Created as a direct result of George Andrew Jackson’s discovery of gold on January 7, 1859, Clear Creek County is one of the original 17 designated counties and one of the three counties in the state with its original boundaries still intact. In April 1859, groups of miners flocked to the area which was first known as Jackson’s Diggings, Sacramento City, Idahoe and finally Idaho Springs. In June of 1859, the area was formally organized, the first recorded in Colorado history. At that time, 400 people lived in the settlement.
As more miners continued to move into the county, the prospecting moved west, following Clear Creek which runs most of the length of the county. Eventually the towns of Empire, Georgetown, Silver Plume were established and incorporated. Later, the unincorporated towns of Dumont, Downieville and Lawson were later established. In 1867, the Colorado Legislature called a special election and the county seat was moved from Idaho Springs to Georgetown. Today Clear Creek is a diverse county, where the old west meets new adventure! You can step back in time and wander the historic mining towns as well as enjoy many outdoor activities.
Clear Creek County is home to numerous museums which reflect the deep mining and Victorian history of the area as well as the modern use of electricity.
The Bowman-White House (Georgetown)
Representative of the upper class and professional people of early Georgetown, the Bowman-White House was built in 1892 by John Henry Bowman. The house was later passed on to his daughter, Mary Ellen (Mellie) and her husband John James White in 1901. It remained in the family until it was acquired in 1974 by Historic Georgetown. www.historicgeorgetown.org
The Central Hose House (Idaho Springs)
The Central Hose House built circa 1912 features historic hose carts, a hand pulled hook and ladder wagon, the tower with hose drying racks and a fire alarm system utilizing a telegraph device to activate the bell, and other memorabilia. It was renovated and restored in 2009 in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the major Colorado gold discovery in Idaho Springs, and dedicated on June 12, 2010 on Firefighter Day. www.historicidahosprings.com
Georgetown Energy Museum (Georgetown)
Located in a fully functional hydroelectric plant which has been in operation since 1900, the Georgetown Energy Museum is owned and operated by Xcel Energy and provides a general history of hydroelectric power. Highlights include exhibits and photographs as well as early household appliances all related to the early use of electric in the area. www.georgetownenergymuseum.org
The Hamill House (Georgetown)
This restored Victorian home showcases 19th century residential living in Georgetown. The museum showcases the lavish beauty of William Arthur Hamill’s home, built in 1879 which features a conservatory, gas lighting, bay windows, walnut woodwork, central heating, and luxurious interior decor. www.historicgeorgetown.org
The Heritage Museum (Idaho Springs)
Explore artifacts from the 1860′s to the 1940′s that tell the story of George A. Jackson’s discovery of gold in 1859 and the resulting rush that transformed the valley. The Heritage Museum also features Indian artifacts, mining tools, and more. www.historicidahosprings.com
Hotel de Paris Museum (Georgetown)
Operated by the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Colorado, the museum building was once a bakery, residence, restaurant, and showroom for traveling salesmen and hotel. Opened as the Hotel de Paris in 1875 and operated as a hotel or boarding house until 1939, it was later rehabilitated and became a meeting place of the Colonial Dames and their exhibit display. www.hoteldeparismuseum.org
The Johnson Cabin (Georgetown)
Built circa1870, this log cabin was a pioneer prospector’s home. It is one of the few remaining log cabins, typical of that period and represents one of the earliest and most common types of construction in the mining west.
Underhill Museum (Idaho Springs)
The Underhill Museum offers a glimpse into early 1900s life. A prominent Colorado surveyor and mining engineer, Dr. James Underhill surveyed many of the city plots and mines in and around Idaho Springs, was a professor at the Colorado School of Mines, and was the first person in Colorado to earn his doctorate in geology. His home featured two front entrances, one for business calls and the other for social visits. www.historicidahosprings.com
Charlie Tayler Waterwheel (Idaho Springs)
One of several historic properties protected by the City and the Historical Society of Idaho Springs, the Charlie Taylor waterwheel is the largest waterwheel in Colorado and is still functional. Located at the base of Bridal Veil Falls, it was built in 1893 by miner Charlie Tayler, who attributed his robust health to never shaving, never bathing and never kissing women.
Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic District (Georgetown and Silver Plume)
A federally designated United States National Historic Landmark, the Georgetown-Silver Plume National Historic District comprises the towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume, and the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park. The district features well-preserved examples of the buildings and mining structures of the Colorado Silver Boom from 1864 – 1893. The Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park includes the reconstructed Georgetown Loop Railroad®, a spectacular example of 19th century narrow gauge railway engineering required to negotiate the 601 feet rise in the mere 2 miles between Georgetown and Silver Plume.
The Old School (Silver Plume)
After the Silver Plume School closed in 1959, town mayor George Rowe purchased the five-room school and converted it into a museum in 1960.
The Peck House (Empire)
In 1860, James Peck and his three teenage sons came to the area and built Peck House. In 1862, Mary Grace Parsons Peck arrived with the family goods and became a full-time innkeeper and cook for investors from the East. When James peck was killed in 1880, Mary Grace Peck and her oldest son took over the Peck House and mines. A billiard room, bar, and poker room were added downstairs plus guest rooms upstairs, making The Peck House the social center of Clear Creek County. The Peck family owned the hotel until the death of James Peck’s Grandson around 1945. Present owners Gary and Sally St. Clair, visited the Peck House on their honeymoon in 1980 and by March1981 had arranged to purchase the small hotel. www.thepeckhouse.com
Georgetown Loop Railroad®
The Georgetown Loop Railroad® was one of Colorado’s first visitor attractions. Completed in 1884, this spectacular stretch of narrow gauge railroad was considered an engineering marvel for its time. Engineers designed a corkscrew route that traveled nearly twice the two mile distance and slowly gaining more than 600 feet in elevation to connect the thriving mining towns of Georgetown and Silver Plume. The route included horseshoe curves, grades of up to 4%, and four bridges across Clear Creek, including the massive Devil’s Gate High Bridge. Today, an old-time steam locomotive chugs its way up the canyon, hauling visitors past the remains of several gold and silver mines. Open cars allow an unobstructed view of everything along the line. Departures are available from the Silver Plume Depot or Devil’s Gate Station in Georgetown. www.georgetownlooprr.com
Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park
In 1959, the centennial year of the discovery of gold in Georgetown, the Colorado Historical Society (today’s History Colorado) created the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park. The park is located on 978 acres and includes an 1884 depot, the Morrison Interpretive Center, two 1860s mines, an 1871 mill building, four reconstructed mine buildings, a locomotive maintenance building, and the 1874 Pohle House.
Scenic Byways &Trails
Mt. Evans Scenic & Historic Byway
Known as the highest paved road in the northern hemisphere, this 28-mile scenic drive starts in Idaho Springs and gains over 7,000 feet of elevation on the way to the summit of 14,265-ft Mt. Evans. There visitors can see the Colorado Front Range and Continental Divide. The drive winds thru alpine meadows, an ancient Bristlecone Pine forest and miles of undisturbed tundra with plentiful wildlife and amazing plant life.
Guanella Pass Scenic & Historic Byway
This 23-mile drive follows an old wagon route that linked the mining towns of Georgetown and Grant. Along the way, visitors can experience exquisite views of clear mountain lakes colorful flora and a wide range of fauna. The Byway is a spectacular drive in mid-September when the shimmering aspens shower the byway with leaves of gold.
“Oh My Gawd” Road
A hair-raising drive between Idaho Springs and the gambling communities of Central City and Blackhawk, this scenic dirt road gets its name from its spectacular views as well as its narrow and curving lanes. It also features a canyon filled with old mining sites.
Clear Creek County is home to many working mines, but there are a few that are geared specifically to tourists.
