|Guston to Ironton|
|USGS 7.5' Map:||Ironton|
|Managed by:||Ouray County||541 Fourth Street, Ouray, CO 81427||(970)325-7320|
|Summary:||The road between Guston and Ironton, County Road 31, passes through some of the main mines of the Red Mountain district, including the National Bell and Yankee Girl.|
|Attractions:||Scenery, Mines, Ghost towns|
|Natural - Closed by heavy snows.|
July - Late after spring snow melt
August - Best
September - Best
October - May be snowed closed
|Camping:||There are a few dispersed camp sites off of Red Mountain Pass, though this is at a very high altitude.|
|Base Camp:||This area would be a good place to base camp and explore the surrounding 4WD roads and ghost towns.|
|Fall Colors:||Good - The lower areas around the town sites of Guston and Ironton have aspen groves.|
|Navigation:||From Ouray, CO head south on US-550 / Main St out of town. Continue to follow US-550 S
for 13.2 miles to the top of Red Mountain Pass.
From Silverton, CO head southwest on Greene Street for 0.5 miles. Slight right onto County Rd 2 for 417 ft. Slight right onto US-550 N and go 9.7 miles. to Red Mountain Pass
Guston was not so much a town as a group of mines below Red Mountain Pass, originally called Sheridan Pass. It did not have a defined business district or laid out streets.
On August 14, 1882, prospector John Robinson was hunting and took a break in the high valley below Red Mountain Pass. From where he sat resting he noticed a piece of rock. When he picked it up, it seemed heavy. This was a sign that it was mineralized. He broke the rock open and discovered that it was galena, an ore containing silver, lead, and other metals. He knew this was a rich find and searched for the exposed vein the rock came from. He found it and staked a claim in his name and his partners, Andrew Meldrum, A.E. "Gus" Lang, and August Dietaf. Robinson returned with his partners and they staked claims surrounding the area, the Orphan Boy, the Robinson, and the Yankee Girl. They dug a tweleve foot deep shaft that was almost completely galena. What they had discovered was a vertical shaft, or chimney, of ore, which is a rare occurance in mining. They dug out 4,500 pounds of ore and took it to Ouray by pack train to the smelter. It yeilded 88 ounces of silver per ton. They sold the Yankee Girl Mine for $125,000, and used the money to finance the development of their other claims.
The Yankee Girl produced very rich silver ore averaging 3,000 onces per ton. There were five mines within this group that followed "chimneys" instead of veins, the Yankee Girl, Orphan Boy, North, West, and South. South and east of the Yankee Girl is the Genessee-Vanderbilt mine. The Genessee was discovered in 1882 by Jasper Brown and Adelbert Parsell. In 1889 it merged with the Vanderbilt, which had been only minimally developed. These mines produced gold, silver, lead and copper. Later in the 1940's the Genessee-Vanderbilt was intensively worked, evidenced by the currigated steel panels on the remaining buildings.
In 1883 the town of Missouri City was proposed in the center of the mines, but it was never built. Instead, Guston, near the Guston Mine grew into a unorganized town of businesses, homes, and mine structures covering the uneven terrain of the area. By 1886 Guston had most of the amenities of a town, including a school house.
In 1889 the Silverton railroad was completed from Silverton over Red Mountain Pass through Red Mountain Town, Guston, and down to Ironton and the Corkscrew turntable. By 1892 Guston got a post office, and a church. As the story goes, in the summer of 1891, the Home Missionary Board of the Congregational Church sent Rev. William Davis and his family, from Denver to the Red Mountain district. The miners of Red Mountain Town did not want a church, and made it perfectly clear to the Reverend. He then went to Ironton and was welcomed there. By November a new church was dedicated. Guston then raised $300 for a church and worked with Davis, who had been a carpenter in his younger years, to build a church in Guston. Using donated lumber, Davis started building the church. The Cornish miners insisted on a bell to call everyone to workship, so a belfry was added to the small church. The Guston Congregational Church opened in 1892. The small church survived fires that took most of the rest of the buildings and was still standing in 1941 when Muriel Sibell Wolle visited, and wrote about the Red Mountain district. In 1943 the church was still there and again in 1945 when she was in the area she noted that it was leaning to one side due to the foundation rotting. In 1947 the church finally fell down the hillside into a pile of rubble.
