Saturday, September 8, 2012

Iowa Hill Mining District

Distance: 1.2 mile loop, not counting spurs to visit buildings
Elevation: 9,600 ft - 9,910 ft
Elevation Gain: 310 ft
Bathroom at Trailhead: No
Dogs: On leash
Date Hiked: 17 June 2012

The restored boarding house is the highlight of the Iowa Hill Trail
Iowa Hill is a historical mining exhibit just north of the ski resort of Breckenridge.  Its short trail winds up and around a Ponderosa covered hill filled with interpretive signs, old buildings, and mining relics.  While Colorado has no castles it certainly has mining ruins!

The fancy sign at the entrance to Iowa Hill. The verbiage says trailhead, but that is actually 100 yards further up a dirt frontage road that starts near this sign. 
The official trailhead
Early trail segment through young Aspens
Obvious signs lead the way through the exhibits
Sluice box for capturing gold
Gentle trail segment
Blacksmith shop with interesting tools wired to the wall
It took me a bit to find Iowa Hill because it is much further north of town than than I realized. It is actually past the Highway 9 bypass and roundabout. To get there from downtown Breckenridge, take either Main Street or the Highway 9 bypass and head towards Frisco. If you are on the bypass, turn left at Airport Road and continue north. If on Main, go into the roundabout and take the bypass for a quarter mile or so and then turn right on Airport Road. The entrance is on the left of Airport Road near the public works facility. Take the short frontage road near the fancy copper and wood sign to a small parking lot with a typical trailhead sign. A small arrow on the fancy sign points the way.

Old mine shaft now filled in
Crane with Bald Mountain in the distance
Hydraulic pipes use gravity to enhance the  water pressure 
Example of the cannon head
You can actually see where the water cut into the hillside in large swaths.
Mining car outside a closed tunnel
Iowa Hill is all about hydraulic mining.  This technique involved shooting water canons at the hillsides to erode and dissolve the dirt and run it through a series of sluice boxes where heavy metals like gold fall out.  It is engineering intensive and does not exactly leave a pretty picture behind.

Canon perched on a hillside in the distance
Bench overlooking the lower part of the trail
Backside of the boarding house
Weeds along the house highlighting the mud insulation between the logs
Close-up of the log construction
Iowa Hill educational and pleasant, although I did it on a day when it was way to hot, so plan accordingly if you are in Breck during another Colorado heat wave. If you like this sort of thing you can also check out the smaller Lomax Mine on the way to Peak 8 in Breckenridge.

1 comment:

Linda W. said...

As a former mining engineering student, I love exploring old abandoned mines. I used to do this a lot when I lived in the Black Hills of SD. Thanks for sharing!