In January of 1859, George Andrew Jackson and Tom Golden were exploring the area of what is now, Clear Creek County. Tom Golden wanted to return to their camp, which is now the site of Golden, Colorado. but George Jackson was restless and wanted to explore more of the area.
The next day as Jackson was heading west, he saw a bluish mist or cloud from a nearby canyon. Jackson thought it was an Indian camp so preceded carefully. But instead of Indians, Jackson was surprised to see hundreds of mountain sheep grazing on green grass – a result of the warm vapors from the hot springs in the area. That night he camped in the area of Miner Street and Soda Creek Road. The next morning he pushed farther west to the junction of Chicago Creek and Clear Creek where he built a fire on a sand bar. As the snow melted, Jackson was able to pan the sand using his coffee cup. He quickly found nine dollars worth of gold. He marked the spot and returned to Golden, Colorado to tell his friend.
On April 17th Jackson returned to the sight of his discovery with 22 men from the Chicago Mining Company. Near the end of April the party reached the spot on Chicago Creek where they discovered $1,900 of gold within the first seven days! Just think – in today’s economy that would be the equivalent to one million dollars!!!
The area was first known as Jackson’s Diggings, Sacramento City, and finally Idahoe. In June of 1859, the area was formally organized, the first recorded in Colorado history. 400 people lived in the settlement at that time. From 1860 until 1873, the city was surveyed three times with the last survey resulting in a town of 105 acres. R. B. Griswold, elected as the first mayor of Idaho Springs, registered with the land office in Central City. In 1874, President Grant gave the government deeds to Mayor Griswold and he, in turn, deeded the lots to settlers. From the beginning, Idaho Springs attempted to display the best of culture – James A. Payne – who returned in April 1859 with George Jackson, brought a violin and performed for the residents of the city. Payne’s was the first recorded marriage in Idaho Springs and a son was born in the camp in 1863.
What would Idaho Springs be without the mineral Indian Hot Springs? The earliest records show that in 1859, a geyser erupted but by 1860, that had disappeared, probably due to mining activity. One of the first features of the town was a modern (modern in terms of the 1860’s) water and sewer system. By the early 1900’s two different electric companies provided power and heat to the town.
Between 1870 and 1900 many fine homes and businesses were established but the feature that made much of this possible was the Colorado and Southern Railroad line that brought goods and services to the growing, thriving community. Not only did the Railroad bring goods and services, but it also provided a more affordable means to get the ore to Denver.
By the late 1930’s, Highway 40 was constructed which gobbled up a section of the city. All non-essential mining was banned in World War II to conserve powder and supplies, which once again, changed the complexion of the community. But in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s Interstate 70 was built and this changed the landscape but also made the city more accessible to both residents and tourists.
And as for today’s tourists, Idaho Springs has much to offer… From the stunning Charlie Taylor waterwheel, just south of I-70 at the foot of Bridal Veil Falls, to the highest paved road in the Northern Hemisphere leading up to Echo Lake, the Echo Lake Lodge and the Summit of Mount Evans. And did you know Idaho Springs is home to the Front Range Ski Club, which is a private ski-training facility?
While here, you may also enjoy visiting the Edgar Mine, which is the Colorado School of Mines educational, fully functioning mine for the school, or take a tour of the Phoenix Gold Mine and the Argo Gold Mine and Mill to try your hand at panning for GOLD! And be sure to visit the Idaho Springs Historic Downtown area, as it is filled with wonderful shops and unique dining experiences!