Thursday, October 16, 2008
No Child Left Inside: 4th Graders in the Red Mountain Mining District
Last week I took a group of 4th Graders from a nearby elementary school to the old ghost town (I guess there aren't any new ones) of Ironton Colorado. This area is smack in the middle of the Red Mountain Mining District and has quite a few nearby mines to examine. Here we are standing on the tailings from the Larson Brothers mine. The mining district is pretty much right on the rim of the Silverton caldera, with the ore deposits all being associated with breccia pipes and the ring fault system at the rim of the caldera. Walking around the district you can see the remnants of the breccia pipes with small mines (and the occasional large one) at each base.
The kids were quite interested in the color of the water coming out of the mine and even though the chemistry was a bit over their heads, they got the idea that the pyrite oxidised into a strong acid. Then they all jumped over the stream so that the acid water wouldn't dissolve their shoes.
From here, we walked up valley into the town itself and then visited the renovated Colorado Boy headframe. The Colorado Historical Society has done an awesome job restoring the structure which I have shown to my college and high school classes on our field trips here. There is not much written about what was mined here beyond the usual, copper, silver and galena ores. It is also a great place to take a rest during a mid winter ski. This picture nor the next was of course not taken last week
Above the Colorado Boy is the remnants of an old wooden flume that transported a tailings slurry to the massive tailings pile in the valley bottom. The image here is the old suspension structure carrying the pipline across Corkscrew Gulch. Legend around here suggests that when this was made, it was the 2nd largest suspension bridge in Colorado. They engineered the pipeline so that it bowed upwards when there was no load and then during slurry operations it would assume the correct downward slant. Please don't cross the bridge now!