Phantom Canyon

16 10 2008

Finally a trip up Phantom Canyon!!!

Here’s some information about the tour from Sangres.com which has a lot of pictures and info about the gold Belt Tour and the surrounding area. This was a great resource for us while planning this trip.

Phantom Canyon Road was built to connect Florence, CO to the mines in Cripple Creek and the surrounding area. From 1894 to 1912, railroad cars filled with gold ore rolled down Phantom Canyon feeding up to nine processing mills running day and night in Florence.

It was 1890 when Bob Womack made the gold strike that started the Cripple Creek Gold Rush. Since that time, more than 500 mines in the Cripple Creek and Victor Mining District have produced over 21 million ounces of gold – more than the Alaska and California Gold Rushes put together. Gold is still being produced in the District.

The terrain begins in the dessert-like scrub and makes some pretty intense transitions to thick evergreen and aspen cover and then to meadow up around 10,000 feet.

The majority of the land along this route is owned by the Bureau of Land Management particularly on the lower portion of the road. Since 1996, Phantom Canyon has been designated an Area of Critical Environmental Concern by the Bureau of Land Management.

Here is a shot as we are entering the canyon as the blacktop becomes a dirt road. The green you see to the right is the path of the creek which carved this canyon. At the time the creek is barely 3 feet wide and patchy (even following a pretty recent rainfall) but there are numerous reports of 30 foot flash floods racing down the canyon.

There are two tunnels along this route, the Upper and Lower Tunnel. The entire road is a converted narrow-gauge railroad path.

Lower Tunnel

There are some pretty steep drops, especially as you emerge from the upper Tunnel.

Upper Tunnel

This next picture shows one of the cuts blasted out for the railway.  There is literally only room for one car here, and just beyond there is a sharp curve and STRAIGHT down.  We were very fortunate to encounter another truck just as we emerged from this spot…of course we took the right side allowing the oncoming vehicle to risk sliding off the edge.

Notice how the trees have changed to evergreens…big tall ones!

From the Gold Belt Tour Website

From the Gold Belt Tour Website

Up further we pulled off and explored some of the camping, hiking in the area and found this creek and large fire pit.

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