"A spectacular pedestrian bridge connecting the Ralston and Clear Creek trail systems was completed in October of 2001 and is a signature architectural gateway on Arvada's eastern edge. The 400-foot long curved bridge is supported by suspended cables and anchored by a three-foot diameter mast 100 feet tall." (from (visit link
This lovely bridge is well used by the community and provides an architectural prize in a rather industrial area of Arvada. There is nearby parking and a Porta-Potty as well as historical markers about this location that is purported to be the first gold find in Colorado (then Kansas Territory) by a European man.
In part, the educational sign reads:
"Louis Ralston made the First documented gold find in Colorado [actually, Kansas territory] here on June 22, 1850."
The actual story is more interesting. The Cherokee Indians had found the gold years before. Louis Ralston had married a Cherokee women, ELizabeth Kell in Georgia. A gold had been found near Ralston's land in Georgia where the town was named 'Auraria' - a Cherokee word meaning gold mine. Because Ralston was of Scottish (European) heritage, he had legal rights the Indians did not (American Indians were not U.S. citizens until 1924).
Ralston was with a party going to California for the gold strike that occurred in late 1840s-early 1850s. He had learned of the gold that had been found in this area from his Cherokee relatives. The party found gold, but then moved on to California. They returned a few years later and followed Clear Creek into the mountains since they had figured the gold had washed down from the foothills.
The Colorado [Territory] gold rush was prevalent in the late 1850s. The areas of Idaho Springs, Black Hawk and Central City in Clear Creek County as well as the South Park area in Park County provided gold seekers work and hardship. Very few "struck it rich."
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"Arvada's story began with Colorado's first gold discovery.
On June 22, 1850, a wagon train bound for California crossed the Platte River just north of the confluence with Clear Creek, following Clear Creek west for six miles. The members of the wagon train rested for a day, and Lewis Ralston dipped his gold pan in an unnamed mountain stream. He found almost $5 in gold in his first pan. John Lowery Brown, who kept a diary of the party's journey from Georgia to California, wrote on that day: "Lay bye. Gold found." In a notation above the entry, he wrote, "We called this Ralston's Creek because a man of that name found gold here."
Ralston continued on to California, but returned to Ralston's Creek with the Green Russell party eight years later. Members of this party founded Auraria (later Denver City) in 1858 and touched off the gold rush to the Rockies.
Over the next century and a half, the significance of the discovery was lost. Eventually the entire area became blighted. And the State recognized the first gold find as being at the confluence of Little Dry Creek and the South Platte River in 1858 by William Greenberry Russell. But research by Lois Lindstrom, a local historian, proved that in fact Arvada was the site of the first gold discovery. She began her research in 1971 and sought Colorado State designation for Arvada in 1992. That attempt was unsuccessful because Lindstrom could not pin down the exact location of the gold discovery. Later on, she found a 1937 aerial photograph showing a grove of cottonwood trees at the confluence of Ralston and Clear Creeks which had since been removed for construction of a mobile home park. A member of Ralston's party had written about just such a grove. On December 1, 1995, the Colorado Historical Society officially recognized that Colorado's first discovery occurred in present-day Arvada.
Today, land has been set aside for the development of Gold Strike Park at the confluence of Ralston and Clear Creeks celebrating Colorado's first gold discovery. A spectacular pedestrian bridge connecting the Ralston and Clear Creek trail systems was completed in October of 2001 and is a signature architectural gateway on Arvada's eastern edge. The 400-foot long curved bridge is supported by suspended cables and anchored by a three-foot diameter mast 100 feet tall." (from (visit link
"In 1848, a group of Cherokee on their way to California over the Cherokee Trail discovered gold in a stream bed in the South Platte basin. The Cherokee did not stop to work the stream beds, but they reported the information to other members of their tribe upon returning to Oklahoma. The information remained unused for the following decade, however, until it reached William Green Russell, a Georgian who had worked the California gold fields in the 1850s. Russell was married to a Cherokee woman, and through his connections to the tribe, he heard about the reported gold in the Pikes Peak region of the western Kansas Territory. In 1858, upon returning from California, Russel organized a party to the area, setting off with his two brothers and six companions in February 1858. They rendezvoused with Cherokee tribe members along the Arkansas River in present-day Oklahoma and continued westward along the Santa Fe Trail. Others joined the party along the way until the number reached 104.
Upon reaching Bent's Fort, they turned to the northwest, reaching the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platton May 23. The site of their initial explorations is in present-day Confluence Park in Denver. They began prospecting in the river beds, exploring Cherry Creek and nearby Ralston Creek, but without success. After twenty days, a number of them decided to return home, leaving the Russell brothers and ten other men behind. In the first week of July 1858, they finally discovered "good diggings" at the mouth of Little Dry Creek on the South Platte, panning out several hundred dollars of gold dust from a small pocket, the first significant gold discovery in the region. The site of the discovery is in the present-day Denver suburb of Englewood, just northwest of the junction of U.S. Highway 285 and Interstate 70.*
When word got back east, the Colorado Gold Rush was on; Pikes Peak or Bust! was the slogan. By 1859, large numbers of prospective miners and settlers had come up the Kansas River valley to the Denver area. At first, there was only the slight showing in Cherry Creek and the South Platte River, but soon paying quantities of gold were discovered at Idaho Springs and Central City. By 1860, Central City had a population of 60,000 people and Denver and Golden were substantial towns serving the mines." (from (visit link
) for additional information about gold and its migration through Colorado's streams.