East Willow Creek  
USGS 7.5' Map: Creede, San Luis Peak
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 2 FR 502 6.00 8,952 to 10,597 ft. NA 1 hour
County: Rio Grande
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Rio Grande National Forest
Divide Ranger District
13308 West Hwy 160
Del Norte, CO 81132
Summary: East Willow Creek is a short loop road from North Creede back over to West Willow Creek. There are many old prospects and mine remains along the valley.
Attractions: Mining, History
Agency - March 15 to May 15
Best Time: June - Upper section may still be snowed in
July - Best
August - Best
September - Best
October - Watch for early snows
Trail Heads
Phoenix Park Trail - Hiking
Wason Trail - Hiking
Camping: There are no dispersed campsites.
Base Camp: This would not be a good area to base camp.
Fall Colors: Average - There are aspens along the switchbacks.
Navigation: From Creede, CO. head north on South Main Street for 0.6 miles. South Main St turns right and becomes Willow Creek Road, go 0.6 miles. Turn right crossing the bridge over Willow Creek. This is the East Willow Creek road.
History: In 1883, the earliest discoveries in the Creede area took place at Sunnyside, a short distance west of present-day Creede. J. C. MacKenzie and H. M. Bennet located the Alpha claim. In 1884, James A. Wilson located the Bachelor claim, north of Creede. These discoveries met with little initial success. In 1889, Nicholas Creede (whos real name was William Harvey) was prospecting on Campbell Mountain, the high ridge between East Willow Creek and West Willow Creek, when he tested and outcropping with his pick he found it contained silver. Legend has it that he exclaimed "Holy Moses! Chloride of silver, by the Holy Moses". This became the Holy Moses claim along narrow East Willow Creek northeast of Creede. His additional discovery of the Solomon claim in 1890 formed the King Solomon District. The ore values at the Holy Moses Mine gained the interest and investment of Denver financier and industrialist David H. Moffat. Nicolas Creede became wealthy, but it was not enough. He took his life by an overdose of morphine in 1893.

More major discoveries were made in 1891 along West Willow Creek, north of Creede. J. C. MacKenzie and W. V. McGilliard located the Commodore claim. Theodore Renniger and Julius Haas, discovered the Last Chance claim. Nicholas Creede staked the Amethyst claim next to the Last Chance. George K. Smith and S. D. Coffin located the New York claim, a southern extension of the Last Chance. These discoveries, along with the Bachelor claim were all along the fabulous Amethyst vein.

Creede experienced a mining boom and the population swelled to 15,000. Many miners came from other San Juan mining camps including Silverton, Telluride, and Ouray. The town, then known as "Jimtown", expanded outside the narrow canyons to its present location then known as South Creede. The Denver and Rio Grande Railroad was extended west from Wagon Wheel Gap all the way to North Creede in late-1891. This put a road, narrow gauge railroad, and town business district in the narrow Willow Creek canyon. The old and new parts of town were incorporated as Creede in 1892, but North Creede still ramained separate. By the end of 1892, the District was at its peak and had produced ore valued at over $4.2 million. The Amethyst and Last Chance Mines were the most important producers.

As the depths of the mines increased so did the inflows of water. In the early 1890's, Charles F. Nelson's Nelson Tunnel Company drove a drainage and haulage adit toward Bachelor Mountain but failed to encounter workable ore. The Wooster Tunnel Company connected the Nelson Tunnel to the Amethyst Mine. The Amethyst, Last Chance, and New York Mines paid royalties to the tunnel company for ore haulage and drainage. The Wooster Tunnel was later extended, as the Humphreys Tunnel, to the Happy Thought and Park Regent Mines. A haulage track on the surface connected the portal of the Nelson-Wooster-Humphreys Tunnel to the Humphreys Mill which was built in 1902 at the narrow junction of East and West Willow Creek. The Commodore Mine developed its own drainage tunnel.
Image of Humphrey Mill in 1902

photo by:
Adam M

The repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, the Panic of 1893, and associated drop in the silver price caused most mines to close and the population of Creede to decline. In the years that followed, mining had its ups and downs as the silver price fluctuated. In 1930 all mining ceased. In 1934, the mines reopened when the government pegged the price of silver. The Emperius Mining Company and Creede Mines controlled the district. In the 1950's, the U. S. Geological Survey announced the potential of the Bulldog Mountain Fault as a mineralized vein system. In 1960, Manning Cox and Fred Baker staked claims along the projection of the fault. The Homestake Mining Company optioned the Bulldog Mountain properties in 1963 and began an extensive exploration program. Homestake's Bulldog Mill began production in 1969. Other companies did exploration in the Creede District in the 1970's but did not develop any additional production. The Homestake's Bulldog Mine closed in 1985 due to very low metal prices.

The Creede District has produced nearly 5 million tons of ore yielding over 84 million ounces of silver plus substantial amounts of lead, zinc, copper, and gold.

Mining History Association", Internet.
Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Volumn 3, 1st ed. Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 2001. Print.
East Willow Creek road begins at the intersection north of the Creede Underground Mining Museum. There is a large kiosk at this intersection that contains information about the surrounding area. This is the site of North Creede.
Humphrey Mill foundation

photo by:
Joyce M

From the intersection kiosk, where North Creede use to be, you will head up East Willow Creek through some private residences. The road is graded and follows the creek. At the mine reclamation site there is another information kiosk. To the left of this parking area the road will continue by starting a series of switchbacks that climbs the side of Campbell Mountain.

The road will continue up through the trees to the top of the ridge. There are a few mine structures and some short spur roads that go off into the trees.
Upper section in the trees

photo by:
Adam M

Over the ridge the road will quickly head down past the Midwest Mine and follow Nelson Creek out to where it connects with the West Willow Creek road.
Lower section in the trees

photo by:
Adam M

From here you can head down through the Amethyst and Commodore mine complexes, or head up to follow West Willow Creek around and back to Creede.
Data updated - November 28, 2015        4WD Road driven - July 24, 2015        Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2015