The area of Eagle Mine saw a surge of mining activities by several small, independent miners with the hopes of extracting gold and silver. Eagle mine started in 1886 with the owner buying up several of these smaller mines. It extracted several different types of minerals and ore with its largest production being zinc. It closed down in 1977 and then re-opened a few years later. In 1984 it closed its operations for good and abandoned the town due to heavy water contamination. After the evacuation, the owning company (Viacom by this time) started flooding the mine and performing the cleanup process as mandated by the EPA.
At the time this location was submitted to Waymarking (2007), the area is still under environmental cleanup. Most of the drift entrances have been plugged and small treatment facilities placed in the area. Capping of the tailings has also begun. Oddly, much of the mining equipment is still located in the tunnels.
In 2008, construction is projected to begin on further removing some mine portals, buildings, and portions of the old town. Since the property was purchased by a private organization, the area is slated to begin the development of a resort. It is only a matter of time before this historical location becomes overtaken by modern amenities.
Eagle mine is the mine directly below the corporate mining town of Gilman. The town was built as an incentive to keep workers on staff for longer periods of time and thus reduce the high turn-over of laborers. This was a common practice of those days for most mining communities.
This mine is one of the most extravagant remnants of a mining operation I have personally seen. The many old drifts leading into the mine extend a long distance from the main industrial area. Even some of the late 1800s drifts and buildings are still visible.
Despite the cleanup effort, it is still a very dangerous area. The air is toxic in the drifts and shafts, concentrated pools of toxins are still present, and heavy metals abound in and around the mine. A new development company has bought the area and started heavy patrols to prevent trespassing. Even if you might find an open drift, don't go in it. The older the mine gets the more chances of cave-ins and built up toxic gases. If you see a drift entrance that looks like it was sealed and is now open, then that means one of two things: someone broke into the mine, or there was a cave-in that created air compression in the tunnel causing the door to blow open. Several drifts in this mine are supported by rotting wooden beams.
There are also a lot of loose rocks along the cliff faces that fall to the valley below. The train that used these tracks (for recreational purposes in the 1990s) had to constantly clear the tracks of fallen rocks and boulders. The road leading to and from the area (highway 24) is also dangerous with sharp curves and blind spots. Drive carefully, especially at night and during winter conditions. If you do decide to hike the tracks at the bottom of the valley, you might come across fallen cars. Please be respectful of those areas, as people have died in those cars.
You can view this mine from highway 24 that runs between Vail and Leadville. There are a few pull-offs near the town of Gilman where you can peer over the edge of the cliff and see the mining buildings at the bottom. If it is still there by the time you visit this spot, you may be able to see one of the forced air fans along the cliff edge that supplied air to some of the deeper tunnels. The old town consists of several homes, a school, grocery store, and a recreation center (with a bowling alley).
I have loaded pictures from 2004 to show how it looked at that time instead of having some of the cleanup effort photos that have taken away some of the mining nostalgia of the area. The intent is for waymark visitors to post their newer photos of the area to show the progression of the start of exterior clean-up from 2002 through its EPA and commercial development process.
Points of interest:
In the nearby town of Leadville, there is a mining hall of fame and museum. It contains some of the minerals extracted from Eagle Mine.
About some of the minerals at the mine: