|USGS 7.5' Map:||Silverton, Ironton|
|Managed by:||San Juan National Forest, Columbine Ranger District||367 Pearl St., P.O. Box 439, Bayfield, CO 81122||(970)884-2512|
|Summary:||US Basin is a short 4WD road that runs east of Chattanooga up on a ridge with great views of the mountains around Black Bear Pass.|
|Natural - Closed by heavy snows.|
July - Late after spring snow melt
August - Best
September - Best
October - May be snowed closed
|Camping:||There are a few dispersed campsites, one at the north end and one at the south end.|
|Base Camp:||This would be a good area to base camp in. There are a lot of other 4WD roads in the area including Ophir Pass, FR630, Black Bear Pass, FR648, and Mineral Creek, FR585.|
|Fall Colors:||Poor - most of the road is above timberline.|
|Navigation:||From Silverton, CO. head southwest on Greene Street toward 11th Street for 0.4 miles. Take a slight right onto County Road 2 and go 417 ft. Take a slight right onto US-550 N and go 5.5 miles. Turn right onto Forest Service Road 825, the US Basin road (Also known as the Brooklyn road.).
From Ouray, CO. head south on US-550 S and go 13.3 miles to the top of Red Mountain Pass. Turn left onto Forest Service Road 825, this is the US Basing road (Also known as the Brooklyn road.).
In 1883 the owners of the Congress Mine that sits on the top of Red Mountain Pass were so anxious to get their ore out that they built their own road along the ridge above Chattanooga formed by McMillan Peak and Ohio Peak. Their road passed by the Brooklyn Mine and then dropped down to the existing county road south of Chattanooga. Due to the large rocks, mud and stumps the road was only used in the winter by sleds.
Since 1927, J.E. Carney and Thomas H. Woods had worked the Brooklyn mine hoping to bring the property into production some day. In 1935, Carney and Woods established the Brooklyn Mining Company, improved the surface facilities, and began shipping payrock. By 1936, they had become successful. Then, by 1941 the last of the ore was brought out of the mine.
In 1882 a settlement known as Sweetville began below Red Mountain Pass at the head of Mineral Creek where Mill Creek ties in. E.T. Sweet's saloon was the first business in the camp. C.P. Mallett opened a restaurant, William Emerson opened a butcher shop and Frank W. Barnes opened a lumberyard. The rival camp of Chattanooga started next to Sweetville. In 1883, the two camps merged under the name of Chattanooga getting a post office with that name. Also, in 1883, the San Juan County commission awarded George W. Seaman a contract to grade a wagon road from Chattanooga south to Silverton.
Silver Ledge Mine
The Silver Ledge vein was discovered in 1883. It was not worked until 1890 when J.C. Kingsley sank a shaft. Later that year the shaft house caught fire while miners were working below. The miners were not aware of the fire until the signal bell cord dropped down into the shaft from being burnt from the bell. The miners realized that something was wrong. The ore bucket followed the signal bell cord. The fire kept them from getting out of the shaft and turned them back into the workings. This was good fortune as a full box of dynamite exploded and scattered burning debris. The miners did manage to survive without suffocating. Shortly after the fire, Kingsley sold the Silver Ledge to the partnership of O'Brien and Anderson, who repaired the damage. The partners then leased the mine to a British syndicate in 1891, which purchased the property but defaulted on payments. William Feigel bought the mine at bankruptcy auction and finally brought it into meaningful production.
In 1897, a group of Denver elite bought the Silver Ledge mine, organized the Silver Ledge Mining Company and contracted to have a mill built. During the year, miners found plenty of ore, struck a gold vein, and began production. Also, the workers completed the mill at the mine. The Silver Ledge went into full production, and through 1898, miners processed the ore through the mill. But, at the end of 1989 the company suspended operations for the winter. The company had overspent, while the mill was unable to recover adequate metal content. Debt forced the company into bankruptcy and in 1899, the directors reorganized and leased the property out. The company appointed J.B. Warner as manager, who installed new surface facilities to make the mine attractive. Warner oversaw a crew of ten miners that produced ten tons of ore per day. The operation proved successful enough to justify expansion, and the following year Warner hired more workers to run the mill. Warner convinced investors in the east to provide money for more improvements and new mill equipment. A 1901 fire burned the entire surface plant, including the shaft house and mill. The mine surface plant was replaced and the new mill was built at Chattanooga. It was running by the end of 1902. Unfortunately Warner incurred more debt than he could repay, and the Bank of Silverton seized the property. Warner, however, came to an agreement to produce as much as possible and use the proceeds to repay the creditors. The effort lasted only through 1903, as the new mill proved only slightly better than the old, and Warner lost his position.
The San Juan Mining & Leasing Company was next to lease the Silver Ledge mine. The company metallurgist recognized new demand for zinc and pioneered new concentration apparatuses. He innovated an electric separator that relied on a magnetic field to force zinc and iron particles out of pulverized ore. The company refitted the mill in 1904 to both recover the zinc and condition the ore so that the rest of the metals could be captured. This was San Juan county's first meaningful production of zinc. At the Silver Ledge Mill, this translated into around thirty tons of concentrates per day. It is unknown why, but the San Juan company did not continue its operation into 1905. Instead, D.E. Carmichael and Jesse Kramer assumed the lease and maintained heavy production with the zinc separators. In the fall, litigation over unpaid debts restricted Carmichael and Kramer from extracting ore out of the workings. Only enough workers to recover low-grade material from the waste rock dump and treat it in the mill were kept. After a year, the profitable material was exhausted.
During World War II, Joseph Bradley purchased the Silver Ledge, but because the Highland Mary consumed his attention, Bradley did little with the Silver Ledge except lease it to the San Juan Mining & Milling Company in 1947. The company used core drills to prospect the vein to the north of the shaft and located ore. Instead of encountering payrock within the vein, the company discovered a completely new formation on the vein's west side. The new formation was so close to the surface that the company could extract ore with heavy equipment instead of incurring the high cost of underground development. With bulldozers and a power shovel, the company stripped away the overburden in 1949, exhumed high volumes of payrock, and trucked the material to the Mayflower Mill and the American Zinc Mill at Ouray. The operation lasted three years, then the Silver Ledge saw no further activity.
Smith, P. DavidThe Road that Silver Built, 1st ed. Lake City, Colorado: Western Reflections Publishing, 2009. Print.
Twitty, Eric Historic Mining Resouces of the San Juan County, Colorado United States Department of the Interior: OMB No.1024-0018, Print.
|Leaving Highway 550 the road will begin to climb up through the trees fairly quickly. You will do a series of switchbacks to get to the top of the ridge.
After passing the Brooklyn Mine you will continue north along a high ridge above timberline.
After having great views to the west of Ophir Pass and Black Bear Pass you will begin heading down toward Red Mountain Pass and the highway.
|Data updated - April 15, 2016 4WD Road driven - August 9, 2015 Copyright 4X4Explore.com - 2000-2016|