Argo Tunnel and the Argo Mill (Idaho Springs)
For more than 80 years, the tunnel, mill and the mines provided employment to thousands of miners and sent more than $200M of rich ore to the smelters in Denver. In 1978, the five-story mill was renovated and opened to the public as a historic and educational tour. Most of the equipment used for processing the gold ore remains in place and the bottom level of the mill serves as a museum displaying mining and milling artifacts, old payroll records, milling receipts, and old photographs. Because of the historic significance and role the mine played in local and state mining history, it was placed on the National Historic Register in 1977. (Open from Memorial to Labor Day.) www.historicargotours.com
Lebanon Silver Mine (Georgetown/Silver Plume)
In 1885, the Lebanon Silver Mine was one of only 50 mines in the Georgetown area still producing ore. With a length of 1,200 feet in 1886, declining silver prices ending further work and by the end of the decade, the mine was closed. Located at the halfway point on the Georgetown Loop train ride, visitors can take an optional guided walking tour of the mine, traveling 500 feet into the mine tunnel where rich veins of silver lay and learn about early mining. www.georgetownlooprr.com
The Phoenix Gold Mine (Idaho Springs)
Located two miles west of Idaho Springs in the famous Trail Creek Mining District, the Phoenix Mine offers visitors the opportunity to explore an old mine and pan for gold! Owner, Al Mosch, a gold miner in Clear Creek County for more than 60 years hosts some of the tours. With the help of his family and many volunteers the Phoenix Mine re-opened in 1980 exposing a very high grade gold vein which is shown on the tour. www.phoenixgoldmine.com
The Clear Creek Metropolitan Recreation District (CCMRD) operates a Recreation Center and several parks designed to meet the recreation needs of the community and its visitors. The Recreation Center, located in Idaho Springs features a 6-lane, 25-yard pool with a one-meter diving board, wading pool, and hot tub. The fitness area boasts a full range of cardiovascular equipment, weight lifting equipment, and a wide variety of fitness classes, and there is an outside basketball court and sand volleyball court. In addition, the county offers a variety of parks and recreational opportunities for visitors to enjoy. www.clearcreekrecreation.com
Elmgreen Park (Floyd Hill):
Easily accessed by exit 247 from Interstate 70, the park boasts a playground, picnic area, tennis court, basketball goal, and restroom facility. The playground features five swings, a spinner, spring toy, a large play structure with slides, decks, and a number of play events and climbing apparatus. There is also an eight foot tall rock climbing structure.
Courtney Riley Cooper Park (Idaho Springs):
Located at the heart of Idaho Springs alongside Clear Creek, a picnic pavilion is situated at the center of the park with numerous picnic tables, several grills, and public restrooms. The new playground provides swings, a large play structure with slides and climbing structures, and spring toys for the kids.
Ball Field Complex (Idaho Springs):
Located alongside I-70 in Idaho Springs, the park features two ball fields to give travelers an opportunity for a pick-up game of baseball, soccer, or to just let the kids burn off some energy.
Heritage Park (Idaho Springs):
Located beside Courtney – Ryley Cooper Park in Central Idaho Springs, this park offers several picnic tables, a horseshoe pit, tennis court, multi-use court/basketball court and a public restroom facility. An RV dump station is located at this park as well.
Macy/Ruth Mill Park (Idaho Springs):
Designed with a mining theme, this park sits along Colorado Boulevard at the intersection with 7th Avenue and features a tot play structure with two slides, several climbing areas, a sandbox, picnic tables, benches, and a public restroom facility.
Skate Park (Idaho Springs):
Located at the East end of Idaho Springs, is a small modular skate park with steel and concrete skate ramps and a ½ pipe. There is a portable toilet available at this park.
Harold A. Anderson Park (Idaho Springs):
The park is home to the C&S class B-4C consolidation number 60 train (the locomotive seen from I-70 driving past town) Located by the river, the park is a nice picnic spot with easy parking behind the Buffalo Restaurant.
Minton Park (Empire):
Just off Highway 40 in the town of Empire is one of the most scenic open park facilities in the county. This park offers a baseball field complex, picnic shelter, tables, horseshoe pits, and an older playground play structure and swings. A dirt terrain park for Mountain Board and BMX riders is also available at this location.
Meadows Park (Georgetown):
This older, small pocket park provides a picnic area, basketball court, and a tennis court with a portable toilet facility.
City Park (Georgetown):
Surrounded by an historic metal fence, this attractive “Town Square” park features a 20’ diameter wooden Victorian Gazebo, mature trees, and an elaborate play structure.
Triangle Park (Georgetown):
This small pocket park sits at the corner of Main Street and Silver Cloud Drive on a terraced hillside. The park contains a small older wooden play structure with slide, tire swing, a climbing structure, four swings and a wooden picnic table.
Lake Park (Georgetown):
Highlighted by the mountain reflection off the lake, this park offers a wildlife viewing area to look for big horn sheep on the side of the mountain, or just relax along the lake while fishing.
Lawson Whitewater Park (Lawson):
This kayak sports park sits just West of Lawson on the Stanley Road, the County Road 306. It features six kayak holes for all abilities to “playboat.” The parking area holds up to 15 cars and has a restroom facility.