Haybro, Juniper, Edna, Keystone ... If you are new to the area, these names might not mean much to you. But to long-time residents and natives of Routt County, they harken to a coal mining era that defined the region for many years.
Tales from the Tread
Tales from the Tread columns publish the first and third Wednesdays in the Steamboat Today.
If you go
What: Ghost mine driving tour to Oak Creek
When: 9 a.m. to noon, Friday, July 10
Where: Meet at the Tread of Pioneers Museum just before 9 a.m. Space is limited, and RSVP and prepayment of the fee is required.
Cost: $25 for adults/non-members; $20 museum members; $10 children under 12.
For anyone who wants to dig deeper into Routt County’s coal mining history, the Tread of Pioneers Museum’s Ghost Mine Driving Tour on Friday is just for you. Leave the driving to us, and join historian, Jim Stanko, as he recounts the history of the ghost coal mines along Colorado State Highway 131 as we travel in the comfort of an air-conditioned bus from Steamboat Springs to Oak Creek. In Oak Creek, we’ll tour the Tracks and Trails Museum with renowned historian Mike Yurich before returning to Steamboat.
While at the Tracks and Trails Museum, located in the old Town Hall, participants can view the original town jail and learn about the historic days of South Routt, including saloons, theaters, mercantiles, one-room schools and more. You can also view the sheer magnitude of the mining equipment from the old mines in the museum’s outdoor display.
“One of the reasons for taking the tour is to gain an understanding of the impact that coal and the railroad has had on Steamboat Springs and Routt County,” historian and tour guide Jim Stanko said. “Many people may not realize the sheer number of mines between Steamboat Springs and Oak Creek or size of the mining camps and towns. For instance, at one time, Oak Creek was bigger than Steamboat!
“Gold mining towns like Telluride have a history and reputation of rowdiness, like saloons, brothels and labor conflicts. But what many people don’t realize is that Routt County coal towns also had that type of activity, and Oak Creek was the hub of it. This colorful local history is not found in many books.”
This colorful local history, which Stanko will reveal in detail, includes the story of the kidnapping of a wealthy Oak Creek mine boss who just happened to be closely connected to Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts School and Camp in Steamboat Springs and a mine strike in 1913 that required the U.S. Cavalry and a guard tower equipped with spotlights and machine guns to keep the peace and protect property.
While learning these and other stories about the mining camps, the international diversity of the miners and mine disasters and operations along 131, tour participants will also see the remains of many of the mines — foundations of tipples and schools, original smokestacks, cable systems, slag piles, portals to the mines themselves and more.
We hope you’ll join us on a journey back in time you won’t soon forget. Call 970-879-2214, or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your seat for adventure.
Candice Bannister is executive director of the Tread of Pioneers Museum. Contact email her at email@example.com or call 970-879-2214. Sources: “Highway 131 Mine Tour,” Tracks and Trails Museum and Jim Stanko.