Settlement of Clear Creek Valley

Settlement of Clear Creek Valley (HMY5J)

Location: Golden, CO 80401 Jefferson County
Country: United States of America

N 39° 45.412', W 105° 13.37'

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In the 1700s French trading parties came to trade with the Utes. Around 1820 Americans such as the Long Expedition began to explore the Clear Creek valley. In 1834 the Estes Party discovered gold on a sand bar, later known as Arapahoe Bar, on the north shore of Clear Creek east of North Table Mountain. Mountaineers and trappers of beaver, otter, muskrat, and mink came to the Clear Creek area in the 1830s. They made a living trading with the forts in the region. During the early 1800s the Clear Creek valley was a hunter's paradise-antelope, buffalo, bear, elk, mountain sheep, and deer were in abundance.

In 1850 Lewis Ralston discovered gold in Ralston Creek, a Clear Creek tributary located in present day Arvada. After the Russell Party confirmed Ralston's discovery in 1858, many prospectors came to the Clear Creek valley looking for gold. They started by mining the placer bars, gold bearing sandbars in the river. They discovered rich deposits at the location just east of Golden and named it Arapahoe Bar. There they laid out claims using the old Estes markers they found on the site. As the placers played out, the gold rushers became discouraged and began looking for gold higher up in the mountains. In 1859 George A. Jackson and John H. Gregory discovered gold near present day Idaho Springs and Central City. Following those discoveries, the faith of gold seekers was restored; the rush went into full boom. New towns laid out along Clear Creek and its tributaries, included Arapahoe City, Golden City, Black Hawk, Mountain City, Central City, Idaho Springs, Dumont, Downieville, Lawson, Georgetown, Silver Plume, Graymount, and Bakerville.

In 1860 William A. H. Loveland led the drive to build a wagon road up Clear Creek Canyon. Ensign B. Smith, commonly known as "Mexican Smith," and his son Manuel, built the wagon road. Loveland converted the thoroughfare to the Colorado Central Railroad by 1872. The Colorado Central was Colorado's first narrow gauge railroad, designed by Edward L. Berhthoud, to link the mountain mining communities to cities on the plains. The railroad greatly enhanced the economy of the region by enabling easier shipment of gold and silver ore as well as supplies to and from mining communities in the mountains.

Picture caption: The Gregory Diggings in the early twentieth century. Courtesy Denver Public Library, Western History Department.

HM NumberHMY5J
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 at 11:46am PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)13S E 480911 N 4400796
Decimal Degrees39.75686667, -105.22283333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 45.412', W 105° 13.37'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 45' 24.72" N, 105° 13' 22.20" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)303, 720
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 53-99 Clear Creek Trail, Golden CO 80401, US
Alternative Maps Google Maps, MapQuest, Bing Maps, Yahoo Maps, MSR Maps, OpenCycleMap, MyTopo Maps, OpenStreetMap

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