Hard Rock Mining Tour: Mining Home

Geologic History Mining Life How a Mill Works Mining Sites Switzerland Trail Rail Road

Located northwest of Denver, Boulder County is a crossroads. At the junction of the plains and mountains, the county stretches from farms and rolling grasslands to high peaks and steep canyons.

The Colorado mineral belt is a band 10 to 35 miles wide extending 250 miles from Boulder to the San Juan Mountains in the southwest. In the Boulder area, valuable minerals and metals, such as gold, silver, and tungsten, are often found mixed with other materials in rock. To collect these prized resources, hard rock must be mined.

Hard rock mining is the process of extracting ore from the ground, then separating and concentrating it at a mill. Even though soft rock mining for material such as coal is part of Boulder County's history, the majority of mining done was in the hard rock of the mountains.


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While today, the prairie is home to the county's largest cities, this was not true 100 years ago. Hard rock mining was Boulder County's leading industry, attracting the majority of new residents to the mineral-rich mountains during the boom of the late 1800s.

In 1859 gold was first found in Boulder County near Gold Hill, giving the town its name. More discoveries of gold and silver quickly followed, and with those discoveries came more people. Only one year after the first gold strike, the population of Gold Hill encompassed almost half of the entire population for the territory.

For the rest of the 19th century the boom and bust cycle of mining dominated the Boulder County mountains, as new strikes were discovered, mined and abandoned. The miners and the communities they created are part of our fascinating local history and figure into a larger national story.

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