Camp Bird Mine

Thomas F. Walsh suspected there might be gold in Imogene Basin and began sampling ore from the old mine dumps in the area. Rich gold ore was found in the dump of the Una-Gertrude mine, and Walsh found gold in the face of a drift in the Gertrude in 1896. He began surreptitiously acquiring most all of the old claims in the Imogene Basin. He staked additional claims, including the Camp Bird. The mine was named after the Clark's Nutcracker, a species of crow that frequented the mines looking for handouts. The Camp Bird turned out to be a bonanza, producing about 1.5 million troy ounces of gold, and 4 million troy ounces of silver from 1896 to 1990. Camp Bird's production would be worth over $2 billion at today's prices.

Walsh treated his miners well. The Camp Bird was one of the first mines in the west to implement eight-hour work days. Wages were high, equipment was modern, and safety and working conditions were the best. The mine's boarding houses provided 5-star meals for the miners and were equipped with all the latest conveniences: indoor plumbing, electricity, steam heat, and reading and smoking rooms. As a result the mine never experienced the violent labor unrest that plagued the region in the early 1900s. Today most of the mine sites have been remediated and the equipment removed.

Camp Bird Road

Camp Bird Road was originally a toll road built in 1883 by Otto Mears to serve the mines of the Sneffels Mining District. Today it's Ouray County Road 361, providing access to both Camp Bird Mine and Yankee Boy Basin. The road forks about 4.6 miles from Ouray, with Camp Bird Road as the left fork and Ouray County Road 26 as the right fork, continuing on to Yankee Boy Basin. Camp Bird Road to lower Camp Bird Mine is fairly well maintained dirt and gravel and open year round. It’s about 5 miles from Ouray to lower Camp Bird Mine. The road from lower Camp Bird Mine (#14 level) to upper Camp Bird Mine (#3 level) is actually Ouray CR 26A, but I still call it Camp Bird Road. It has a steeper grade and becomes rough and rocky (4-wheel high-clearance vehicles only). The middle section travels along a bench for several hundred feet with a with a serious vertical dropoff. Passing on this section is next to impossible. The upper section is rocky in places but easily navigable. A 4-wheel drive trail continues from upper Camp Bird Mine over Imogene Pass into Telluride. I have included some snapshots taken from a dashcam video of terrain along the way.

Start of Camp Bird Road near Ouray

Camp Bird Road

Camp Bird Road

Junction of Ouray County Roads 361 and 24

Approach to lower Camp Bird Mine

lower Camp Bird Mine (#14 level)

Camp Bird Road (CR 26A)

Camp Bird Road

A little water

Shelf along Camp Bird Road (CR 26A)

Approaching Upper Camp Bird Mine (#3 level)

Approach to upper Camp Bird Mine

Camp Bird Mine #14 Level

Camp Bird Mine #14 level is located along Canyon Creek at an elevation of 9829 feet. Tom Walsh built his Camp Bird mill at this level. A 9000 foot aerial tramway ran from the #3 level tram house to the ore bins of the mill, a vertical distance of 1350 feet. As ore production grew, more storage buildings, machine shops, and boarding houses were added at this level. The crosscut adit at the 14th level was completed in 1918 and intersected the ore vein about 2000 feet below the surface. The mine office and several houses from the mine are still standing.

Plymouth Mine Locomotive

Modern Mining Structure and Equipment

Gate only open during summer months

General Manager's (Superintendent's) House

Mill tailings and reclamation work

Mine Superintendent's Office

Camp Bird Mine #3 Level

The Camp Bird Mine #3 level adit is located at an elevation of 11,361 feet. The #3 level adit was still being driven in November of 1898 when the aerial tramway to the mill was completed. At that time ore was being sent from the second level to the #3 level tram house for transport to the mill. When completed, #3 level adit reached the Camp Bird ore vein some 800 feet below the surface and became the main adit for the mine. Machine and carpenter shops, storage sheds, and a boarding house were added at this level.

Mine adit

Ore cart rail tracks

Rail detail

Mine adit

Used to be something

Lots of wire rope

Camp Bird Mine

Ouray CR 26A

Concrete foundation

Mine dump reclamation

Mine buildings

I think this might have been the rail track to the aerial tramway tram house

Mine building

Building Interior

Reclamation Earthworks
Imogene Pass Road center right background


Background information: Wikipedia,, and Camp Bird and the Revenue 1980 by J.L. Benham
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