Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

At the base of Battle Mountain, a thousand feet below the ghost town of Gilman, Colorado, stands the abandoned ruins of Belden Mining District.


After exploring the residential and business ruins of Gilman, Colorado ghost town, I descended into Eagle River Canyon to check out Belden Mining District.

[Disclaimer: After posting this article, I have been informed that Gilman and Belden are on private property and should not be entered without express permission from the owner.]

A set of wooden stairs along the cliffs once allowed employees to reach the mining district from Gilman above, but no trace of it remains today. The other route down the mountain was a narrow gauge rail trestle that once transported supplies between Belden and Gilman. Nicknamed Darwin's Ladder, the trestle has become badly warped and is no longer functional.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

An overturned cart and various artifacts are embedded in the scree along the damaged track.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

At the base of Battle Mountain, retaining walls of thick log hold up the crumbling remains of the rail trestle.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Belden's rusting mining structures stand out in beautiful contrast against the vibrant landscape.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

The powerhouse that supplied electricity to Gilman and the mines beneath is largely intact.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Cooling tanks remained full of toxic PCBs for several years after the place was abandoned. Nearly a decade later, they were finally emptied during the EPA's cleanup of the polluted mining site.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Though the Belden Mining District has stood abandoned since the early 1980s, massive pieces of machinery remain inside the buildings.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

It is amazing how well the buildings have held up in the century since they were built. The amount of ore processing equipment housed within these structures is staggering.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Across the Eagle River, the pump house sits along the deserted railroad track.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Massive equipment remains inside.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

A rusty tank sits out back.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

A supply shed contains rows of meticulously labeled shelves, though their contents lie scattered across the floor.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad came to Belden in 1882 to service the many mines that had recently been established there.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

At one point, railroad tracks ran along both sides of the Eagle River.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District
Photo of Belden in 1910 (from Colorado School of Mines/Heritage West)

Much of the rail has been removed, leaving only the Tennessee Pass line, which runs along the opposite side of the river. Union Pacific retired the railway in 1997.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

The New Jersey Zinc Company began scaling back its mining operations in 1975. Technological advancements had brought about a dramatic decrease in the demand for zinc. In 1977, most of the mine workers were laid off, leaving a skeleton crew of about a half-dozen people who remained for several more years. In 1984, the electricity and water pumps were shut off permanently and the mines were allowed to flood.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

I was surprised to find that the Entrance to Eagle Mine was accessible and couldn't resist taking a peek inside.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

I only ventured a few hundred feet before heading back outside. Abandoned mines are incredibly dangerous and I hadn't brought proper equipment for a mine exploration.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

With my energy waning, I decided to take a final look at Belden Mining District and then begin the long hike back to my car.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Just as I was getting ready to leave, I ran into a friendly middle-aged couple from the nearby town of Red Cliff. Jerry told me that he had lived in Gilman in 1979, when the population was only 7. The bare bones crew was necessary for keeping the water pumps functioning. The same pumps that kept the mine from flooding were the same that supplied water to Gilman.

He recalled a time when the Eagle river was so polluted that it ran orange. Fortunately the water has returned to a more natural shade, though orange stains are still visible along the rocky embankment.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Jerry told me that the Belden tunnels stretch for miles and connect with mines in Red Cliff, about 6 miles southeast of there. We talked for a while and they offered to drive me back to my car, so I wouldn't have to hike in the blazing sun. I’d originally intended to walk the railroad tracks and explore some old rail tunnels, but I was too exhausted to resist the ride. They even offered to take me to Red Cliff and show me around, but I had to decline because I didn't want to put myself too far behind schedule.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

As we walked to their car, we passed a disturbing sight: the wreckage of a vehicle that had driven off the highway and tumbled down the mountain.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

They dropped me off at my car and I thanked them for their kindness. They were such nice people; I wish I had thought to ask for their contact information.

I ate a quick lunch and then set out for Denver. I arrived just as the sky grew dark. The abandoned warehouse I intended to explore that evening had already been demolished and the skeleton of a new construction stood in its place. I didn't mind too much; I'd just spent the last two days exploring one of the most amazing ghost towns in existence.

Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

With over half a dozen explorations planned for the following day, I decided to get some sleep. After a memorable couple of days in Colorado, I headed into Roscoe, Nebraska, home of many neat abandoned relics of the past.

