9,423 Feet


Still Occupied

“During the gold rush its a good time to be in the pick and shovel business.”


Some mining towns are named after a prospector. Some are named after a prospector's beloved mother. Other's are named for insects (Mosquito and Mosquito Pass, for example). Still others are named for people who died tragically (Camp Fulford and Nolen's Creek Camp).

Bonanza City, on the other hand, found its moniker when a nameless prospector (the irony!) exclaimed, "Boys! She's a Bonanza!" upon locating rich ore. The name stuck, and Bonanza City came to life. While it has had its ups and downs, it's never been completely unoccupied.

Bonanza was closest to the big mines soon eclipsed and absorbed all of its neighbors, including Sedgwick, Kerber City, and Exchequerville. They called it the "new Leadville," and for a time it looked like it might indeed rival that town. The best mines included the Exchequer (which was also one of the first be to be located), the Bonanza, the Rawley Twelve, the Empress Josephine (which was reopened in the mid-twentieth century), and on nearby Mineral Hill, the Defiance and the Wheel of Fortune.

But predictions often don't equal reality and such was the case with Bonanza. The primary metals here were silver, and lead. And while there was a whole bunch of both, the ore was generally low grade. It costs a lot of money to remove, process, and ship ore from a mine, and that's one big reason why ghost mining towns exist. While there may be millions of tons of ore hidden away in a mountain, if it is low grade, the cost of extracting it can be higher than the return on the investment. When that happens, mines shut down, people move away, and towns die.

In the case of Bonanza, however, it has never been completely deserted. In the twentieth century, many of the mines in the area, like the Empress Josephine, and even the Bonanza Mine were reopened and paid out due to better extraction and processing methods.

Today, the town is home to many a summer resident, and even though she wasn't the bonanza that everyone thought she was, Bonanza City lives on.