11,191 Feet



“...this will be a respectable sized camp before the snow flies. In fact, in all likelihood it will be a Creede Annex."”


Beartown was always hard to reach. It still is.

The site is accessible either from Silverton, over Stoney Pass, or on an easier road from Creede. Either way, you have to ford the Rio Grande river, whose headwaters originate on Canby Mountain near the summit of Stoney Pass. Depending on when you go and how much recent rain fall there's been, this can be challenging at best. If you decide to take the route over Stoney Pass, you'll also have to contend with Pole Creek shortly before reaching the Rio Grande crossing. Once across the Rio Grande, you've got another four miles along Forest Service Road 506 before you finally reach Beartown. In the rain, this particular road becomes shockingly slippery.

It's best to make the trip in the late summer, when the run off from the previous winter's snow is no longer influencing the depth of Pole Creek and the Rio Grande, and be sure to go in the early morning, before Colorado's inevitable daily afternoon thunderstorms fill the creeks and turn the road into an ice rink.

Beartown was a late starter. There wasn't much interest before 1893. In May of that year, prospectors started surveying the area and made promising finds. By the end of June, the new camp had swelled to over four hundred fortune seekers.

Beartown took off after that.

The best mines were the Sylvanite (which was worked well into the twentieth century), the Good Hope, the Silver Bug, the Gold Bug, and the Yankakee.

At first, there wasn't a lot of building happening because the prospectors and miners were too busy digging for gold and silver. But eventually, the usual assortment of businesses came to town. With Creede being a nearby neighbor, many of the larger merchants of that town opened branches of their businesses in Beartown. The Creede Candle even started a weekly edition of their newspaper just for Beartown; they called it the Gold Run Silvertip. It was a curious name for a newspaper, until you learn that Beartown struggled to decide on a name for their shiny new town. Among other things, they tried out the names Gold Run and Silvertip, thus explaining the newspaper's name.

The roads in and out of town were a problem from the beginning. At first it was really just a trail. No one was motivated enough to improve the situation until the mines started shipping ore. Eventually they improved, but it's still a difficult place to reach.

Today, almost all traces of Beartown have disappeared, even though the area was active into the 1960s. A cabin and a foundation are reachable across Bear Creek, a good distance from the road across the seemingly unending meadow which held the town.