If you want to learn more about the Argo Tunnel, Mill, and the mines, you should take the Argo Mill tour in Idaho Springs, then I recommend a trip up the Oh My God Road to Central City. The road is somewhat narrow and climbs about 2,000 feet along the side of Virginia Canyon, giving you the sense you can fly off the road at any moment. In Central City, you can drive by Chain O’ Mines, take a tour of Hidee Mine if you like, or enjoy the delightful downtown. It should go without saying (again LINK TO PAGE 1) that you should keep your distance from the mines.
All The Photos!
Looking into the Argo Tunnel at its Idaho Springs portal. I was hoping to see tracks and a steel door, but found a busy crew of environmental workers installing a pipe between the bulkhead and new water plant.
The ruins of the the Hubert Mine over the ruins of Nevadaville. Its ore was taken through the town to a mill below it.
A jankey ladder leads to a platform over a wooden tank. Here’s hoping my usage contributes to jankey being accepted into the dictionary! Thanks, lexicographers.
After crushing, these machines would float lighter material to the surface of the water, where it would be skimmed and discarded. Gold and silver laden stone would sink to the bottom, where it was collected for the next stage of processing. Leica/Summilux 35/Ektar 100
The mine was built with stone, wood, and steel. It’s in good condition.
An unshielded heaframe and single pulley.
Looking from the shaft room into the room where an electric hoist would be.
The wood-braced structures descending the hill connected the La Crosse Tunnel to the mill in Central City. To see a picture of an aerial tram in action, see at my Treasure Mountain article.
Frontenac’s shaft house is well preserved, compared to all other around it. Leica/Summilux 35/Ektar 100
Footprints of houses past; tailings of mines past.
Inside this small iron clad mine is a couch and some clothes. It seems that for a short while, someone was living inside of it…
Before the gold could be extracted, the rock was turned to powder. Depending on the size of the steel balls inside the mill, the rock would be reduced to a certain size. So, multiple mills were usually used in stages.
Sluice tables stretch into the darkness.
The shaft was capped by the state in 1990. Even though some shafts are capped, they are still very dangerous. The land around them tends to crater unexpectedly, sending explorers to the bottom under a pile of dirt. Stay away.
Miners at the turn of the century had better taste in typography than the average person does today.
Frankie and Quarantine pictured.
The hiking around Central City is beautiful and full of history. Just get a proper topo map!
On the National Mine property are two shafts, both serving the same workings. This one seems to have gotten some upgrades in the 1960s, judging from the condition of the metal.
Judging from old pictures and maps, raw ore was dumped through these hatches, stamped into a rough powder, and hastily sorted before sending the best ore to the mill. Mills charged by tons of rock sent to them, so it did not pay to send them obvious tails.
Looking through the loading platform of Frontenac Mine toward Black Hawk. In 1900, you would see Druid Mine on the left and Aduddell on the right.
Dr. Muchow’s offices stand near his ‘new’ mill, but they show evidence of vandalism.
Kate for scale. Powder that passed the floatation level was flowed over sluice tables, another mass-based way of separating gold. I’ve never seen so many of these in one place. Though it was a hardrock mine, it worked more like a placer mine.
The ghost town lodge was built in 1861. The building to its right may have been a saloon.
National Mine and its rockhouse (?) as seen from Mammoth Hill. From this angle, I am fairly certain this was a crushing and sorting house. The bottom looks like it has two aerial tram doors as well.
Prize Mine has been the victim of erosion. Its north wall is pushed in by rockfall and its south side is far from ground level.
Below Grand Army Mine is Gold Collar. A ‘collar’ is the braced section around the portal of a mine shaft.
Frontier Gas is a former (?) gas station chain. Chain O’ mines reused a scrapped sign to mark their mill. Under the paint you can barely make out: GLORY HOLE GOLD MILL.
Upper Prize Street in Nevadaville earned the nickname ‘dogtown’ when a pack of dogs took over the abandoned houses.
This rockhouse was added below the shaft to load Gilpin Tram cars.
The bathtub fell into the basement, ala The Miller’s Tale. That’s right. Chaucer.
A shallow creek traces Illinois Gulch toward the Chain O’ Mines mill. Ball mills are laid out in the sun.
The shaft of Prize Mine in the abandoned building. Stay away!
Mammoth Mine overlooks Central City from atop Mammoth Hill. In the distance you can make out Coeur d’Alene Mine (red), which operated from 1885 through 1940.
The inside of Whiting mine, as it looks today.
The outside of Whiting Mine, as it looks today.
Look both ways, people.
Gunnell Mine was large and probably included a small stamp mill.
A hole straight to hell. Stay away!
A tore-up Colorado Southern Railway sign and the majestic (in an industrial sense) Argo Mill. Go. On. The. Tour. Leica/Summilux 35/Ektar 100
The final ball mill in the Chain O’ Mines concentrator. Behind it was a bucket of steel balls.
This rod mill (?) was made in Denver Colorado at a factory now buried by condos. #justdenverthings
Spots of yellow gravel mark gold mines with nothing left on the surface. Is this one of the drainage pipes?
A belt at the lower end of the mill. Muchow loved conveyor belts.
The second most important building at Prize Mine.
Birch shadows on stone walls… have you been looking at my Christmas list?
These machines circulated water through the powder from the ball mills. Gold and silver is heavier than gravel, so it sinks while the junk rock floats.
I slid into the mill through the top floor, near where the rock-grinding ball mills were left to rust. I look around, taking in the most intact gold mill I’ve ever explored. Movement attracted my eye to the ceiling, where I found something staring back, a raven was observing me with some interest. It had been a while since I have brushed up on the folklore and mythology, but I took it as a good sign. Leica/Summilux 35/Ektar 100
A safe distance from Prize Mine is its dynamite storage vault, designed to explode up–not out–should the worst happen.
A side view of the floatation level. I found it interesting that there were little ladders and staircases in the mill to help workers get around–this place was not as shoddy as other mills I’ve seen.
Pozo Mine, the most menacing mine building I’ve ever seen. Black and white film, shot with the Fuji GX680, a beast of a camera.
Kate shooting the cascade of rotten boards and steel siding that is Chain O’ Mines’ gold mill. Leica/Summilux 35/Ektar 100
I am not sure what this structure is, but it seems to be put together like a gold mill. It existed in 1952, and seems to be from about that period.
A bedroom, from the basement. The Dog Days are Over.
Here, the concentrated gold (and silver, and zinc, I would guess) would be loaded into trucks bound for the smelter.
While the building looks uniform on the outside, inside it’s clearly divided between a hoist room and shaft room (seen here).
Iron becoming dirt becoming birches.
It’s not a good sign when you can see the chimney through the roof.
I would wager that National Mine became the dumping ground for Chain O’ Mines as the company began to fail.