Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Touring the Hard Tack Mine in Lake City, Colorado

         Think your job is tough?  Then you haven’t spent 40 minutes touring the Hard Tack Mine near Lake City Colorado.  Tour guide Billy Tuggle shares the perils of mining with our group as we journey along a tunnel inside the San Juan Mountains.  Gold and silver miners were exposed to constant hazards, among them cave-ins and explosions.  Many of the men who set the charges in mines like this one never made it back to town alive.  

  We stop at displays along the tunnel, where mannequins re-enact scenes of chiseling precious minerals from the mountainside while Billy provides a comprehensive narration detailing their efforts.   Near the end of the tour we’re treated to a special surprise—an underground room filled with stunning examples of the gems extracted from the earth.

A warning.  Old mines are subject to
toxic fumes and cave-ins.

This grizzled "miner" is ready to drill into the mountainside.

         As we finish our excursion Billy shares a secret with us: this part of Colorado still contains traces of silver and gold, and Billy has discovered 500 pounds of silver-containing rocks in his travels of the San Juans.  When we leave the tunnel Billy’s wife Bobbi is waiting in the underground gift shop, where we can buy samples of the precious stones found in these hills.

"Know when to fold 'em..."  Even miners have to relax now and again.
My friend Shirley plays a hand in the miner's lounge.
         So go ahead and try your prospecting luck in the mountains of southwestern Colorado—but don’t become another mining statistic.  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has published a brochure detailing rules and guidelines for aspiring rock collectors.  Read all about it at this website: Brochure.pdf

The mountains of southwestern Colorado are dotted with the
remains of old mining townsites.

         The Hard Tack Mine is open every day from Memorial Day until Labor Day.  The rest of the year the mine is open by appointment.  Contact the mine at this number: 970-944-2506.


  1. Fun and informative post, Rita! And what a great way to make use of an old mine while educating the public. I think I'd be a bit nervous - given all the warning signage - walking through the mine and ever-so-happy to see the gift shop (and sunshine)!

    But, what a neat excursion - thanks for sharing.

  2. Hi Vickie,

    I agree that this is a great use of an old mine. And—to put our minds at ease—our tour guide assured us that the mine is inspected for cracks, seepages and/or gas leaks every morning before the tours begin. (So I wasn't too, too nervous!)

    Glad you enjoyed this post and thanks as always for reading and commenting.

  3. Hi Rita,

    That's a unique concept to have mannequins re-enact scenes of chiseling precious minerals from the mountainside! But why do those mannequins bring back memories of similar likenesses that you and I have both witnessed at the Bread and Puppet Museum in Vermont?! :-)


    1. Hi John,

      So glad to hear that you had a chance to visit the Bread and Puppet Museum! All these mannequins are a little creepy, aren't they? (Perfect for October.)

      I appreciate your comments!