Colorado Scenics

Steve Tohari

617 Midland Ave.,

Woodland Park, CO 80863


The remains of the old mill on Crystal River in the Central Rockies near Marble is Colorado Icon, representing the mining legacy of the 19th century. Built in 1892, the mill was actually what would be termed today a mini-hydro plant, generating electricity in a remote area far from any major source and power lines. Hard rock mining, tunneling through the mountains along the veins containing the sought-after minerals, had always required the use of pick axes and explosives, a difficult, dangerous, time-consuming process. The advent of a new tool, a large electric drill , revolutionized hard rock mining. The only problem in remote areas where most of the mines were located, was the availability of power. So the miners built a small plant with a water wheel and attached a generator. A power line was strung up the mountain slope to the mine tunnel. A drop in the stream was the best place to locate the water wheel so it would spin faster and generate more power.This is why the Crystal River Mill was located on a cliff by a waterfall. Other structures like this mill do exist in Colorado, one of which is in Stevens Gulch near the Eisenhower Tunnel, restored, lived-in, with a satellite dish in front!I If you wish to visit Crystal River Mill, you drive South from Carbondale, and right before McClure Pass, turn left to Marble. At the end of town, is a rough dirt road not suitable for any car or truck with low clearance. It’s a bone-rattling ride in a Jeep for 45 minutes, a two hour walk, or a difficult ride on a mountain bike over loose shale and a steep grade. Once there, it’s worth it!



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