Copper Glen was a small settlement near Gray Copper Gulch that began in 1883. This was at the northern end of the Red Mountain Mining District. Later the name of the settlement was changed to Ironton after the low grade iron ore of the area.
By 1889 the Silverton Railroad had made it to Ironton setting up a depot and rail yard. To do this, the civil engineer C. W. Gibbs had to put in a turntable at the mouth of Corkscrew Gulch. This allowed trains to come from Guston and make a switchback by being unhooked and put onto the turntable where they were rotated to point down hill and switched to a lower track. The locomotive would move down and the track would be switched back to the upper track so that the cars could move down through the turntable using gravity and control by a brakeman. The track would be switched again and the locomotive would be connected to the cars again and continue down to Ironton. Without the turntable, trains would have to back down to the end of the line, which would make winter de-rails probable.
In the early 1890s with the decline of silver prices, Ironton became almost abandonded. In 1896 the Treasury Tunnel was started on the west side of the valley to undercut the mines above Telluride. The goal was to reach the veins from below to reduce costs to haul out the ore, and to strike new veins of ore. The Treasury Tunnel lasted for ten years. Along those same lines the Meldrum Tunnel was devised by Andrew Meldrum, one of the original prospectors that discovered the Yankee Girl and Guston mines. The Meldrum tunnel would connect the Silverton Railroad with the Rio Grande Southern by undercutting the mountains for six miles. New ore veins that would be discoverd would help fund the project. Only two miles were completed. Andrew Meldurm died a pauper and was buried in an unmarked grave in Ouray.
In the early 1900s, Ironton was kept alive by the Barstow Mine which was the main employer. An aerial tram brought the ore down to the Barstow Mill for processing. The mine produced $750,000 before closing in 1917.
In 1906 Edward Meyer took a train to Corkscrew Gulch and removed the circular shed that covered the Corkscrew Turntable. The materials were hauled up to Animas Forks and erected to cover the iron turntable there.
George Crawford, former director of the Silverton Railroad, proposed another tunnel project. This one, the Joker Tunnel, would undercut the Genessee-Vanderbilt, Yankee Girl, Robinson, and Guston mines, which had become deep enough for water to become an issue, forcing the closure of the Genessee-Vanderbilt in 1899. Crawford started the tunnel in July of 1904 below the Corkscrew Turntable where the railroad made a curve back to the north toward Ironton, this would allow direct loading of the ore to the railroad. By 1907 the Joker Tunnel was nearly a mile long and had intersected the Genessee-Vanderbilt workings 600 feet below the surface. The water was drained by a 2 foot by 4 foot trench in the center of the tunnel. Cross cuts were made to the Yankee Girl and Robinson mines. By 1914 the ore had pinched out and the Joker Tunnel was closed.
Red Mountain Town
Red Mountain Town began in the winter of 1882-1883 below the National Belle Mine. It was first called Roger City, then Rogersville. This was not the only town in the area. Below the Hudson Mine was the tent town of Hudson, later called Barilla, which was just over a thousand feet to the south of Rogersville. Also, on the south side of Red Mountain Pass near the Congress Mine was Red Mountain City, less than a mile away from Rogersville. All of these towns were in competition for businesses and the local miners patronage.
A Silverton surveyor made a town plat of Rogerville with four streets containing the first businesses of the area. At Barilla a town company was formed and a post office petitioned for, even though there were no wooden structures yet. Because the name was similar to another town in Los Animas County, the Postal Service made the residents settle for Red Mountain Town instead. This first Red Mountain Town had two newspapers by the end of 1883. Log cabins were being built as well as the Excelsior House hotel, made from milled lumber from Silverton. Later the name was changed to the Hudson House. A two story saloon called the Assembly Club was also built. A plat of the streets of Red Mountain town was made and filed on June 18, 1883. Most of the streets were never built on due to the marshy condition of the meadow. In July as the summer progressed the mud increased to the point that a corduroy road had to be built to get traffic in and out of town. By the end of 1883 Red Mountain Town had survived a year, but Red Mountain City did not survive due to the altitude and weather of the exposed area where the town was.
