Idaho Springs

Hanchette Building in Idaho Springs
The Hanchette Building was erected in the 1890s by Silas Hanchette, who made his fortune from part ownership of a gold mine in Empire but also worked as a merchant. | Photo by Jimmy Emerson / flickr

Staff writer

From the usual rough mining camp of the 1860s, Idaho Springs has matured into a calm and welcoming get-away, with historic excursions and ache-easing hot springs and spa. Hiking trails and white water rafting appeal to the energetic.

In 1859, drawn by the mist from the natural hot springs at the mouth of Clear Creek Canyon, prospector George Jackson stumbled onto one of the richest loads of surface gold in the state. Sitting by his campfire at the side of Clear Creek, he panned $9 worth of gold in his coffee cup. Word leaked out and Jackson soon had lots of company.

The settlement of 400 miners was formally organized that year, the first in the state, with a series of names – Jackson’s Diggings, Sacramento City, Idahoe, Idaho City and finally Idaho Springs (from the Arapahoe word edauhoe, meaning “gem of the mountains”). Unlike many rough-and-ready mining settlements, the small town was set on stability.

In the 1860s, residents had water and sewer service. By the turn of the century there was electric power and heat.

The Colorado and Southern railroad provided transport for ore to Denver and people and goods on the return trip. By 1940, U.S. 40 provided another route for transportation. Restrictions on mining materials during World War II put on the brakes, but with the post-war construction of I-70, Idaho Springs was ready for a flood of tourists heading westward into the mountains.

Argo Gold Mine and Mill
Bridal Veil Falls and water wheel
Idaho Springs Heritage Museum
Indian Hot Springs
Phoenix Gold Mine

Idaho Springs facts
Population: 1,717 (2010 Census).
Land area: 2.17 square miles.
County: Clear Creek County (Georgetown is county seat).
Altitude: 7,453 feet above sea level.
Climate: Cool summers, cold winters and low humidity, with abundant sunshine year-round. Annual precipitation of 15 inches, including average snowfall of 72 inches. Snow depth of 1 inch from December to April. January averages: high 39, low 15. July averages: high 77, low 48. More weather >>