Not content with standing at 14,115 feet above sea level at the summit of Pike’s Peak, having ridden up the 19-mile highway (go read about it) in the morning, we wanted to make even more of our day and so we retracted our steps for about an hour to visit a gold mine museum and hopefully take a trip down into some mining tunnels.
Mining was huge in this part of Colorado.
We’d seen the entrance to the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine on our way to Cripple Creek, and decided we really couldn’t leave this part of Colorado without learning something about the mining industry that brought so many people to the area to find their fortune. Back in the days of the gold rush, the person who found gold somewhere could claim it and therefore gain the right to mine for it, and this mine we visited was one of the more successful one in the region. It was owned and run by a lady by the name of Mollie Kathleen, who spotted the quartz rock with gold running through it while she was out hiking to see a herd of Elk spotted in the area. As you might imagine, it was incredibly unusual for a woman to strike a claim in their own name back in the late 1800s, but claim it and mine it she did – girl power!
Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine.
Mining has now stopped in the Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine and it has been turned into a museum and tourist attraction, aiming to preserve the history of mining and show people like us what this side of the Old West was all about.
We took one of the hourly tours into the mine which is 1,000 feet below ground inside the hills of Cripple Creek. We squeezed into the mine lift with our hard hats and jackets on (it’s cold down there compared to the temperature on the surface!) and met our guide who used to work in a mine and was able to tell us stories and demonstrate the mining process. Not knowing anything about the mining of gold, other than that I knew it took place, it was very interesting to get down there and wander around the tunnels having a look at what it was like underground.
Our guide at 1,000 feet below ground inside the mine.
As part of the tour our guide demonstrated some of the tools used in the mine, from the very manual to the more modern air powered (and super noisy) machines. It was interesting to see how mining changed with each technological advancement. We also heard a simulated dynamite explosion, and had a ride on the air powered tram-air-locomotive. There was a museum display showing photographs, stories and rock specimens from mines in the area – a museum at 1,000 below ground.
One of the tunnels inside the Mollie Kathleen Mine.
As we left the mine we were given a piece of gold ore from the mine. Apparently there is still around 60% of the gold in the mine waiting to be cut out and processed, and the veins of precious metal can be easily seen as you walk through the tunnels. It’s just not financially worth it at the moment – anyone fancy claiming it?!
They mined along, up and down. Hard work and very dangerous.
It cost us $20 each for the tour which lasted around an hour in total. It was well worth the visit; the guides are all ex-miners and have a lot of knowledge, and the mine is very interesting. It’s not wet down there but I’d say if you’re not great with enclosed spaces (or lifts) then you might be wise to stay above ground.