Colorado ghost towns: See the remnants of the Tomboy Mining Camp near Telluride

Posted at 11:33 AM, Oct 24, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-24 19:18:46-04

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the town of Tomboy was booming 3,000 feet above Telluride.

At one point, some 2,000 people lived and worked in this high mountain valley, braving deep snow to live in this boom town.

While the town shut down in the late 1920s, there are still remnants to be seen. It's just a 5-mile hike, or drive, up a shelf road from Telluride.

About half way up the road, you'll pass through this tunnel that's been used by horses, wagons and vehicles for more than 130 years.

Many locals call this the “social tunnel.” The story goes that miners from up the hill would meet “girls” from town at the social tunnel for let’s just say “social” visits. Some say those visits occurred here because the prostitutes weren’t allowed any closer to the mining towns.

This green cabin is Whispering Jim's Cabin.

A tour guide said Whispering Jim was the last independent miner in the area. He died in 1998.

This was Jim's "garage," built into the rocky side of the hill.

It's actually more a shed and it housed Jim's compressor that he used to run his rock drills.

As you get closer to Tomboy, you'll pass the remnants of the Smuggler Union Mine.

Gold and silver were first discovered on the Smuggler vein in 1875. The Smuggler became one of the biggest mines in the area with some 20 miles of tunnels, according to a sign at the Smuggler brew pub in Telluride.

After passing Smuggler, you may spot this nondescript tunnel.

The Bullion Tunnel was a tunnel used to move ore from Ouray to Telluride for processing.

As you get closer to Tomboy, you'll find more buildings. Some still standing, but many have collapsed.

The Tomboy Mine was a large operation with a school, stables, dining hall, store, cabins and even a YMCA with a bowling alley and pool tables.

The centerpiece of the operation was the very large mill.

If you want to learn more about what life was like at 11,000 feet in the mountains of Colorado during the mining days, read Harriet Backus' book, "Tomboy Bride."

In the book, she talks about moving to this remote outpost, getting mail and other deliveries, changing homes and making friends in a mining camp.


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Find more great places to explore in our Discover Colorado section.