Clear Creek, a tributary of the South Platte River, is the closest rafting destination to Denver and one of the best in the country. It starts at the Continental Divide, draining such famous passes as Loveland, Berthoud, and Guanella. Clear Creek also gathers water from the top of Mt Evans and the year-round snow-fields of St. Mary’s Glacier. All of these sites are easily accessed by visitors, offering breath-taking views and hikes.
Clear Creek Canyon was first visited by Native American groups such as the Ute and Arapaho, whose reverence for the local hot springs led them on yearly pilgrimages to the area. But it was not until January of 1859, when George Jackson discovered gold at the confluence of Chicago Creek, kicking off the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, that this canyon would make its mark on American history.
Significant lodes of gold were discovered in this area after the nuggets and flakes, or placer gold, found in the creek bed, became scarce. Miners began tunneling under the mountains in search of untold fortunes. This technique was called hard rock mining and became the method of choice. In their relentless quest for gold, miners and engineers worked together to accomplish legendary deeds. After tunneling so deep that their mines began to flood, the Argo Tunnel was built. Finished in 1910, it was the longest tunnel in the world and served to drain all the active mines between Idaho Springs and Central City. In 1943, a catastrophic mining disaster that claimed four lives caused the tunnel to be closed forever. Today, visitors can glimpse the past by visiting the historic Argo Gold Mine and Mill.
In the late 1800s, discoveries of both silver and gold further west had spurned the steady growth of the Colorado Central Railroad. In an unsuccessful, but valiant, attempt to be the first railroad to reach Leadville, the Georgetown Loop was built in 1884. The railroad starts in Georgetown, gaining an elevation of over 600 feet through the canyon as it winds its way to Silver Plume. This section of railroad is still open to visitors today.
The search for gold in Clear Creek County inspired many advancements in modern mining and engineering. It also helped to fund the development of our country and the settlement of Colorado. Today, the value of Clear Creek is not in its gold and silver deposits, but in its world-class whitewater. We offer trips for all skill levels. Call us and book an adventure to feel the excitement for yourself.