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Cripple Creek RR & Garden of the Gods

Adventurers in the Rockies

Chapter Eighteen

Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge RR and

Garden of the Gods

July 18, 2016



Robin Bowers

Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated


    Today started with breakfast at the cafe in the Rodeway Inn, then we drove north on CO 17 to join US 250 north to Salida. This will be Chris G and I's second visit to this town, see 7/5/16 story. About ten miles out of Alamosa, we were stopped once for five minutes and then another stop for fifteen minutes for road construction before arriving in Salida. Once in Salida, we stopped to let Elizabeth photograph the steam engine there. After a stop at MacDonald's it was then on to Cripple Creek via US 50 (once again) east to Canon City, then Rt 9 to road 11 to our train ride.








Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad

After arriving in Cripple Creek, we went to the ticket office to buy tickets, use the restroom and then boarded our train for the historic steam train ride through the Cripple Creek Mining District.

Track route

    The track (2 ft narrow gauge) system begins at Bennett Avenue/5th Street going south out of Cripple Creek, goes past the old Midland Terminal Wye, then over a reconstructed train trestle, continues past historic mines and terminates very near the abandoned Anaconda mining camp. The return trip to Cripple Creek completes a total of 4 miles. The railroad does not actually terminate at Victor, Colorado, as the railroad's name implies.

Stations and depot

     The Bull Hill Station in Cripple Creek was originally built at the Anaconda Mine in 1894 by the Midland Terminal Railway. However, it was moved to Bull Hill in 1912, east of the town of Victor. In 1968, the depot was moved to Cripple Creek.


My trio of traveling companions. Chris G. (rear), Elizabeth and Chris P.


    The #2 engine took the 10:00 out of town and the normal meeting procedure is that the train goes into the wye, stops to let people photograph your train and then will wye and back into Cripple Creek.



Views of the town of Cripple Creek, el 9,508'





This trip comes with narration of all the historical places we will pass with good information given.

    Rumors of "color"on the Womack Ranch were largely ignored until the rancher's nephew, Bob, made the first major gold strike in the spring of 1891. Young Womack rode to Colorado City (now Colorado Springs) and went on a binge celebrating his new wealth. He sold his clam for $500, never dreaming that more than $350 million in gold ultimately would come from it and the claims that followed.


Excess rock left over after the gold mining process.


    By late 1891 the "$300 million cow pasture" was crawling with prospectors. A town was platted and grew to a population of about 18,000 with 2 years. Town buildings were rebuilt with brick after a fire in 1896; most of the present-day structures date from this period. Although the boom ended in 1904, the shafts that yielded $25 million in a single year were reactivated when gold mining once again became profitable in the 1930's during the Great Depression.



A beautiful view between Cripple Creek and Victor.



Goldmine operations.


The trip to the end of the wye.


    This a large gold mining operation near the town of Victor at the east end of our route. The engineer decided to have the passengers hear the unique echos that the whistle of the train could produce in this valley. He started with three and it echoed three times. He then blew the whistle four times which was fantastic. He then did five times which was even more fantastic. Then he set his own record by doing it six times and it was spectacular.



The start of the wye.


Gold tailing.


An old gold mine.



Train # 2 just leaving the station.





Rock wall with no mortar.



Cripple Creek District Museum in the original Midland Terminal Railroad Depot.


Backing into the depot.








Old goldmine next to depot.


Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad engine 3 which pulled out train.

    After our train ride Chris P. and I decided to walk in to town. One of the main drags is Bennett Ave. We stopped at the Cripple Creek Candy and Variety on Bennett to check out the homemade fudge, truffles, toffee and much more eye candy. The firm that Elizabeth works for sent out packages of their candy for gifts one year at the holidays and they were well received. I bought one piece for now and one for later. My choice was delicious. We then continued walking down the street looking into the different stores.

3858 an


Bennett Ave, Cripple Creek, CO.


Bronco Billy's

    I don't know if it was the heat or the elevation but Chris was not feeling well so we stepped into Bronco Billy's to rest and cool down. While Chris rested I strolled thru the casino and was amazed at some of the new electronic games. A roulette game in particular, held my attention for a time. After that I went back to check on Chris who felt that he could not walk to the car at the train depot. I called Chris G and he said that he and Elizabeth would pick us up in a few minutes. Shortly, we entered the auto and proceeded on our way out of town.


Colorado Midland Railroad Tunnel. Chris G. said that when he was younger and traveling with family in a camper that they drove through it.


After the tunnel we drove through a very heavy thunderstorm on the way to Colorado Springs and then rain to the Garden of the Gods. Shortly after we arrived the rain stop and the sky partly cleared.


Pikes Peak from Garden of the Gods.

Garden of the Gods


    The area was first called Red Rock Corral. Then, in August 1859, two surveyors who helped to set up Colorado City explored the site. One of the surveyors, M. S. Beach, suggested that it would be a "capital place for a beer garden". His companion, the young Rufus Cable, awestruck by the impressive rock formations, exclaimed, "Beer Garden! Why it is a fit place for the gods to assemble. We will call it the Garden of the Gods."


    The Garden of the Gods' red rock formations were created during a geological upheaval along a natural fault millions of years ago. Archaeological evidence shows that prehistoric people visited Garden of the Gods about 1330 BC. At about 250 BC, Native American people camped in the park; they are believed to have been attracted to wildlife and plant life in the area and used overhangs created by the rocks for shelter. There are many native peoples who have reported a connection to Garden of the Gods, including Apache, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kiowa, Lakota, Pawnee, Shoshone, and Ute people.

