When most people think of Breckenridge, Colorado they think of a world renowned Ski Resort. What most don’t know is that the town of Breckenridge has been around long before the chairlifts were erected and ski runs carved into the mountainside. In fact, Breckenridge started out as a mining town in the late 1800s and has seen a lot more than just the transition from single seated chairlifts to quad SuperChairs and Gondolas.. Some of Breckenridge’s most interesting and exciting history dates back to its gold mining days when the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush was on, and the discovery of gold in Breckenridge and the surrounding area brought miners and fortune seekers alike to the “Blue River Diggings.”
The “unsinkable” Molly Brown herself took up residence in nearby Leadville with her husband, JJ Brown, where they later discovered their infamous riches at a nearby mine. Or, perhaps you have heard about Tom and his “baby”? Tom Groves struck it rich when he discovered the largest piece of gold ever found in Colorado (even to this day!) just outside Breckenridge. Wrapping the enormous hunk of gold in a blanket, Tom proudly paraded it around Breckenridge, thus earning its nickname “Tom’s Baby.” Lucky for Tom and his wife, they received payment for their incredible discovery just prior to it mysteriously disappearing on a train to Denver.
Even to this day, when visiting Breckenridge, the mining history is evident. Many of the buildings within our Historic District date back to the Gold Rush Era and anywhere you hike you are likely to stumble upon some sort of old mine remnants. You know that saying “If these wall could talk?” We’re sure that’s how every meticulously maintained building in our Downtown Historic must feel. And we, as locals, work hard to preserve the history and feel of our quaint, Victorian Style mining town.
So, once a year, we celebrate our Gold Mining history with the Gold Panning Championships! A weekend where real-life prospectors descend upon the Breckenridge Riverwalk Center and go head-to-head to see who’s the fastest and best panner around! Visitors are welcome to participate by cheering on the gold panners or even by taking part and learning how to pan their own gold!
“We have troughs that we set up, and its open to the public.” Says Stan Gurley, a Gold Prospector. “[You] get your pan for free and keep whatever you find in our trough! [But] when they say panning, I mean you really gotta pan. You gotta pan everything out of your pan, down to black sand so you can see the gold we have in there because it’s so small. You’re not gonna find no nuggets!” he chuckles.
And while we can’t guarantee that you’ll strike it rich, there are plenty of opportunities to learn about Breckenridge’s rich mining history. Tour the Country Boy Mine, one of the oldest and most famous mines in Summit County, located just outside of town. Learn how it earned its national fame by producing large quantities of high-grade lead and zinc for use in WWI & WWII, pet the burros, slide down the 55’ ore chute and view exhibits and equipment that were once used in the mine.
Or, visit some of the remaining mining relics viewable along some of Breckenridge’s historical hikes. The Iowa Hill hike climbs up a washed-out hillside, where you’ll notice plenty of interesting structures to look at – a blacksmith shop, guard house, ore cart, derrick and shaft. The Sallie Barber hike will take you to a rare silver mine site while the Reiling Dredge hike (accessed via the B&B Trail) will show you a very much intact gold dredge boat (recently stabilized by the Breckenridge Heritage Alliance).
|The Breckenridge Gold Panning Championships will take place June 14-16, 2019 at the Riverwalk Center in Breckenridge, Colorado. The event is free to watch and to participate.Schedule of Events :Friday, June 14
· 11am : Old Timers
· 1pm : Juniors
· 3pm : National StyleSaturday, June 15
· 10am : Teams
· 1pm : Women’s
· 3pm : Men’sSunday, June 16
· 10am : State
· 1pm : Sue’s “Pan It Forward” Challenge
· 3pm : World’s Day