I love going on leisurely road trips — the kind where you’ve several spare hours to pull over somewhere and explore. If a place seems interesting, I like to check it out.
So it was this past summer while we were visiting Colorado. We were heading east to Boulder, with a planned stop for lunch in Georgetown, and were cruising on I-70. We starting to look for the Georgetown exit when immediately ahead was an exit for “Silver Plume”. Great name, got to explore it!
Silver Plume is located in Clear Creek County and is a former silver mining town. It’s just 46 miles (74 km) from Denver, but worlds apart from that huge busy city. The town is situated along gushing Clear Creek in the eastern ranges of the Rocky Mountains. Silver Plume is part of the Georgetown-Silver Plume Historic District, our subsequent destination of Georgetown lying a few miles further east, downhill from Silver Plume. The two towns are only a few miles apart and are further tethered by the Georgetown Loop Historic Mining & Railroad Park; there’s an old steam train that you can ride from Georgetown to Silver Plume and back — great fun, especially for families!
The area was in its heyday during the last four decades of the 19th century, when a number of mines were open near the town. Gold was discovered near Denver in 1859 and in the following years thousands of prospectors headed up along the creeks into the Rocky Mountains searching for veins of gold, or silver, or anything else of value. Good veins of silver were discovered in Silver Plume and the town boomed and prospered during that time. With the money came good paying mining jobs and support services, like stores, bars and hotels. The town all but disappeared when the mines closed forty years later and has eked out its survival on the fringes of the tourist trade.
Today Silver Plume has about 170 residents. But its history and its mining past linger and there are a number of charming old buildings and homes that are worth seeing, including several churches and some lovely ginger-bread homes. The old school house in town is now the George Rowe Museum.
Trout fishing in Clear Creek is said to be good, and there are several hikes nearby offering beautiful views! An hour is plenty of time to walk around and explore the town, unless you want to visit the museum or get a bite to eat. Soon we were off to Georgetown, but that’s a story for another day