Cripple Creek has a rich history as a waypoint on the pioneer push to the Pacific. The rush for gold took fortune-seekers to California and Alaska because gold could be found in “chunks”. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t gold…just that it was “hidden”.
Things changed dramatically in October 1890 when Robert “Bob” Womack finally discovered rich ore he was convinced was present. Thousands of prospectors flocked to the region, and before long Winfield Scott Stratton the famous Independence Lode, one of the largest gold strikes in history. In three years, the population increased from five hundred to ten thousand by 1893.
Through 2005, the Cripple Creek district produced about 731 metric tons of gold. The underground mines are mostly idle, except for a few small operations. There are significant underground deposits remaining which may become feasible to mine in the future. Large scale open pit mining and cyanide heap leach extraction of near-surface ore material, left behind by the old time miners as low grade, has taken place since 1994 east of Cripple Creek, near its sister city of Victor, Colorado. The current mining operation is conducted run by Newmont Mining operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Newmont, and a local charity benefitting a herd of donkeys dating to early mining days, sponsor Aspen viewing during the peak color season. Although the Aspens were beautiful, we really enjoyed an opportunity to view both old and new gold mining technology.