Rogersville had only grown slowly during this time. By 1885 the residents of Red Mountain Town had had enough of the mud and decided to move town down to Rogersville next to the National Belle Mine. Rogersville became Red Mountain Town number 2 to most historians. In 1888 the Silverton Railroad had made its way up Mineral Creek, around the Chattanooga Loop and past the old Red Mountain City town site. To reach Red Mountain Town 2, a wye was built after looping around the knob where the National Belle mine was located. The depot was placed in the center of the wye. Trains had to pull into the wye and then reverse direction to continue on to the Yankee Girl Mine and Guston.
Across the tracks from the depot, and below the National Belle Mine, the Red Mountain Town No2 jail was built. A solid piece of bedrock was leveled just for the construction. Heavy timbers were used to build the jail, which had two north facing windows with only bars, no glass. There was no heat for the small structure. No one was ever reported as having escaped from this heavy structure. A night in jail probably had a sobering effect, if you didn't freeze to death.
In January of 1883 the National Belle Mine was located. It was not a very rich mine producing galena and grey copper with a value of $75 per ton. In July of 1883 the big discovery happened when miners broke into an immense cavern filled with pockets of gold and silver galena. People came from all over to see the "Treasure Cave". The main cave was 200 feet by 100 feet. Within a week another larger mineral cave was discovered. The mine produces over $9,000,000 worth of ore.
In 1892 a fire destroyed the business district leaving only two buildings, the jail, and railroad depot. In the summer of 1897 the National Belle Mine shut down as well as the Guston Mine. The Silverton Railroad aslo decided to end maintenance of the tracks north of Red Mountain Twon No2.
Smith, P. David The Road that Silver Built, 1st ed. Lake City, Colorado: Western Reflections Publishing, 2009. Print.
Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Volumn 3, 1st ed. Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 2001. Print.
Robert E. Sloan and Carl A. Skowronski, The Rainbow Route, Sundance Publications Limited, Denver, Colorado, 1975. Print.
Marvin Gregory and P. David Smith, Mountain Mysteries, the Ouray Odyssey, Wayfinder Press, Ouray, Colorado, 1987. Print.
|The Guston to Ironton road is a county road that is maintained. The route has multiple connections to Highway 550, the road over Red Mountain Pass. Starting from the top of Red Mountain Pass, take the road on the east side of the highway, opposite of the pass parking lot, to begin the trip. There will be two roads, one that is wider that heads more down hill, and one that is narrower that heads up around a small rise. This narrower road is the one you want. You will pass the Longfellow Mine first off. It is still in fairly good shape.
The road will head north around a small meadow and cross Red Mountain Creek. Past the creek the road will head down a short hill and come to a large opening. This is where Red Mountain Town use to be. The large hill to the west is the National Belle Mine. There are some remains of the mine buildings including the headframe. Below the tailings is the old jail next to the creek. The road will continue north from here through a ledge section that is fairly wide.
After coming out of the trees you will enter another large open hillside much bigger that the previous. This is the upper mine area above Guston. The road will have a few shallow mud puddles, if it has recently rained, but they are easy to navigate. You will come to the tailings of the Genessee Mine first.
If you follow the road down to a lower section you will pass the headframe of the Yankee Girl Mine. This is one of the more well know landmarks of the Red Mountain Pass area.
From here the road will head down into the lower valley and continue through other tailings. After making a sweeping "S" turn down hill, you will be in the Guston town area. Not much remains here. The road will drop down even lower and cross a new bridge over Red Mountain Creek. This new bridge replaces an old wood and steel trestle. After crossing the new bridge you will come to Highway 550.
Jump on Highway 550 and head north toward Ouray. In about a mile look for a sign for Ironton. The road is a quick right turn off the highway into the trees. It will drop down toward Red Mountain Creek. As you come out of the trees you will be in a small clearing with multiple old houses scattered through out the surrounding forest. This is Ironton.
The road through the old town site to the north heads to the large tailing reclamation areas north of town. The road to the south goes into the trees for a short distance to an old mine. Head back up the way you came to reconnect with Highway 550.
|Data updated - December 9, 2017 4WD Road driven - August 9, 2015 Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2018|