Cripple Creek has a varied and rich history and is the site of the last and greatest mining boom in the state of Colorado, attracting thousands of hopeful miners to the western side of Pikes Peak in the 1890s. From a boom town to a ghost town to a gambling town, Cripple Creek has endured both triumphs and devastations in its 150-year history.
Learn about Cripple Creek's colorful gold camp history
Ferdinand Hayden’s survey passes through the Cripple Creek Area in 1873
One of Hayden’s geologists, H.T. Wood, returns the next year to investigate his hunch that the region is a promising gold district. They soon gave up looking.
Bob Womack and his brother William move to the “Broken Box Ranch” (later to become Cripple Creek) in 1878
They purchase the ranch for $500 and two pigs. Between his duties operating the ranch, Bob explores the region looking for gold ore.
Bob Womack finally discovers gold ore in Poverty Gulch in 1890
After 10 years of prospecting, Bob Womack officially files a mining claim which marked the beginning of the last gold rush in Colorado.
Winfield Scott Stratton stakes a mining claim on July 4, 1891
Stratton names his mine the Independence and it becomes one of the largest gold strikes in history. He becomes the first Cripple Creek millionaire. He sells the Independence in 1899 for 11 million dollars.
Cripple Creek becomes the official name of the mining district in 1894
Cripple Creek now has 150 active mines and produces almost $3 million that year. The town’s 5000 residents have a water system and electric arc lights throughout the city.
Western Federation of Miners Strike in 1894
This marks one of the few times in history that a sitting governor calls out the national guard to protect the miners from anti-union violence.
The Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad arrives July 1, 1894
A second railroad into the District was the Midland Terminal Railroad in 1895 and the third railroad arriving on April 12, 1901 called “The Short Line” from Colorado Springs.
Cripple Creek is devastated by fires in 1896
The first fire occurs on April 25, 1896, destroying half of the city, including much of the business district. Four days later, another fire destroys much of the remaining half. After the fires, the town council banned wood construction for new downtown businesses. The city is rebuilt within a few months with brick and stone.
The west side of Pikes Peak breaks away from El Paso County in 1899
Teller County is formed, and Cripple Creek is voted as the county seat.
The Short Line Railroad stops running in 1920
Most of the old grades were converted into auto highways. The Short Line rail bed becomes “The Gold Camp Road.”
Cripple Creek's famous trolley systems shut down in 1922
The trolleys were electric trains, which ran from Cripple Creek to Victor, as well as served the communities of Elkton and Anaconda.
Donkey Derby Days begin in 1931
This annual tradition, launched by local business men, stalls during the Great Depression, but revives and is still celebrated today.
The Midland Terminal Railroad stops running in 1949
By 1950 the district’s population dropped below 2,000. Nearly all of the district’s town and camps were abandoned, leaving only Cripple Creek, Victor and Goldfield.
The Cripple Creek District Museum opens in 1953
The museum opens in the former Midland Terminal Depot and part of the old railroad grade is developed in the 1960 to take tourists from Cripple Creek to Anaconda and back. Today, the Cripple Creek & Victor Narrow Gauge Railroad entertain visitors from all over the world!
Cripple Creek is named a National Historic Landmark in 1961
Legalized gambling comes to Cripple Creek in 1991
Many of the town’s downtown historic buildings are refurbished as casinos, and the town is revived.
Open-pit mining begins in 1995
Open-pit mining operations are established at the site of the former Cresson Mine. Today, that mine produces more than 250,000 ounces of gold and is the largest mining operation in the continental United States.
Cripple Creek is named one of the most endangered historic places in the state in 1998
Since then, strong preservation funds, providing by gaming, and design guidelines have helped to maintain our unique museums and the district’s historic look.