft with the missing truck in 1990.
Today, National Mine seems to be one of the best preserved mines in the area, though it was not really one of the principal claims. The shaft house is in great condition and seems to have been maintained until the last days of the Chain O’ Mines and not far behind the gutted maintenance garage is the original powder vault, built into the hill lest its dynamite get jittery. I have not been able to identify the purpose of the steel buildings, but it may be a rock house to load aerial tram cars—the old Chain O’ Mines mill was just around the corner after all.
Gallery: National Mine
Mammoth Mine sits open the west slope of the Mammoth Hill, opposite National Mine and Spring Gulch. As the name implies, it worked the Mammoth Lode, which measured over 6,000 feet, making it one of the longest veins of gold ore in the area.
The headframe still stands along Highway 279, the way from Idaho Springs to Central City before ‘Oh My God Road’ opened. It had only two levels, one at 90 feet and another at 125 feet. Chain O’ Mines was the last to operate Mammoth, and it looks to have been maintained until the 1970s. Though the Mammoth Mine was not directly connected to the Argo Tunnel, I chose to include it anyway, as I found many people searching to find the name of this unintentional roadside attraction.