Summitville  
Maps:        
USGS 7.5' Map: Summitville, Elwood Pass, Del Norte Peak, Horseshoe Mountain
Statistics:
Difficulty: Number: Miles: Altitude: Obstacles: Time:
Easy 1 FR 330, 14 6.50 7,900 to 11,600 ft. NA 2-3 hours
County: Rio Grande
Adopted by:      
Managed by: Rio Grande National Forest
Divide Ranger District

Rio Grande National Forest
Conejos Peak Ranger District
13308 West Hwy 160
Del Norte, CO 81132

15571 County Road T5
La Jara, CO 81140
719-657-3321


719-274-8971
Summary: Summitville, now a superfund cleanup site, started as an 1870's mining town along Wightman Fork of the Alamosa River. The road to the site is graded. Some of the old buildings still remain.
Attractions: Ghost town
Seasonal
Closure:
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
Accessed:
Burro Creek - FT873
Shady - FT898
FT874
Dry Creek - FT700
Camping: There are probably dispersed sites along FR330 closer to Del Norte.
Base Camp: This would be a good place to base camp with easy access to South Fork and Del Norte.
Fall Colors: Poor - The upper section is in pine forest.
Navigation: From South Fork, CO. head east on US-160 E for 13.0 miles. Turn right onto Off Lane and go 0.8 miles. Turn left onto County Road 14A and go 0.8 miles. Take a sharp right onto Pinos Creek Road and go 12.2 miles to the public lands boundary. This is the Summitville road.

From Del Norte, CO. head west on US-160 W for 0.5 miles. Turn left onto Pinos Road and go 0.3 miles. Continue onto Pinos Creek Road and go 12.2 miles to the public lands boundary. This is the Summitville road.
History: In 1870, J. L. Wightman first discovered placer gold in the Wightman Fork of the Alamosa River near South Mountain. Others in Wightman's party staked claims and the Summit Mining District was created. In the spring of 1871 acout 150 prospectors were in the area searching for gold. By the end of Summer all of the discouraged prospectors had left except three, Wightman, P.J. Peterson, and J.O. Johnson. These three took thier gold just to Denver and divided it three ways, amounting to $170 each. In 1873 gold lode claims were first discovered by Dr. R.F. Adams on South Mountain and lode mining began. A small town was established in a marshy meadow called Summitville. With hard winters most of the miners wintered in Del Norte. One of the big producing mines was the Little Annie, discovered by P.J. Peterson and another man. When the the large piece of gold bearing float from the mine was shown at a Del Norte saloon, a stampede headed to Summitville again.

In 1875 an amalgamation mill was constructed to process the fine gold by attrction to mercury. Better cabins were constructed so the miners could spend the winter. In 1876 the "Summit" post office opened. Druing this time South Mountain became covered with 2,500 mining claims of which less than 20 proved profitable. By 1883 Summitville had become the largest gold producing mining district in Colorado. It had nine mills in operation with 300 to 600 residents living in the area. In 1887 the veins started to pinch out. By 1889 all of the Summitville businesses had closed and only 25 people remained. Most of the claims were now owned by the Golconda Mining Company which sold out, and by 1891 Summitville was a ghost town.

Summitville was not quite done though. In 1907, Jack Pickens was working for the A.C. Reynolds coprporation at the Aztec Mine when he found a large piece of gold bearing float along side of an old wagon road below a cliff. Knowing it could not have come from the older mines, the following summer he investigate the upper section of the cliff. He found a similar looking rock and chipped a piece off and found it too was filled with gold. He replaced the piece to avoid the new lode from being discovered. Pickens tried to get a lease on the property and A.C. Reynolds knew Pickens had discovered something and was withholding it. But the cliff was not on Reynold's property. Many years later, Judge Wiley in Del Norte negotiated a lease on behalf of Pickens. In 1934 large scale mining started at Summitville. By 1935 the post office was re-opened and the Summitville Consolidated Mines, Inc. opened old mines. Seventy new homes were built, a school, a bunkhouse, bathhouse, and new water system was developed. Once again, Summitville was Colorado's leading gold producer.

In 1948, after the U.S. Government allowed gold mining again, Summitville had two mills in operation, a couple of stores, a boarding house large enough for 300 men, and most of the houses occupied. The gold however ran out in the early 1950's. Between 1873 and 1949 240,000 troy ounces of gold were removed from Summitville, worth $7 million during the time of production.

Between 1950 and 1984 only limited activity happened at Summitville, mainly in exploration. Between 1984 and 1992 the Summitville Consolidated Mining Company Inc. of Canada produced 249,000 troy ounces of gold, at $325 per ounce it was worth $81 million at that time. On December 1, 1992, Glactic Resouces Limited of Vancouver, Canada (operators of the Summitville mines at the time) notified the State of Colorado that they were declaring bankruptcy and would be abandoning operations at Summitville on December 16th. With the cyanide levels only five feet below the emergency spillway in the heap leach pad, the State of Colorado was looking at a spill of cyanide and metal bearing processing fluids into Cropsy Creek, the Wightman Fork, and then into the Alamosa River during the spring run off the following year. On December 4th, 1992, the State of Colorado requested assistance from the EPA making the Summitville area a Superfund Site.


Ketellapper, Victor The Mining History and Environmental Clean-up at the Summitville Mine Denver, Colorado: United States EPA. Internet.

Jessen, Kenneth Ghost Towns Colorado Style, Volumn 3, 1st ed. Loveland, Colorado: J.V. Publications, 2001. Print.
Description:
There are many roads to Summitville from South Fork, Del Norte, Platoro, and below Wolf Creek Pass. The main Summitville road, FR330, starts in Del Norte, CO. as County Road 14 and becomes FR330. The road is a two lane graded road due to it being the main access for the Summitville mines during the Superfund cleanup.

After the intersection with West Pions, FR332, the Summitville road will be above treeline and come into a large opening. To the north is Grayback Mountain and a spur road Grayback Mountain, FR330.3A, that climbs to the top of the mountain where there is a radio antenna facility. From here you will be able to see the north side of South Mountain which has been mostly reclaimed. The road continues down to the retention system on Wightman Creek and then passes through the main area where the reclamation facilities are. Just past this the road will climb a bit and pass below the old Summitville ghost town.
Summitville hotel

photo by:
Adam M

Summitville

photo by:
Adam M

Summitville

photo by:
Adam M

Well shed with water pipe

photo by:
Adam M

Pump house by the creek

photo by:
Adam M

Past the Summitville ghost town the road will climb a bit more before turning to the south around the west side of South Mountain and following the upper section of Wightman Creek to an intersection with Park Creek, FR380.
Data updated - November 1, 2015        4WD Road driven - July 19, 2015        Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2015