September 20th 2009 - The last day of summer at 12,500ft
just north of the 14,443ft peak of Mount Elbert.
After a 5 mile ride up the South Halfmoon Creek trail we
made it to the site of the Iron Mike Mine on the
Susquehanna mining claim. The last few hundred yards we
rode in a gentle snow storm that almost immediately
melted on the ground as it turned to rain. At the mine
site itself we found two buildings. We are sitting on
the remains of a large log cabin on the north east edge
of the claim. The other building has collapsed and is
off to the right. The north slope of Mount Elbert can be
seen in the background.
NOTE: Mount Elbert is the highest peak in
the Rocky Mountains of North America, and the second
highest mountain in the contiguous United States, after
Mount Whitney in California. It is, of course, the
highest of the fourteeners (peaks higher than 14,000ft)
in Colorado, and it is the highest point on the Sawatch
Range, which includes eight of the twenty highest peaks
in the Rocky Mountains.
Susquehanna Claim is a patented mining claim that dates
from around 1904. It is shown on the USGS sectional map
of the area (Mt Elbert quadrangle). This scan is of the
top left corner of that sectional map.
The Susquehanna claim boundaries
are defined by the shaded box that encircles the "Iron
Mike Mine" shown on the map.
The 4WD trail can be seen following the broad valley of
South Halfmoon Creek as it climbs up to the mine. It was
built to service the mine works and the excavations at
the end of the trail that lie north of the label
"Prospects". The "X" symbols mark those excavations.
buildings remain. The log cabin just off of the NE edge
of the claim can be seen in the background. It is
littered with old breeze blocks and debris, including
cans and fittings from the building.
The building in the foreground is
probably of later construction as it is frame built of
finished lumber. It has completely collapsed. The ground
between the two buildings is covered in mining debris
such as pieces of cable and metal fragments.
aerial photograph clearly shows the trail leading to the
mine. The approximate boundaries of the claim are
highlighted in orange.
The claim boundaries have been transposed onto the
aerial photograph from the USGS quadrangle map. From previous experience the mining
claim boundaries shown on the USGS sectional maps are
approximate, not exact, and may be several hundred feet
off of the actual surveyed position as shown on the
original plats in the land office in Leadville. In this
case the claim boundaries correspond precisely to the
actual position of the old mine workings, so they are
probably quite accurate.
There are three features that can be clearly seen on the
ground and also appear in the aerial photograph. The log
cabin apparently lies just outside of the actual claim
boundaries on the bend in the trail. A collapsed
building lies on the NE margin of the claim, and the
actual mine shaft and spoil heaps lie in the center of
the claim at the SE end.
We are sitting on the remains of the log cabin, with the
foot of Mount Elbert in the background. The peak of
Mount Elbert is lost in the clouds.
My red outfit was carefully chosen to
colour coordinate with the lime green Kawasaki dirt bike
leaning on the cabin wall.
east from the claim boundary down the Halfmoon Creek
drainage. The 4WD trail to the claim comes up the valley
floor through the narrow gap seen in the far distance.
The town of Leadville lies off to the east in the far
distance. It is located just to the left of the valley
opening but is lost in the clouds.
looks a lot like Scotland...
view is from the mine workings and the mine shaft,
looking NW down the line of the mining claim. The claim
extends almost all of the way across the shallow valley
to the far side.
the remains of the mine shaft. The sides of the shaft
were lined with timbers, and the shaft itself has
collapsed and is now filled with rubble.
The bikes and people are standing
next to the log cabin, and the collapsed building is in
the near distance to the left.
the shaft are two buried wooden barrels, and beyond that
the mounting bolts of some kind of winch that was used
to pull rock up from the shaft. The overhead gantry that
would have been above the shaft has disappeared, but
there are some large fragments of big timbers lying
around that may have once formed part of it.
west up the road that continues from the mine and winds
its way to the far slope. The road can be seen on the
left edge of the photograph, and it snakes its way along the
low rounded ridge in the middle distance. There are a
number of excavations in the far hillside at the end of
the trail. The trail ends at the scree slope.
NE edge of the claim boundary is a building that has
completely collapsed. It was a frame built hut or shed
with planking on the walls. The lumber used in this
building was all machined or finished lumber, and this
was probably a building that was erected somewhat later
than the more substantial log cabin seen in the
The north flank of Mount Elbert is in the distance with the
14,443 ft peak just shrouded by the clouds.
won't be coming back until next year... there are
probably a few inches of snow now covering the ground.
It rained on us all the way back down the trail, and by
the time we got to the truck it was pouring and cold.