About Cripple Creek, Colorado
Cripple Creek located 9,508 feet above sea level along Poverty Gulch, is home to the richest gold mine ever discovered on earth, producing twice as much as California’s Mother Lode, and $100 million more than Nevada’s Comstock. Between 1897 and 1916, Cripple Creek yielded $340 million in gold.
The area originally was a settlement for cattle ranchers. The gulch, an extinct volcano, proved perfect for keeping livestock contained. Legend tells that Cripple Creek earned its unfortunate name when a cow lamed itself in the stream bed.
In 1891 Bob Womack discovered gold in his Poverty Gulch mine. In a story rich in lore, it’s said Womack sent his find to an inspector in Colorado City, who graded the ore. Unfortunately for Womack, this assayer was not honest. Womack, oblivious to the value of his find, sold the claim for a mere $500, a mistake that cost him over $5 million. In the end, Womack disappeared into poverty, and Cripple Creek went on to riches. Within ten years, the town was home to 500 mines, twenty-eight millionaires, ninety-one lawyers, and seventy saloons. A journalist of the day reported, “Free gold sticks out of the rock like raisins out of a fruitcake.” At its gold rush peak, as many as 25,000 people lived in Cripple Creek.
The district still supports working ranches, active gold mines, and since 1990, a dozen or two limited-stakes gambling parlors and halls. The gaming atmosphere at Cripple Creek is relaxed and friendly, thanks to the stability of year-round residents in town and in the neighboring communities of Florisant, Divide, and Woodland Park. Nearby Colorado Springs also supports the U.S. Air Force Academy and high-tech industries.
Gambling has pumped millions of dollars into the local economy. The houses that remain from the town’s boom are a mixture of Victorian styles and rustic log cabins; however, many had fallen into disrepair. Legalized gambling has helped to preserve these 1890 buildings found along historic Bennett Avenue.
Along with a Wild West frontier image and mining heritage, Cripple Creek also has its favorite town pets: donkeys. Direct descendants of the ones that were used in the underground mines to help transport gold ore, these furry critters roam the landscape every summer in search of food. They often wander through town, causing many visitors to mistakenly believe they are city property. The donkeys are actually owned and maintained by a local charity club. Many activities honoring these donkeys have been incorporated into Cripple Creek’s calendar of events, including Donkey Derby Days.
Area residents are typically outdoor-oriented and recreational activities include horseback riding, cross-country skiing, golf, tennis, and fishing. Nearby, Pike’s Peak and Pike National Forest are the source of hiking opportunities, ranging from nature walks to back-country trekking. For the rugged individual, Garden of the Gods is a 1,350-acre geologic formation of jutting and eroded sandstone peaks ideal for hiking, climbing, and horseback riding. Suited more for cross-country than downhill skiing, Pike National Forest is as accessible in winter as summer.
Cripple Creek Casinos
Cripple Creek Vital Stats
Location: Cripple Creek is located in the heart of Colorado high in the Rockies at an elevation of 9,508 feet, 44 miles west of Colorado Springs.
Population: Cripple Creek, 655; Colorado Springs, 311,900
Average summer temperature: 78° F
Average winter temperature: 20° F
Cripple Creek Phone Numbers
Cripple Creek Chamber of Commerce: (719) 689-2169
Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau: (719) 635-7506
State of Colorado Job Service Center: (719) 473-6220
Colorado Gaming Commission: (719) 689-3364
Newspapers and/or relocation publications: The Gazette-Telegraph, (719) 632-5511
Inexpensive accommodations: Lost Burro Campground, (719) 689-2345; Cripple Creek Hospitality House and Travel Park, (719) 689-2513
Air service: Colorado Springs Airport, (719) 550-1900
Bus service: Greyhound (Colorado Springs), (800) 231-2222
Rail service: Amtrak (Denver), (800) 872-7245
Public transit: Cripple Creek City Shuttle, (719) 689-7711