When you drive around Boulder today, you see a bustling town rich with many flavors: technology, dining, music, education, and a seemingly endless outdoor recreation scence. Boulder’s history, however, is also rich with roots formed during the mid-1800s, days filled with prospectors moving West to try their luck in various forms of mining.
Gold seekers came to Colorado in 1858 and founded the first non-Arapahoe Indian settlement in the area, eager to seek their fortune in the gold trade. You can still take trips up Jamestown Canyon into Left Hand Canyon, happening on areas like Wall Street, complete with old mining relics and the same gravel roads that served the mid-19th century prospectors.
The first gold mines were in an area referred to as Gold Run Creek near Gold Hill and established in 1860. Most gold (or “hard rock”) mining was shut down by the 1920s due to depletion and declining values in the global precious metals markets, however. But beyond dreams of gold, mineral mining activities were even more prevalent in the areas in and around Boulder.
Boulder County once boasted over 80 coal mines, many still in operation until the middle of the 20th century. The coal mines included the towns of Louisville, Lafayette, Marshall, and Erie. Combined with the hard rock mines founded by gold prospectors, the mining industry was a key contributor to settling the Boulder area. The mining industry and precious metal prospecting brought in a continous flow of new residents and eventually brought about much private industry along with railroad lines, schools, hospitals, and the beginnings of the town’s government.
If you’d like to take a tour of the mining history of Boulder County, have a look at the online Hard Rock Mining Tour. This multi-page digital tour will give you a great feel of the history behind the Colorado mining culture that shaped the state as well as how Boulder came to be founded and eventually thrive — all on account of everything below the county’s surface.