9,154 Feet


Early 1900s



While many of Boulder county's mining camps dated from the early- to mid-1860s, Camp Francis was a latter-day camp, settled around 1894. It was located in a gulch along the Peak to Peak Highway between Nederland and Ward.

Originally named Dew Drop after one of the big paying mines, the town had at least fifty cabins, and several businesses, including a general store, and a school. It also had access to a much coveted prize: the railroad. In this case, the Colorado and Northwestern.

Around 1898, Dew Drop was renamed for the daughter of the owner of the Big Five Mining Company, a syndicate that came in and took over most of the mines. The Big Five turned Camp Francis into a paying town. They consolidated most of the claims, including the Dew Drop, the Ni-Wot, the Columbia, and the Adit Tunnel. The Adit was used to cart the ore from all of the mines down to the mill at the head of the gulch.

As it too often did in these high mountain towns, tragedy struck on April 24, 1901 when a snow slide roared down the mountain and buried two of the Colorado and Northwestern Railroad's engines. A conductor, a brakeman, and two firemen were killed in the slide; several other people were injured, but somehow lived to talk about it.

Camp Francis is a quiet place today with just a couple of foundations, and the partial walls of the powder house remaining. Down near the dump where the Big Five mill once stood, you can still see the Big Five mining office. It's a large, two-story red structure on a hill overlooking the old dump.

In recent years, the Big Five dump has been turned into a Super Find cleanup site and reclamation work is ongoing.