Mining played an important part in Colorado's development. Early in the summer of 1858, on the banks of Dry Creek, gold was discovered. The news of the gold discovery spread quickly and thousands of gold seekers were camped along Cherry Creek, where the city of Denver would later be.
These gold hunters were called the Fifty-Niners because the gold rush took place in the year of 1859. During that summer, nearly 50,000 people came to the Pike's Peak region. They learned that gold could be found either in the mountains or in the streams. Placer gold was mined by digging up sand and gravel from the stream beds and mixing it with water in a shallow pan. They would slowly move the pan back and forth so that the rocks and dirt would spill over the sides.
The gold in the mountains was much harder to mine. It was called lode gold. Most of it was still part of the hard quartz rock of the mountain. They used picks, shovels, and dynamite to dig out the gold. The rock then had to be crushed in order to remove the gold.
Mining towns developed in Central City, Blackhawk, and Nevadaville. Some of them still exist today while others are now ghost towns. Keeping the miners supplied with the things they needed was a big job. The only way to get supplies to the Rocky Mountains was by wagons. Each spring, thousands of wagons set out across the plains. The wagons were pulled by horses, mules, and slow-moving oxen and it often took six to eight weeks for the heavy wagons to cross the plains.
For more on Gold see http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/prospect1/goldgip.html.
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