When gold was first discovered in Cripple Creek, Colorado, thousands of hopeful prospectors headed to this quiet ranch town in 1890. Over the decades, millions of dollars in gold were extracted from the area, earning it the nickname of “The World’s Greatest Gold Camp.” Although mining is still very much an active industry, it’s not the shiny stuff that attracts most visitors these days. The town of Cripple Creek is now known for its casinos. So even if you don’t own a shovel, sluice, pick, or pan, if Lady Luck is on your side, you still might strike it rich! But not to worry if cards or craps or one-armed bandits aren’t your idea of fun, the town has plenty of other attractions.
Want to see mining relics? The Cripple Creek District Museum is housed in five original historic buildings, and all are filled with antiques and mining equipment. The Cripple Creek Heritage Center is a great place to learn about the entire Pikes Peak Gold Rush. Looking for a highlight in a low place? The Mollie Kathleen Gold Mine is located just outside of town, and is America’s only vertical shaft mine tour. After descending 100 stories, ride an air-powered mine train and learn how hard rock miners followed veins of gold. This historic mine was founded in 1891 and is named for its owner, Mollie Kathleen Gortner, the first woman in history to register a mining claim in her own name.
A four-mile narrated ride on the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad is popular with families. The route passes several historical sites and old mines that can only be seen from the rails. The train is pulled by a coal-fired steam locomotive that, thanks to its baby blue paint, looks a bit like Thomas the Tank Engine. You can also see what it would have been like to be part of the criminal element in the early 1900s by visiting the Cripple Creek Jail Museum. It is housed in the red brick building that served as the Teller County jail from 1902 until the 1990s. The original cells are there, along with displays that highlight the laws and lawlessness of the 1890s.
Whether you want to learn about gold mining past and present, tour historic buildings, or play a little blackjack or poker, Cripple Creek offers a wealth of activities and sites to keep you interested and entertained.
IF YOU GO:
Cripple Creek, Colorado
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