Biedell Creek  
USGS 7.5' Map: La Garita, Swede Corners, Lime Creek
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 1 BLM 5209, 5212, 5211
Cnty 42K
8.20 7,800 to 9,190 ft. NA 2 hours
County: Saguache
Adopted by:      
Managed by: BLM
San Luis Valley Field Office
1313 E. Hwy. 160
Monte Vista, Colorado 81144
Summary: An easy road to the Crytal Hill Mine interpretive site as well as to what may have been the old town of Biedell.
Attractions: History, Mine
Natural - closed by heavy snows.
Best Time: June - Best
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Watch for early snows
Trail Heads
Camping: No dispersed sites
Base Camp: Not a good area to base camp.
Fall Colors: Poor - There are only small stands of aspen trees.
Navigation: From Del Norte, CO. head north on CO-112 E/Oak Street for 9.1 miles. Turn left onto County Road 43 and go 3.3 miles. Turn right onto County Road D5 and go 0.5 miles. Turn left onto County Road 43.5 and go 2.8 miles. Turn left onto County Road G and go 1.5 miles. Turn right onto County Road 42/County Road G and go 0.3 miles. Turn right onto County Road 42 G and go 0.8 miles. Continue onto County Road 42 for 1.3 miles. Turn left onto County Road 42K. This road will become Biedell Creak road.

From Saguache, CO. head south on 8th Street toward Denver Ave for 0.3 miles. Continue onto US-285 S for 17.1 miles. Turn right onto County Road G for 5.0 miles. Turn right onto County Road 42/County Road G for 0.3 miles. Turn right onto County Road 42 G and go 0.8 miles. Continue onto County Road 42 for 1.3 miles. Turn left onto County Road 42K. This road will become Biedell Creak road.

History: Biedell, also referred to as Crystal Hill, was founded in 1881 by Mark Biedell who also had mining property in Silverton and Bonanza. Biedell was familiar with the area having owned land near La Garita Creek in 1860. There are two stories about the discovery of Silver on Biedell Creek. One is that Biedell himself had made the discovery, the other is that a sheepherder that worked for Biedell had made the discovery and hand told Biedell where the lode was. Biedell rewarded the sheepherder by giving him a wagon, team of horsed and $200 so he could return to his family in New Mexico.

The exact location of Biedell is unknown, the town was probably located somewhere on Carnero Creek. The town grew around the rich mines located in the area. These included the Buckhorn, Esperanza, Spring Chicken, and Humbolt mines.

A few years before Biedell's 1881 silver strike, he was homesteading on the Saguache River, along the western edge of the San Luis Valley. In the 1870's, the Ute Indians still roamed the hills of the San Luis Valley. Pioneers and settlers lived in perpetual fear of attack. Because of this, settlers surrounded their cabins with a protective fort or stockade, and Mark Biedell's homestead was no different.

During the early 1870's, Biedell's stockade was a stopping point for all the exploring and prospecting parties that passed through the area. As the story goes, one day, a surveying team on its way to the La Garitas showed up at the fort. The surveying party rested for awhile and then began to ascend Carnero Creek to its headwaters. After crossing the divide at the top of the range, the party entered the Saguache Creek watershed. It was here that they made the discovery of a lifetime. Near the wellsprings of Saguache Creek, the surveying party discovered rich gold streaks cropping out at the surface!

All thoughts of surveying vanished as the team members gazed down at the rich gold deposits lying at their feet. The men immediately began digging out ore. After a few weeks of mining, the men were attacked by a band of Ute Indians who drove them out of the mountains. The survey team scrambled back down Carnero Creek and made their escape.

It wasn't until 1880 that a member of the original surveying party managed to return to the area to search for the "rich streaks of gold". He ascended Carnero Creek and crossed over the divide into the Saguache Creek watershed, but try as he might, he was unable to locate the workings. He never did find them. They still lie there to this day.

In the 1940's mining returned to Crystal Hill in the form of the Crystal Hill Mining Company.

Voynick (1994) noted that "exploration geologists returned to crystal Hill in the late 1970's, delineating a large, low-grade zone of disseminated gold near the top of the hill. The Crystal Hill Mining Company developed an open-cut heap leach mine recovering 30,000 troy ounces of gold in four years". In the late 2000's stimulus funding allowed the BLM to reclaim part of the old mine. BLM now allows access on the reclaimed area but warns that the main pit is off limits and on private land.

The GeoZone The Lost Mine of Saguache Creek Online.
Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Volumn 3, 1st ed. Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 2001. Print.
The graded road from County Road 42 heads up Biedell Creek passing through low hills and following the creek. After crossing state land for about 3 miles you will pass through a section of private property for about 2 miles. Next you will enter BLM lands and after just over a mile you will come to the Crystal Hill Mine.

At the intersection follow the signs to the interpretive site. You will pass two left turns before coming to the small parking area. Past the fence there are three interpretive signs that explain the operation that took place here and the cleanup that happened after.
Interpretive sign

photo by:
Joyce M

The two left turns you passed below go to the open pit mine, which is private property. Head back down to BLM 5209.

Just past the mine you will come to another intersection. The left turn here will take you up a minimally used road that climbs up toward the national forest and ends at a private property gate. Take the right to cross over a low hill to Sanderson Gulch, BLM5210. Just after crossing the creek you will come to a T intersection. Take the left to reach the remains of a small town. This may, or may not, be part of Biedell.
Cabins at Biedell?

photo by:
Adam M

Cabins at Biedell?

photo by:
Adam M

The old cabins are interestings and of different time periods based on their construction. The road through town and up the creek will again come to the gated private property. From here you can back track or take Sanderson Gulch back to the county road.
Data updated - November 19, 2015        4WD Road driven - July 22, 2015        Copyright - 2000-2015