Colorado ghost towns and mining history: Exploring the Ute Ulay mining complex and town site

LAKE CITY, Colo. -- In central Colorado, about four miles outside Lake City, a neglected mining town is decaying. But even though its been decades since this boom town was producing millions in minerals, visitors can still see the homes, the mining equipment and even the outhouses left behind.

This is the Ute-Ulay Mill at the ghost town of Henson.

Even though much of this was constructed in the late 1800s, it feels like the bell could go off any time and call the workers back.

Hundreds of people drive by this historic spot every day in the summer. That's because Country Road 20 passes right through it.

County Road 20 may not be famous, but the road has another name. It's part of the Alpine Loop on the Engineer Pass side. Hundreds of people on ATVs, in Jeeps and other vehicles drive the scenic loop every day in the summer.

"The Ute and Utlay mines were some of the best known silver and lead producers in Colorado," according to ColoradoPreservation.org. "Between 1874 and 1903, the mines were responsible for $12 million worth of minerals which today would amount to more than $280 million in value."

The website says the mines were largely responsible for the development of nearby Lake City.

There are more than a dozen homes still standing here. Some are made of wood slates, others are old log cabins.

ColoradoPreservation.org says the structures include residential cabins, a blacksmith shop, a boarding house, a red-cedar water tank, and assayer’s office.

There's a road that goes up the hill to one of the mine shafts.

The sign says you're welcome to hike the road, but to stay out of the buildings.

We found this old equipment near the head frame.

While the mine shaft is gated, you can look down hundreds of feet. Notice the multiple levels.

We spotted at least two outhouses still standing.

Interestingly, this one not only had two "stalls." Inside, it had two seats inside each stall.

Here's another outhouse.

There are a few signs in the area that mining was still taking place in this area in the 1970s.

"The mill was hydroelectrically powered by Henson Creek until the Hidden Treasure dam burst in 1973," according to the Hardrock Revision Blog.

Look closely and there is still evidence of how water was moved to the mill.

The Ute Ulay mines and Henson town site are on County Road 20 about four miles west of Lake City.

LKA Gold donated the land, historic buildings and the structures to Hinsdale County for restoration, preservation and public display purposes.

Find more ghost towns, hikes and adventures in Colorado in our Discover Colorado section.

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