Quandary: Identifying the tracks in Tenmile Canyon and Frisco
Are those railroad tracks above the highway in Tenmile Canyon?
That’s a good guess. There were two railroads that serviced this area, but what you are actually looking at is the beginning of the Buffalo Placer Flume, according to Charlotte Clark’s book, “The Mines of Frisco.”
The remains lasted far longer than the flume did for its original purposes. You see, the life of the flume revolved around one of the great resource-based issues the West still contends with today: water rights. No shocker people down the valley needed water and concocted a plan to get it, even if they may not have had the rights to it. Col. Lemuel Kingsbury originally built the flume with the plan to carry water to the Salt Lick hydraulic placer at Wildernest, but his plans over-reached his rights, and the true owners of the water rights shut down the operation after only one year. And, to be a hydraulic mine without water, needless to say, is not a good position to find yourself in, but from 1934-35 this little flume did its best to keep the boys down valley rolling in dough.
For those that don’t know, hydraulic mining is the kind used by want-to-be firemen. Basically, point a really powerful hose at a hillside and hope for the best. As the layers start to peel away, the idea is you will be left with newly exposed minerals ripe for the picking.
If you aren’t sure just what ruins I’m spewing on about, there is a wooden structure near the Frisco water storage tanks with a ditch that wraps around the mountain to the northeast until it reaches the remains of the flume. Next time you are getting on the highway on the eastbound exit ramp at the end of Main Street, take a look and you are sure to see this forlorn flume.
So, where did the railroad go then? Well, given the path of least resistance and all that, it makes sense that when the recpath was put in leading from Frisco to Breckenridge and Copper Mountain, they chose a route that was already worn: the Colorado & Southern railroad tracks. So next time you’re on the recpath, see if you can get some friends to join you, add in choo-choo noises and it’ll be like a living history tour.
The same can be said for I-70. Again, for very practical reasons, the path of the highway follows the railroad tracks of the other company that came through town, the Denver & Rio Grande. Now these tracks also snaked through town en route to old Dillon following the alley between Main and Galena in Frisco, according to Jana Miller with the Frisco Historic Park and Museum. It’s a healthy reminder that pretty much any time you are walking a well-worn road in Summit County, ask yourself why and how it got that way. Chances are as fresh as your tracks might be, somebody else paved the way for you.
Quandary, an old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to any question about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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