PRESERVING THE REILING DREDGE
Situated 2.6 miles east of Breckenridge, the Reiling Gold Dredge was constructed over 100 years ago for the French Gulch Dredging Company to mine gold out of Summit County. The dredge is a large barge-like boat with mining machinery on a floating substructure with the purpose of extracting gold from sand, gravel, and dirt out of stream channels. On large gold dredges buckets dumped the material into a steel rotating cylinder that sloped downward toward a rubber belt that carried away oversize material and dumped the rocks behind the dredge. The cylinder allowed undersized material (including gold) to fall into a sluice box. The rocks deposited behind the dredge are called “tailing piles.” The Reiling Gold Dredge remained in operation from 1915 until its sinking in 1922 and had the capacity of moving 2,000 yards a day.
The dredge today remains one of only a few intact dredges from the early twentieth century within its original historic context. The dredge site retains remains of the original mining camp, unexplored archaeological features, a pond and 2.5 miles of rock tailings produced by the dredge. Dredges scooped up millions of tons of river gravels, as steam and electrical power became available in the early 1900. Gold dredges allowed mining companies to retrieve potentially difficult gold on a large scale.
Since its accidental partial sinking in 1922, the Reiling Gold Dredge has remained unmoved and is a state of ongoing decay. Internal structures, walls and the roof have collapsed over time, leading to the compromise of its structural integrity. Due to fear of collapse, bracing cables where installed in 2012 to provide temporary stability to the structure. The dredge, however, continues to deteriorate and the fix is only adequate for one or two more years. To prevent further deterioration, and prevent the complete loss of this unique historic resource, more permanent measures need to be taken to stabilize the existing structure.
In 2016 Breckenridge Heritage assumed ownership of the site and completed some basic structural support for areas above the water line. A Historic Structure Assessment was completed in 2016 as well as interpretive signage. Retaining the dredge and its historic context in situ will increase awareness of the dredge and its unique surroundings. The site still requires full stabilization and support for funding proposals for a SHF grant.
Colorado Preservation, Inc. wishes to bring attention to this unique site and promote its preservation as an educational opportunity.