    Multiple tribes traveled through Garden of the Gods. The Utes' oral traditions tell of their creation at the Garden of the Gods, and petroglyphs have been found in the park that are typical of early Utes. The Utes found red rocks to have a spiritual connection and camped near Manitou Springs and the creek near Rock Ledge Ranch bordering Garden of the Gods. The Old Ute Trail went past Garden of the Gods to Ute Pass and led later explorers through Manitou Springs. Starting in the 16th century, Spanish explorers and later European American explorers and trappers traveled through the area, including Lt. John C. Freemont and Lt. George Frederick Ruxton, who recorded their visits in their journals.

    In 1879 Charles Elliott Perkins, a friend of William Jackson Palmer, purchased 480 acres of land that included a portion of the present Garden of the Gods. Upon Perkins' death, his family gave the land to the City of Colorado Springs in 1909, with the provision that it would be a free public park. Palmer had owned the Rock Ledge Ranch and upon his death it was donated to the city.

    Helen Hunt Jackson wrote of the park, "You wind among rocks of every conceivable and inconceivable shape and size... all bright red, all motionless and silent, with a strange look of having been just stopped and held back in the very climax of some supernatural catastrophe."

    Having purchased additional surrounding land, the City of Colorado Springs' park grew to 1,364 acres. In 1995 the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center was opened just outside the park.

Geological formation

    The outstanding geologic features of the park are the ancient sedimentary beds of deep-red, pink and white sandstones, conglomerates and limestone that were deposited horizontally, but have now been tilted vertically and faulted into "fins" by the immense mountain building forces caused by the uplift of the Rocky Mountains and the Pikes Peak massif. The following Pleistocene Ice Age resulted in erosion and glaciation of the rock, creating the present rock formations. Evidence of past ages can be read in the rocks: ancient seas, eroded remains of ancestral mountain ranges, alluvial fans, sandy beaches and great sand dune fields.

    The resulting rocks had different shapes: toppled, overturned, stood-up, pushed around and slanted. Balanced Rock, a fountain formation, is a combination of coarse sand, gravel, silica and hematite. It is hematite that gives the large balancing rock rock its red hue. It toppled off of a ledge, first resting on sand that was gradually worn away at the base. Gateway Rock and Three Graces are stood-up rocks that had been pushed up vertically. The Tower of Babel is Lyons Formation, a stone made of fine sand from an ancient beach.


    The Garden of the Gods Park is a rich ecological resource. Retired biology professor Richard Beidleman notes that the park is "the most striking contrast between plains and mountains in North America" with respect to biology, geology, climate and scenery. Dinosaur species Theiophytalia kerri was found in the park, in 1878, and studies of the skull in 2006 reveal it to be a new species. A honey ant never before recorded was also discovered in 1879 and named for the park. Mule deer, bighorn sheep and fox abound in this area. The park is also home to more than 130 species of birds including white-throated swifts, swallows and canyon wrens.


    The main trail in the park, Perkins Central Garden Trail, is a paved, wheelchair-accessible 1.1-mile trail, "through the heart of the park's largest and most scenic red rocks". The trail begins at the North Parking lot, the main parking lot off of Juniper Way Loop.

    Because of the unusual and steep rock formations in the park, it is an attractive goal for rock climbers. Rock climbing is permitted, with annual permits obtained at the Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center. The requirements are following the "Technical Climbing Regulations and Guidelines", using proper equipment, climbing with a "buddy" and staying on established climbing routes. Precipitation makes rocks unstable and therefore climbing is not allowed when the rocks are wet or icy. There are fines for unregistered climbers and possibly rescue costs. Several fatalities have occurred over the years, generally because the climber was not wearing safety equipment or the equipment failed.

Visitor and nature center

    The Garden of the Gods Visitor and Nature Center is located at 1805 N. 30th Street and offers a view of the park. The center's information center and 30 educational exhibits are staffed by Parks, Recreation and Culture employees of the City of Colorado Springs. A short movie, How Did Those Red Rocks Get There?, runs every 20 minutes. A portion of the proceeds from the center's privately owned store and cafe support the non-profit Garden of the Gods Foundation; the money is used for maintenance and improvements to the park.

    Natural history exhibits include minerals, geology, plants and local wildlife, as well as Native Americans who visited the park. Programs include nature hikes and talks, a Junior Ranger program, narrated bus tours, movies, educational programs and special programs.

Hours and admission

    The Garden of the Gods Park and Visitor and Nature Center are free to the public. As of July, 2013, the park hours are 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. from May 1 to October 31; 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. from November 1 to April 30. The Visitor and Nature Center is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend; the remainder of the year it is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

    We drove in to the park but the rain stopped us from taking pictures until we got to the east side of the park.


Kindergarten Rock.




Gateway Rock.



Three Graces.



Cathedral Spires.

388 93


Keyhole Window.





Sleeping Giant.


    We left Garden of the Gods and drove down the Garden of the Gods Boulevard toward I-25. We stopped to gas the car and picked up some snacks. From here we drove north to Denver on I-25 and checked into the Super 8 near the old airport but found out Chris G. and Elizabeth had only four nights instead of six. Elizabeth found them two more nights at the Quality Inn next door, so as result of an error by Super 8, they will have rooms at the Quality Inn Friday and Saturday nights. Chris G., Elizabeth and I walked over to the Holiday Inn, convention hotel, and we all picked up our NRHS tickets and guidebooks, ha ha. Instead of the quality books that Bart Jennings produced for the last four conventions, we are using the Kalmbach Colorado Railroading book. Then Chris P. and I walked across the highway to a shopping center and found a Chinese restaurant to have dinner at and then walked back to the Super 8. Chris will be taking an early morning flight back home tomorrow. So then we will be a trio starting tomorrow and the start of the National Railroad Historical Society's 2016 Convention in Denver, Colorado.

Thanks for reading.

Next: Ride Through Colorado's Royal Gorge at water level.

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Text and Photos by Author

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