Camp Bird  
USGS 7.5' Map: Ouray, Ironton, Telluride
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 1 FR853, CR361 6.88 7,880 to 10,760 ft. N/A 2-3 hrs
County: Ouray
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Uncompahgre National Forest,
Ouray Ranger District
2505 S. Townsend Ave, Montrose, CO 81401 (970)240-5300
Summary: Camp Bird road starts just outside Ouray, CO and follows Canyon Creek past the Camp Bird Mine site, the Sneffels town site and Revenue Mine site. The road ends where Governor Basin and Yankee Boy Basin start.
Attractions: Mining History, Scenic, Ledge Road
Agency - Closed Dec 1 to Apr 30.
Best Time: June - May have late snows
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Early snows may close road
Trail Heads
Ouray Perimeter Trail FT156 - Hiking, Mountain biking, Horseback riding
Alpine Mine Trail FT152 - Hiking, Horseback riding
Sutton-Neosho Trail FT194 - Hiking
Ice Park Trail FT196 - Hiking
Weehawken Trail FT206 - Hiking, Mountain biking, Horseback riding
Camping: There are two campgrounds along the road, with a few dispersed camp sites as well.
Base Camp: This would be a good area to base camp. There is Imogene Pass, Governor Basin, and Yankee Boy Basin to explore.
Fall Colors: Very Good - Medium to large aspen groves along the lower section of the Camp Bird Road.
Navigation: From Ouray, CO head south on US-550 S/3rd St/Main Street toward 6th Avenue for 0.7 miles. Turn right onto the Camp Bird Road.

History: The Camp Bird road was built by Otto Mears as a toll road to service the mines in Imogene, Governor, and Yankee Boy Basin. It was finished in 1883, but got its name a decade later from the famous mine. At the start of the road is the first big mine discovered in the area, the Mineral Farm Mine. The mine was so named because the ore was on the surface and could be mined in small trenches. A.W. Begole and John Eckles discovered the mine in 1875, but then sold it in 1878 for $75,000, which was a lot of money for an unproven mine. Begole demanded cash, and received it, upon which he started a merchandise store in Ouray. The Mineral Farm Mine would go on to produce over a million dollars in gold, silver, copper and lead.

In 1896 Thomas Walsh bought the Gertrude and Una mines, in upper Imogene Basin, from Hubbard Reed. Reed was famous for his silver mines, and considered the Gertrude and Una of little value. Walsh wanted to know what he had purchased, but a snowslide covered the entrance to the mine. He had one of his men tunnel through the snow to the mine entrance to collect samples. The samples contained galena, a combination of zinc, lead, copper, and a small amount of silver. The sample assayed at $8 a ton, not worth much. Not being satisfied, Walsh went to the mine himself. He saw the vein which was the source of the galena, but also saw a three foot thick vein of quartz that had dark gray tellurium in it. As Walsh was chipping away at the quartz instead of the galena vein, his assitant pointed out his presumed error, which Walsh ignored. Walsh had his new samples assayed and found they contained gold at $3,000 a ton. He then set about sorting the mines tailings to capture what the previous owners had missed.

By 1898 a small mill was built at level 3 of the mine, later replaced by a much larger mill two miles below the mine where Imogene Creek connects with Sneffels Creek. The mine was connected to the mill with a 9,000 foot long aerial tram. Due to the new mill sites location it was at risk from snowslides. In March of 1906 two slides, one on US Mountain and one on Hayden Mountain, converged and took out the mill and boarding house, killing one man. A new mill was quickly constructed. The large Camp Bird Mine complex around the mill included a huge boarding house for the 400 miners. The boarding house had steam heat, electric lights, hot and cold running water, fire protection devices, porcelain bath tubs, and a reading room and pool table. The mine porduced $5,000 to $6,000 in profits each day for Walsh. In 1902 Walsh sold the Camp Bird Mine to a British syndicate for $5.2 million. From 1902 to 1916 the British owners produced $23 million in ore, $16 million being profit. From 1916 to 1918 a tunnel was run from the new mill, called level 14, for two miles to the ore under the original mine. The mine closed in the late 1970s having made over $50 million during its ninety years.
For details and old photos visit the Western Mining History site for the Camp Bird Mine.
Camp Bird, level 3 mill, at the head of Imogene Basin

Camp Bird Mine, level 14 mill, at the base of Imogene Basin

Imogene Pass is named after the wife of Andy Richardson, a partner of Tom Walsh who owned the Camp Bird Mine. The road over the pass was built in 1870 to transport ore from the Tomboy Mine in Savage Basin down to Ouray. By the late 1890s power transmission lines also crossed the pass between the Ames Alternating Current (AC) power plant, near Telluride, to the Camp Bird mine and then on to Ouray. This was the First commercial use of AC power.

