My son and I had the good fortune to stumble across some interesting Colorado ghost towns on a cool fall day in September. We found the Ball cabin in Winfield, Colorado that is now the home of a museum explaining the history of the ghost town tucked away at the head of Clear Creek Canyon. Like most Colorado ghost towns, Winfield requires driving on dirt roads, but can be reached on forest road 390 right before the road turns into four-wheel drive. Head west into Clear Creek Canyon just south of the intersection of 82 (road to Aspen) and 24 out of Buena Vista.
The remote site was settled after two prospectors looking
for a shortcut to the Gunnison country found gold in the creek. Gold may have
prompted the rush of miners to the area, but copper and silver was the main ore
removed until the silver market crash of 1893. At one point, Winfield boasted
three saloons and stores, a post office, two hotels, a church and school. A
boarding house helped house the workers needed to operate a smelter and mill.
In 1890 there were fifteen hundred souls residing in the cold mountains trying
to eke out a living or strike it rich. Mining resumed in the early 1900â€™s until
the last ore was hauled out of the canyon by a two horse stagecoach.
The mountain scenery is hauntingly beautiful and opportunity abounds for primitive car camping and exploring. Vicksburg is another interesting ghost town on forest road 390 that must be passed to reach Winfield. The cabins in Vicksburg are privately owned, but there is a museum to help explain the history of the area. Early settlers packed in balsam poplar trees and planted them to line the main street where they have survived to stand tall over the cabins. Ditches leading from Vicksburg Creek into the town provided a water system for the residents to fight fires and water the trees. The museums are open during the summer, but allow for their irregular hours of operation when planning your trip. Getting off the main highways provides a less crowded opportunity to enjoy the fascinating beauty and history of the rugged mountains of Colorado. Get out and explore!