Panning for Gold at the Phoenix Gold Mine in Idaho Springs, Colorado

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The Phoenix Gold Mine is located in Idaho Springs Colorado, in the historical Clear Creek County of Colorado. The gold mine is nestled in the mountains along the famous Trail Creek Mining District of Colorado at an elevation of 8,200 feet above sea level.

The Phoenix Vein was originally discovered in 1871 by a man with the last name Miner. The original discovery site was located high in the cliffs above the Phoenix Counter of today. It was then sold to a Cornish Miner who was said to have made his fortune off of the Phoenix and abandoned the mine.

In the 1930 a local real estate investor purchased the Phoenix Claim for the amount of back taxes – $20! Don’t you wish 1930 opportunities existed in the west today? It was sold to a Minnesota farmer four years later for $5,000, you know, the days when real estate actually meant something.

It was closed roughly nine years later together with other mines at the time when attention was turned to mining materials needed for war. At the time the United States Government would cover half  the cost of recovering war materials, which helped the miners survive during that time.

To get to the deepest levels of  the Phoenix and down to the depth of  500 ft. where the Rockford tunnel intersects, you must crawl on your stomach through very narrow and very short tunnels, just about the size of a man. BTW, this is something they don’t do on tours and even if they did, I’m not sure I’d be game, even though I have actually done the task in one of the deepest gold mines in the world in South Africa.

Meet our handsome guide….at least I thought so….























Now I suppose we can move onto the gold. The textures in the wall were full of glitter and gold, another lovely sight for the eye to take in especially underground with a helmut on your head.













You can also pan for gold here for $8 and they’ll give you your bits and pieces and set you loose. There’s an art to it though says one of the afficianados at the mine.












It’s a unique and fun thing to do and quite honestly, there are also not that many places where you can do this. Gold panning can be a difficult thing to do in Colorado.  Due to the mining history of the area and the continued interest, most areas suitable for panning are private land as a result of patenting claims from the turn of the century.  If a map does not show an area as private there is most likely already an unpatented claim on that area.













The only way to know for sure is to figure out where exactly you might like to pan then look to see if it is private land (please note that the USGS maps commonly used are not always exactly correct). Since most claims are only 150 feet wide a small error in the map can unexpectedly place you on private land.  There is no “recreational” panning where you can just go out and pick an area and start panning.

Below are some shots from my tour.














































Below travel writers, Mark Walsh, Renee Blodgett, Chris Christensen, and Spud Hilton.












You could say this one is a fan of all things Colorado :-)












As was our incredibly warm and knowledgeable guide for the day Rich Grant, the communications director for the Convention & Visitor’s Bureau of Denver.


















































































Now for my favorite….look at these stunning vibrant colors and its all underground.



































Outside the mine – Spud Hilton, Matt Long, Chris Christensen, Renee Blodgett, Andrew Hazelton, Rich Grant.























If you sign up for the ‘gold panning experience,’ at the Phoenix Gold Mine, you will be able to see Gold, Silver, Copper, Iron Pyrite and Tellurium (Tellurium – the stuff they make solar panels out of) still in the earth. The Phoenix Tour mine is actually lit by Sun Light and the only energy source used to power the Phoenix is all done by Solar Panels. For Pictures of  the re-opening of the Phoenix 30 years ago and a few from today click here.

For some instruction along the way, listen to some of the fodder from the very short video I took on-site.

For more blog posts on Colorado, click here. See my whiz bang tour post here.


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