Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Argo Gold Mine and Mill

Before the birth of my daughter, I had plans for an early retirement in Alaska. I was going to homestead, marry a good man, build a modest home and live off the land in a snowy Shangri-La. The thought of walking into the “big open” and climbing/skiing for days on-end still fills my heart and soul. I’ve often wondered if in a past life I lived in Alaska, perhaps during the gold rush.

Alaska isn't the only place there was a gold rush. Colorado has its own gold rush history and lore. I recently spent an afternoon at the Argo Gold Mine and Mill in Idaho Springs. This impressive and historic treasure is a must-see for anyone interested in Colorado mining history. The grounds serve as a graveyard for rusting yet interesting pieces of mining equipment and hulking machines. The grounds also hold one very large stoney meteorite (you can even touch it!) Apparently this rock was found not far from Idaho Springs.

Inside Argo, former miners deliver an hour-long presentation where they pass around gold samples such as the large gold nugget seen in the photo above. They identify more than a doszen minerals and gemstones with tongue-twister names. You get the sense of how hard digging underground for ten hours must have been by viewing a series of old photos that vividly illustrate the conditions workers endured in the mines.

After the indoor presentation, you go into the yard and they fired up a huge and L-O-U-D drill. Then you're bused up the hill where you embark on a short self-guided mine tour followed by a walk through the Argo Mill itself. If you stop and close your eyes, you can travel back in time and feel the deafening sound of the mill during its heyday….or imagine the smells and temperature extremes. Once back at the main building, we opted to pan for gold and gemstones.

The Argo Gold Mine and Mill Tour is suitable for most ages. Kids under the age of 10 will likely be bored with the indoor presentation, but would enjoy the mine & mill tour as well as panning for gold and gemstones.

Have a great week all!