Further up the Camp Bird road was the town of Sneffels and the Revenue Tunnel. Sneffels was originally called Porters, for George Porter, who ran the local store. The town received a post office in 1879 under the name of Mount Sneffels. In 1895 the name was shortened to Sneffels and remained in operation until 1930.
Virginius Mine

The Revenue Tunnel begins with the Virginius Mine purchased in 1880 by Albert E. Reynolds and John H. Maugham. The mine, at 12,300 feet, had a four story boarding house as well as many other mine buildings. Over a hundred men lived at the mine. In 1887 the mine received a post office that lasted until 1894. Because the ore had to be packed out on mules, only high grade ore was sent from the mine. Later an aerial tram was built to a mill on Sneffels Creek near the small town of Sneffels. This allowed the processing of all the ore from the mine. Being at such a height, avalanches were not considered a threat to the Virginius Mine. In December of 1883 it snowed for three days. Avalanches ran on both sides of the boarding house before one hit the building where twelve men were inside, four were killed. Rescuers were organized to help the survivors bring down the bodies. Of the thirty two men in the rescue party, only two were spared from another avalanche that sent the rescue party and bodies a thousand feet and over a 70 foot cliff. All the men survived, but the sleds with the bodies were buried. No further rescues attempts were made for the bodies due to the weather conditions.

The Revenue Tunnel was started in 1889 to undercut the Virginius, Terrible, Monarch, Sidney, and other mines in the area. The tunnel would eliminate the cost of pumping water from the mines as well as the tram. The tunnel was finished an opened in 1896. The Revenue Tunnel employed 500 men and the mill, six stories tall and 180 feet by 80 feet, produced forty to fifty tons of concentrate a day that were sent to Ouray in wagons for shipment by railroad to the smelters. The Revenue Tunnel eventually produced over $27 million in ore. All the activity along the Camp Bird road meant enough business for two stages a day to run from Ouray to Camp Bird and Sneffels. In August of 1915 a fire broke out at the mill and consumed it and many of the surrounding buildings. The mill was inactive at the time and the buildings were at the end of their life. Retired former manager and part owner A.E. Reynolds took ownership of the property. Mining and milling resumed on a limited basis with the discovery of a pocket of high grade ore. In 1919 the mill and tunnel were sold to the Tomboy Gold Mines Company. The Revenue operated intermittently under lease agreements for many years. As of 2013 Star Mining was working the site.
Revenue Mill

Smith, P. David The Road that Silver Built, The Million Dollar Highway Lake City, Colorado: Western Reflections Publishing Company, ISBN 978-932738-80-3, 2009. Print.
Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style Loveland, Colorado:J.V. Publications, ISBN 0-9611662-4-x. Print.
Starting from the large switchback south of Ouray, the Camp Bird road is a wide graded road, County Road 361. You will come immediately to an intersection, the right going to the Box Canyon Falls, the left continuing to another switchback. Here there is a parking area for the Ouray Perimeter Trail and the Ice Park Trail. Past the switchback you will cross a bridge over the Uncompahgre River and pass another parking area on the left for the Ice Park Trail. Just up the road is a wide area where people park for the west part of the Ouray Perimeter Trail that heads off on the right. Next you will pass a driveway on the right and head around a wide curve where the road becomes FR853. There will be sections of Forest Service road and sections of County road as you continue. The road will now be following Canyon Creek. The intersection is with Mineral Farm Lane on the left. This road goes to private residences, and was once the site of the Mineral Farm Mine. A bit further on you will pass another left turn, McNulty Lane, which goes to more private homes. Shortly you will cross a bridge over Canyon Creek and come to a large graveled area on the other side of the bridge. Here there is a road to the right which is the Angel Creek Campground road.

The road remains graded and about two lanes wide as it follows on the west side of Canyon Creek. The next intersection is with a road to the left going down to private property. Continue on the main road for a short distance to the Weehawken Trailhead on the right, opposite the Thistledown Campground road on the left. Just past the campground you will cross a bridge over Weehawken Creek. The Camp Bird road will now start to climb above Canyon Creek. You will pass a priate driveway on the left and then cross a bridge over Senator Creek just before climbing two short switchbacks. The canyon will narrow and the creek will begin to climb up closer to the road. You will come to one slight curve that has a parking area on the left right above a sheer drop down to Canyon Creek.

The valley will widen out and the creek will come up to the level of the road. There will be a pull off on the right side of the road that loops arouns a few boulders. Next you will come to an intersection. The road to the left goes down into the complex that was once the Camp Bird Mine as County Road 361. Along this road on the right in the trees are a few of the Camp Bird mine buildings, including the well maintained superintendents house. Stay with the road on the right, FR853, at the intersection. The road will climb above the reclaimed mine site on the side of Potosi Peak. After you make a shallow curve you will come to a section of the road that was cut into the side of the cliff. Past this section of the road that has the rock over hang you will now be along Sneffels Creek. Sneffels Creek and Imogene Creek, coming out of the valley south of the Camp Bird Mine area, join together at the mine site to become Canyon Creek. The next intersection is with the Imogene Pass road on the left. Stay on the main road. Just past the last intersection is another with a road to the right that goes to the Torpedo-Eclipse Mine. Next along the main road is a left to the Revenue Tunnel Mine that is presently active. Staying on the main road you will next come to wide area along the right side of the road. This is the area where the town of Sneffels was. Staying on the main road you will pass a spur road on the right that goes into the trees ahead and then reconnects with the main road. Next on the left will be a small parking area below a large tailing pile with a mine building remains. Past this you will come to the end of the Camp Bird road at an intersection. To the left is the Governor Basin Road, FR853.1C, to the right is the Yankee Boy Basin Road, FR853.1B.

Data updated - December 8, 2020      4WD Road driven - July 22, 2020      Copyright - 2000-2021