The Colorado Rocky Mountains are home to dozens of ghost towns dotting the high country. They range from forgotten clearings with nothing but foundation stones to extensive collections of buildings, some of which are still inhabited. Vicksburg is among the more preserved ghost towns in the state. Located near the Missouri Gulch Trailhead by several fourteeners, this old mining camp is home to a dozen buildings and an impressive main street lined with hundred-year-old poplar trees planted by the miners. It is a great place to visit, especially while camping nearby or after climbing a fourteener. Here is some of the history of Vicksburg, Colorado, and some tips for visiting the ghost town
Vicksburg, Colorado, was a Founded as a Gold Mining Camp in 1867
The story goes that Vicksburg was primarily the result of an accidental discovery. Several prospectors camped in the valley lost track of their burros after they wandered downstream. When the miners finally caught up near Clear Creek, they also found good sizable deposits in the creek. This sign that gold ore deposits must be nearby convinced the men to settle here permanently and further explore the area. Within a few months, the camp of Vicksburg was more or less founded in 1867. While it began as a series of tents and ramshackle huts, the base increasingly became an actual town as time passed.
Vicksburg, Colorado Reach its Peak Population in the 1870s.
At its high point, Vicksburg was home to nearly 1,000 people in a scattered collection of cabins, huts, and tents. Many others moved there to serve the miners, and soon there was a post office, school, blacksmith, two hotels, two billiard halls, several saloons, a general store, an assay office, and a livery stable. The miners, proud of their new town high in the mountains, decided it needed a grand main street as its centerpiece. They packed more than forty balsam poplar trees up to the valley from lower altitudes and planted them along the road. They dug irrigation ditches to keep the trees watered and provided in case of fires. These impressive trees and their water ditches are still there today.
The Decline of Vicksburg After the Gold Deposits Ran Out
During this period, most gold claims in Colorado were not significant or particularly rich. The mines around Vicksburg were no exception. While the original miners could extract a good return, the deposits of gold ran out after just a few years of exploitation. The miners began to move on to try new locations, and as their patrons left town, the business owners who relied on them eventually followed. By 1885, the post office closed for good, and the camp began to fade into history.
Vicksburg Colorado was Never Completely Abandoned, Which Helped Preserve It
While the town once included more than forty buildings, seven still stood after 100 years of slow decay. This is because the town was never wholly abandoned. Throughout the 20th century, a small number of families stayed behind in Vicksburg, Colorado, and continued to live a rough and tough life without water or power.
By the 1950s, the Forest Service had begun removing unoccupied cabins that were still standing, and those that remained decided to act. They started The Clear Creek Canyon Historical Society to step in and protect the remaining town and document the history and stories of those who had lived there.
Tips for Visiting Vicksburg, Colorado
Today, most of the remaining cabins at Vicksburg are privately owned by families with ties back to those who originally built them long ago. However, there is a cabin run as a museum during the summer, and you can still explore Main Street and surrounding areas. It is well worth a visit, especially if you are in the area to climb a fourteener. Here are some tips for your visit:
- Be mindful of parking. There are limited spots in the town, but you can also park across the street in the Missouri Gulch Trailhead lot.
- The museum is open most weekends in the summer. However, there is a recording outside you can listen to if it is closed.
- The Vicksburg community buried its dead across the Creek. While hiking up the Missouri Gulch trail, you pass by the graves of several Vicksburg residents.
- If you have time, drive further up the canyon to visit another nearby ghost town from the same era, Winfield, Colorado
Leave No Trace and Help Preserve Vicksburg Colorado for the Future
Vicksburg is a fantastic piece of Colorado’s history preserved through time and energy. Help keep it for the next generation of visitors by practicing Leave No Trace outdoor ethics while in the area. These tips will help you limit your impact and avoid unintentional damage to Vicksburg’s natural or historic features.
- Take only pictures, don’t take any artifacts or natural items from the area. Leave them be so others can enjoy them too.
- Pack out all your trash and litter to throw away at home, and use the bathroom at the Missouri Gulch trailhead if you need to go.
- Avoid off-trail travel in this area so you do not accidentally create a trail that others will follow and widen in the future.
- Do not camp in Vicksburg or start a campfire in this area to avoid causing any extra impact or killing any vegetation.
- Be courteous to others. Don’t play loud music, keep your voice down, and be kind to others in your interactions with them.
Things to Do Near Vicksburg, Colorado
There are many things to see and do in Clear Creek Canyon. Here’s a sampling of some of the options while you are there visiting Vicksburg.
- There are several other ghost towns and mining camps to explore, including Winfield and the Crescent Mining Camp.
- five fourteeners can be climbed from the valley: Mount Belford, Mount Oxford, Missouri Mountain, Huron Peak, and La Plata Peak.
- You can camp at dispersed camping sites along the road in Clear Creek Canyon or the designated campground near the reservoir.
- The area is trendy for 4X4 vehicles, with rentals available nearby mountain towns.
- Get lunch, visit a museum, or get a drink at an old saloon in nearby mountain communities, including Buena Vista, Salida, and Leadville.
Vicksburg, Colorado: Now You Know!
Vicksburg, Colorado, is one of the unique ghost towns in the state. With its tree-lined streets and several private residences that survived centuries of neglect, it is one of the better preserved of, the smaller mining camps in Colorado. If you visit, take only photographs and help keep this fascinating historical legacy for the future. Thanks for reading!