Poughkeepsie Gulch  
USGS 7.5' Map: Handies Peak and Ironton
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Difficult 7 FR876, CR58 4.52 10,135 to 12,520 ft. Rock 7 4-5 hours
County: Ouray and San Juan
Adopted by: Western Slope 4-Wheelers P.O. Box 2037
Montrose, CO 81402
Managed by: San Juan County
Uncompahgre National Forest,
Ouray District
1557 Greene St, Silverton, CO 81433
2505 S. Townsend Ave, Montrose, CO 81401


Summary: Poughkeepsie Gulch is a challenging 4WD road that runs up Poughkeepsie Gulch, connecting the Engineer Pass road with California Gulch and the Hurricane Pass road.
Attractions: Challenge, History, Mining, Scenery
Natural - Closed by heavey snows.
Best Time: June - May still be snowed in
July - Best, May encounter drifts
August - Best
September - Best
October - Early snows possible
Trail Heads
Camping: There are dispersed campsites at the northern half of the road.
Base Camp: This would be a good area to basecamp and explore the roads in the San Juan Mountains.
Fall Colors: Poor - Pine forest and above timberline.
Navigation: From Silverton, CO. through Gladstone head northeast on Greene Street toward E 13th Street for 0.6 miles. Turn left onto State Hwy 110 and go 6.4 miles. Take a slight left onto County Rd 10 and go 3.7 miles. Turn left at County Rd 19, the Poughkeepsie Gulch 4WD road.

From Ouray CO. head south on US-550 S/3rd Street/Main Street toward 5th Ave. Continue to follow US-550 south for 3.9 miles. Turn left onto County Rd 18 and go 2.4 miles. Take a sharp right onto County Rd 18/County Rd 18A, the Poughkeepsie Gulch 4WD road.
History: In 1873, instead of working the areas around Cunningham Gulch and Arrastra Gulch, Reuben J. McNutt and George Howard trekked into the high peaks on the north side of the Animas River, which were relatively unexplored. At what became Lake Emma, at the head of Eureka Gulch, they found a particularly rich gold and silver vein and claimed it as the Sunnyside. The partners then crossed north over barren ridges and found another silver formation at a long abandoned mine at the head of a gulch indicating that Spanish or French prospectors had been there much earlier. They named the mine Poughkeepsie, which also became the name of the Gulch. To officially recognize their claims, McNutt and Howard organized the Eureka Mining District. At the time, the Eureka district took in nearly the entire region on the north side of the Animas River.

With more prospectors making discoveries in Poughkeepsie Gulch during 1875 and 1876, the Poughkeepsie Mining District was created from the Eureka Mining District. By 1877, partnerships had the Alaska, Bonanza, Columbia, Forest, Old Lout, and Red Roger mines in limited production. Packtrains carried the ore in sacks south over a trail that crossed Poughkeepsie Pass (Hurricane Pass) and down Cement Creek to the Greene Smelter. The sale of the Old Lout Mine for $10,000, even though it was shallow, caused a stir and stimulated a small rush to Poughkeepsie Gulch.
In 1879, local investors funded a toll road up Cement Creek for eight miles to Gladstone and then up a steep and rough climb to the head of Poughkeepsie Gulch. From the top of Poughkeepsie Gulch a pack trail lead down the gulch and then on into Ouray. The road was built to access H.A.W. Tabor's mines in Poughkeepsie Gulch.

In 1879 and 1880, the Poughkeepsie Mining District saw major activity, even though the other districts were in a slump. Because of location, Lake City and Ouray were almost as easy to reach as Silverton. So, when the Greene Smelter in Silverton closed, the mining outfits found it economical to pack their ore, however small, to the Lee or Crooke smelters in Hinsdale County or to the Windham and Norfolk & Ouray smelters.

Horace Tabor's interest in the district stimulated confidence. In 1878, Alfred Hard, a principal with the Mastodon Company, purchased the Alaska Mine in Alaska Basin, which descended northeast into Poughkeepsie Gulch. He convinced Tabor to provide capital for development, and they organized the Alaska Consolidated Mining Company. The Alaska proved rich, and Tabor announced that he would finance a concentration mill in Cement Creek. While the mill was never built, the success of the operation, its association with Tabor, and his personal examination of the mine made a news sensation.
By 1880, the district featured nine mines in production. Of these, only the Alaska, Bonanza, Red Rogers, and Old Lout were well-developed. Two prospectors staked the Bonanza in 1877, which the Kalamazoo Bonanza Mining Company bought in 1879, driving the Bonanza Tunnel, and sinking a shaft. The Old Lout yielded small amounts of ore from 1877 until 1879, when it saw substantial development. Business entrepreneurs arrived in the district after Tabor's involvement and a swarm of prospectors followed.

