The Argo Gold Mill in Idaho Springs, Colorado made quite an impact on the state’s mining history. It all began in 1859 with the first discovery of placer gold, and continued until 1943. The best way to learn about this significant time in Colorado’s past is to visit the Argo Gold Mill and Mine, now a national historic site. Renovated and opened to the public in 1978 as an educational tour, most of the original equipment used for processing the ore remains in place, albeit a bit worse for wear.
A visit to the historic Argo Mill also includes a self-guided tour of the Double Eagle gold mine, and a chance to pan for gold. The main attraction here is not a mine tour, but rather a mill tour with a history lesson thrown in. The bottom level of the five-story mill serves as a museum filled with mining relics and old photographs. A custom-built 1930s trommel, a funky spiral concentrator, ore cars, stamp mills, and even a miner’s porta potty are scattered around the property.
Your visit begins with a presentation by a member of the Argo staff. You’ll not only learn the history of the Argo Mill, but also the difference between placer mining and hard rock mining, and how and why it all got started on this spot back over a century ago. During the talk, samples of gold and gems found in the local mines are passed around the room. A film is also shown that helps bring the Argo’s story to life, as does a very loud pneumatic drill demonstration.
Following the demo, a short bus ride up the hill to the 1890 Double Eagle gold mine (on the same level as the top of the five-story mill) begins the self-guided portion of your tour. At the top, you’re on your own to explore a short section of mine, and then to walk back down through the mill. Inside the mill, interpretive signs rather than a tour guide help explain how the mill and much of its machinery once operated.
For over 30 years, the Argo Mill was a profitable business— until 1943 when a fatal accident involving four miners in the nearby Argo Tunnel closed it forever. Coincidentally, it wasn’t long after the accident that the federal government ordered all gold mines in the United States to shut down because they were not seen as essential to the war effort. Luckily, lots of miners were able to strike it rich before then. The many mines around Idaho Springs yielded millions of dollars of gold— and that was when the shiny stuff was only worth $18 to $35 per ounce. A tour of the Argo Mill today is a great way to learn about one of the richest times in Colorado history.
IF YOU GO:
Argo Gold Mine and Mill
2350 Riverside Dr.
Idaho Springs, CO 80452
Phone: (303) 567-2421
Located on I-70 just 35 minutes west of Denver
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com