Bonanza, Colorado

Kerber Creek

In 1865, at the end of the Civil War, quite a few Colorado veterans settled in the Bonanza area on land given them by the Federal Government. One of these veterans was a "Lt. Kerber" and Kerber Creek and Kerber City were named for him. Life was probably pretty peaceful and quiet until 1880 when the first silver strike occurred upstream from Kerber City. Supposedly, one of the original miners made a comment about "this is going to be a bonanza," and that name stuck for the town that grew up there (but it was no bonanza: no millionaires were created by any of the mining in the district).

Since that time, Bonanza has been the center of the 30-square-mile Kerber Creek Mining District. In the best of times, Bonanza had more than 500 citizens with several saloons, hotels, a Town Hall, a schoolhouse, a daily newspaper and a house full of "fancy ladies." Bonanza even had a community theater and its' own baseball team. One thing Bonanza never had, though, is a church.

There are more than 80 named mines in the Kerber Creek Mining District. Over time, big mines would play out, the population would drop to maybe 100 people and these folks would wait for the next wave of "eastern investors" to put up some money and start the next mining boom. The last boom happened in the early 1920's when someone located profitable ore in the Rawley Mine. This boom saw the construction of a new mill in Squirrel Gulch and a 7-mile aerial tramway to carry concentrated ore over the mountains to a narrow gauge railroad at Shirley. This vein of ore played out in 1930 and Bonanza has been dwindling away since then. Most of the original buildings in town were destroyed in a fire in 1937.

All this mining near Bonanza has left a legacy of environmental problems. The high metal content of water flowing out of mine tunnels and seeping out of tailing piles, plus the high acid levels in the water running off the old mining sites has led to miles of "dead" fish and aquatic-insect habitat in Kerber and Squirrel Creeks as far downstream as Villa Grove. In 1994, the State of Colorado, the National Forest Service and several private parties began a program of environmental cleanup along Kerber Creek. The first site addressed was the old Rawley Mill where 32,000 tons of tailings were removed and hauled 5 miles to a State-approved repository. Rehabilitation work continues at a number of sites within the historic Kerber Creek Mining District in an effort to improve water quality.

Still in the woods south of Bonanza, Colorado
Still south of Bonanza
Bonanza, Colorado
ED Loghouse, just south of Bonanza
mine tailings mill
An old tailings' mill south of town
An old miner's shack
These things are all around
Bonanza, Colorado
In the Bonanza townsite
Bonanza, Colorado
You know this was an old mining town
Bonanza, Colorado
The stone siding is actually painted on
Bonanza, Colorado
Some places are in pretty good shape
Trees and stream are all that remain of the original Kerber City town site
The original Kerber City townsite
Bonanza, Colorado
More tailing mills and placer mining locations, downstream from Bonanza
Photos are courtesy of TheArmchairExplorer, CCA-by-SA 4.0 License