As early as 1878, freight packers traveling between Silverton and Ouray maintained a camp on Lake Como, which became the seed for a small mining hamlet called Poughkeepsie. William Boot took time from his Mineral Point mercantile to open the first store and saloon in 1879, and others established a restaurant. The Poughkeepsie post office was established in 1880, and Lucius B. Kendall began printing the Poughkeepsie Telegraph newspaper as well. The boom was short lived though, by 1881, the Alaska went bust, Tabor lost interest, and most prospectors were unsuccessful. When the prospectors, business owners, and most of the mining outfits left for the winter in 1881, they did not return. The Poughkeepsie district would not participate in the boom that swept the rest of San Juan County when the railroad arrived in 1882.
In 1899, the Poughkeepsie district saw some activity. Standard Oil reopened the Maid of the Mist and conducted development for a short time. In 1900, an unidentified interest tried working the Alaska, but it was sold the following year for back taxes owed by Horace Tabor. These two operations and a number of prospects provided just enough business to support the Poughkeepsie camp at the mouth of Poughkeepsie Gulch. During the late 1890s, it featured a mercantile, combination restaurant-saloon, several cabins, and mail service. By the early 1900s, the camp had disappeared.

Twitty, Eric Historic Mining Resouces of the San Juan County, Colorado United States Department of the Interior: OMB No.1024-0018, Print.
Smith, P. DavidThe Road that Silver Built, 1st ed. Lake City, Colorado: Western Reflections Publishing, 2009. Print.
Poughkeepsie Gulch leaves the Engineer Pass road at a haripin turn where it drops down into a wide area with a camp site in the trees. The road will head south along the Uncompahgre River out of this area. Abrams Mountain will be on your right with Tuttle Mountain on your left. The road will stay in the trees passing another camp site on the left. The two track road will have some short water holes to cross as it heads up Poughkeepsie Gulch. After 0.35 miles the road will come out of the trees into an open area with views up the gulch. Abrams Mountain will now be replaced by the long set of peaks called Brown Mountain on your right. After about three quarters of a mile from leaving the trees you will cross the tailings of the Old Lout Mine. Just past the tailings a spur road to the left will go to the top of the tailings pile. Half a mile further you will come to a Y in the road. The road to the right heads over to the river, above a small waterfall, while the road on the left continues. Both roads will connect back again a short distance.

From the river overlook you will head through a short section of trees. After coming out the trees you will run right along the river. A half mile from the overlook you will have the Poughkeepsie Mine tailings on your left. Just past the tailings is another spur road that goes to the top of the tailings pile. After passing the spur on your left, you will come to a braided section. Stay to the left through this area. Next you will come to another Y in the road, with the right spur being a faint two track. The right crosses the river, which is really small as it is becoming the head waters of the Uncompahgre River, and goes a short distance to some faint tailings. Stay to the left and continue up Poughkeepsie Gulch. Less than a half mile from the last intersection you will come to another intersection. The road to the left is the bypass that heads up the gulch, the road to the right will take you to the obstacles of Poughkeepsie Gulch. Taking the right you will cross a small creek which is pretty much the head waters of the Uncompahgre River. You will now head west below a large rock outcrop, and encounter some more braiding of the road. There will be a small rocky area to climb before you come to a large circular area below the main obstacle.
Main obstacle (1990). Challenge is now the rocks on the right of picture.

photo by:
Cindy M

Main obstacle (1990) looking down. Behind the jeep is now a large dirt area.

photo by:
Cindy M

The main obstacle will be a rocky ledge on your right. Once at the top you will have some more braiding, then at a tenth of a mile from the first obstacle you will come to the second obstacle. It has three possible routes to use to navigate it. Immediately after the second obstacle you will come to a braided area again. Stay to the left, or head right to drive down obstacle number three. Continue south after obstacle three a short distance to come to the uphill climb of obstacle number four. It has two possible lines to take to reach the top. The road will run a short distance to the next intersection. Taking the left will bring you to obstacle five, a curving uphill climb, the right will take you to obstacle six, another uphill climb. There are a few spur roads in this area that will all end up connecting together again. At the reconnection point you will have obstacle seven to climb.

At the top of obstacle seven the bypass road will reconnect coming in from the left. It runs up the gulch to the left of the large rocky outcrop. A short distance from the last obstacle the road will cross the outlet of Lake Como and then run along the side of the lake. About a quarter of a mile from the lake the road will come to a larger intersection, with Hurricane Peak due south. The road on the left is the California Gulch road, the road on the right is the Hurricane Pass road.
Data updated - January 3, 2020     4WD Road driven - August 17, 1990     Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2020