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Abandoned Eagle Mine and Belden, Colorado Mining District

Left Behind in Gilman, Colorado Ghost Town

The abandoned industrial and administrative buildings of Gilman, Colorado hold many artifacts that were left behind when the mining settlement became a ghost town.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

I awoke in the basement of an abandoned office building. I had found shelter from the biting cold winds after exploring the abandoned neighborhood (Check out my pictures from Day 1 here).

The sun emerged from behind the mountains and a new day dawned over the deserted streets of Gilman, Colorado.

In the morning light I got a clear view of the building I had called home for the night.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

And then I headed back inside to finish exploring it.

I headed past the reception desk and into the office area.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Wood-framed walls divided the main floor into offices, conference rooms and work area, giving it a distinguished feel that is missing from the stark, cubicle-filled office layouts of today.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

I love finding old paperwork, and there was plenty of it lying around. Unfortunately most of it was scattered on the floor.

When I find handwritten notes I can't help but try to imagine the person who wrote them.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Several vault-like rooms contained shelves stacked with books of old records.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

The New Jersey Zinc Company apparently left all its paperwork behind when it vacated Gilman. There was an unbelievable amount of sensitive information lying around, including financial records, payroll records, medical records.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

A lot of office equipment got left behind too, including gadgets I've never seen before, probably because they've been made obsolete by computers.

Gilman Colorado ghost town
An old Addressograph machine

Gilman Colorado ghost town

As I exited the office building, I ran into a guy in his 20s. He said he lives in Denver and was exploring Gilman with a large group. They'd camped out on the street just after sundown. I must have gone inside just before they set up for the night. He told me they ran into an older woman earlier that day who once lived there. She ended up giving his group a tour of the town. I realized my friend Caroline, whom I was supposed to meet up with the previous day, had seen them just before she left. For a ghost town, there sure were a lot of people there!

After we went our separate ways, I checked out the recreation center. It had a two-lane bowling alley.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

In the gym/theater, someone had set up a large skateboarding ramp in front of the stage and one by the door. It seems appropriate that the room is being used for athletic activities again.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

It was neat to imagine the place when it was still alive with people, yet sad to think that Gilman will never know such times again.

Or will it? According to an article in The New York Times, the site may be redeveloped. Edward R. Ginn, a real estate developer, bought Gilman and 5,300 acres of adjacent land for $32 million in 2004, intending to turn it into a $4 billion ski resort. Apparently Ginn would be protected by federal legislation passed in 2002, which limits liability for landowners who develop land that was polluted by previous owners.

It seems unlikely that any development will occur in the near future. According to the EPA website:
"EPA and CDPHE expect to issue a proposed plan in 2016 that will identify the agencies’ preferred cleanup alternative from those described in the feasibility study. The public will be invited to comment on the proposed plan before a final decision is made."

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Weathered garages and workshops sit on the edge of town with windows broken and walls tagged.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Some of the graffiti actually looked pretty good.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

The workshops and storage sheds contained old products that you don't see in stores these days.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

One of the more disturbing artifacts was this oil smoke generator embossed with the words "Chemical Warfare Service U.S.A."

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

A few vehicles and pieces of heavy machinery remained in the garages.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

An old clothing washer sat out in the middle of the cracked pavement

Gilman Colorado ghost town

One of the most fascinating places was an old medical building that housed a laboratory and medical imaging equipment.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Countless x-rays were scattered across the floor on the ground level.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

As I was looking at the discarded x-rays I ran into a group of two guys and two gals, all in their 20s. Nice people. We talked for a little while and they recommended I check out the mining structures at the base of the mountain.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

I decided to take their advice, but first I had to have a closer look at the ore processing facility in the center of town.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

I was not daring enough to follow the ladder underground.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

The ground floor offered a glimpse into the daily life of the employees.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

The locker room had dozens of chains suspended from the ceiling with hooks and baskets on the ends.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Gilman Colorado ghost town

Satisfied that I'd seen just about everything of interest in Gilman, I headed down the mountain to check out the old mining structures of Eagle and Belden mines. They were truly spectacular. Click here to see them.

Gilman Colorado ghost town

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Gilman Colorado ghost town